WHEN YOU look back on your school days, how was it? When most Yonseians recall their middle or high school days, they would remember them as tough days. In order to enter prestigious universities, almost all high school students study non-stop from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., listening to lectures at school or at hakwon* or studying during a ya-za.** Moreover, under the relative grading system in middle and high school, the students confront endless competition to receive a higher grade. Also, students in Korea are often evaluated according to their academic grade. Often, people in Korea brand a student with lower grade as a useless person without considering any other aspects. For these reasons, the Korean education system is often severely criticized. There obviously needs to be something done about it, but what? When asked what a possible solution could be, people usually come up with a similar solution; other countries have such a good system, why don’t we try that? However, though the education system in foreign countries seem desirable compared to the current education system of Korea, we should not mindlessly take their system as ours.
It is pretty sure that those education systems in foreign countries are deemed to be very “idealistic,” clearly different from that of the Korean society. Finland, for one, has one of the education systems that are regarded as the “ideal.” Students in Finland spend most of their time in schools, but without stressful exams. They actively participate during class, instead of simply listening and writing down the teacher’s words. Most importantly, nobody ranks the students according to the test results because an emphasis is put on education that leaves no child behind. If a student lacks behind in a subject, he receives afterschool tutoring, but without the humiliation that lagging-behind students feel in Korean society. This education system of Finland was highlighted in a documentary named “Idealistic classes for 15-year-old students.” It suggested that Finland’s education system could be an alternative that replaces the education system in Korea. As such, many people assert that we apply foreign education systems into Korea.
However, Korean society might not provide a proper environment that would let the foreign education system to fully operate. Korea is in a pretty disadvantaged position when it comes to the natural environment. Korea does not have enough natural resources, such as oil which is valuable for economic growth. Moreover, compared to the land, the Korean population is so much bigger. Due to these conditions, Korea has no choice but to turn to human resources to gain competence in the world market. Even though it may sound a little harsh, competition and injective education might perhaps be one of the most efficient tools to educate the students and pick out the one who is the most competent among all the others. This is what actually fits into the needs of the Korean society. Since the foreign education system is based on their own needs in their own environment, it is doubtful that what is ideal to them is also ideal to us. Even if we try to realize them in Korea, it will not lead to successful result; it cannot be a good solution in improving the education system in Korea.
We cannot deny that the education systems the foreign countries have seem idealistic, even desirable. However, are they ideal for Korea? The education system of any country reflects the circumstances of the country and it is the same for the Korean education system. It is useless to envy the education system of another country, trying to realize it in Korea. The education system in Korea may need some adjustments but the ‘solution’ should not come from imitating the education system of another country; we should come up with a new solution reflecting our own circumstances, so that it fits into our society, finally allowing us to fully benefit from it.
*hakwon: private educational institutions where students attend lectures and study outside the regular school day
**ya-za: a period of time after school (usually 7:00-10:00 p.m.) in which students can study