Why do South Korean Students Excel? : TecInnovEnt

Why do South Korean Students Excel?

by the author named below on 04/26/12

Mrudula Patri

A recent report on Korean education showed that Korean students finished at the top of an OECD PISA test
. What's behind their success? Better schools? Better teachers? Better teaching methods? Or , are they just smarter? My hunch is that it's none of the above. Watch this video. It shows how many hours a day Korean students study, how they study, and what motivates them intrinsically to work that hard. It looks like it's their self-motivation, hours and hours of studying combined with pressure from home to compete and do well.


To compare, in America and many other developed countries, students' motivation comes from the freedom they are given to discover themselves, discover their own strengths, explore opportunities and so forth. Their schools emphasize creativity rather than rote learning. Technology plays an important role in achieving this. (watch the video Engage Me cited in my post 'What do 21st Century Learners Want?') Does this suggest that Korean education curbs students' imagination and creativity by following traditional methods? Can we say Korean classrooms utilize technology inadequately?

Aahhh... but just wait! South Korean classrooms may be substituting televisions for computers. But, all that changes once students leave the classroom. Most kids immediately switch on their mobile phones or head to one of the many Internet cafes to play computer games or just surf the net. Fun aside, go to a Korean home. You will be surprised to see the world's fastest Internet connections. After all, if not for computers, how can they get through the Digital Reading Tests? It's no exaggeration that many students spend more time at home using the government-sponsored Cyber Home Learning System than they do using computers at school. But the question is, are these students using technology merely to get high grades?

Let's compare the two situations. In one, students learn through creative, student centered activities where students learn at their own pace without any parental pressure. In the other, students go through long study hours, compete to achieve better grades, both out of their own will and due to parental pressure. Which is better? Why? According to the Global Education Survey, Asians rank at the top 10 in Maths, Reading and Science, where as American kids rank 26th.

Oh...hang on a minute! Are grades alone a measure of success? Is building a strong personality less important than being an A grade student? Considering everything so far said, do you still think parents should be checking up on what their kids learn and how they learn? Or, should they let their kids take the initiative as to what they want to learn and how? Yet again, should it be a combination of both? If so, how?

In fact, a more fundamental question should be--what are these tests measuring? I will leave this up to you to debate!

Alright...now on a less serious note, watch Why Asians are so Smart? Very amusing!

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