Korean University Life

Student cheering team at the spring festival.

South Korea is known around the world as a country that values education and study. From kindergarten through to university, Korean students (and parents!) work hard to ensure educational needs are met. Academies, study rooms, and national tests abound, all with the intent of furthering students’ academic skills. Whether you agree
with their system or not, I won’t convince you otherwise. Instead I’d like to share with you a glimpse into Korean university life, a microcosm of Korean society that is so much more than just tests and study rooms. I should divulge however, that my Canadian nationality identity means that I can never truly understand what it is to be a Korean student. What I offer here are observations from my work teaching university students and about 100 interviews with current students from four Continue reading


South Korea: A successful educational system

Young people in South Korea’s workforce are more likely to have achieved an upper secondary education than anywhere else in the developed world.

They are also among the most likely to have university degrees, shows an annual education report from the OECD. The Asian country has invested heavily in education as a central part of its economic future. In the 1960s, South Korea had a national wealth on a level with Afghanistan, says the OECD. But the country’s emphasis on education has seen its young people leapfrogging the academic achievement of other industrialised countries, including the United Kingdom.

Top ranking: The annual publication of comparisons in education systems produced by theOECD – the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development – reveals the extent of South Korea’s progress. It is now in first place in terms of the proportion of younger people who have completed an upper-secondary education – leading a small group of countries, including Norway and Japan, where more than 90% of pupils reach this level. These figures compare two generations – those now in the 25 to 34 age group and those aged 45 to 54.

In the older group, South Korea was well below western European countries such as the UK. But in the younger group, it now has the highest achievement in the world, with 97% reaching this level. For this younger group, who left school in the early 1990s, the UK has nudged up from 64% to 71% reaching the level, but has been overtaken to be placed in the lower half of the table of OECD members.

In terms of the proportion of population entering higher education, there has been a similar upwards leap by South Koreans. Among the older group, Korea had one of the lowest levels of university participation – but in the Continue reading