An education paradox
CLASSROOM WARS IN SOUTH KOREA , Part 1
Education in South Korea is a paradox, where two big truths clash. Koreans are incredibly keen, and on many measures do very well. Yet nobody – , parents, teachers or the authorities – is happy. And now battles are raging, on everything from testing and elitism to teachers’ politics, free school meals and corporal punishment.
Let’s start with the positive. I’m a bit skeptical when Koreans tell you how their Confucian heritage values learning. In theory yes, yet for centuries hardly anyone got to study except a tiny male scholar elite. Modern education – girls not excluded – only arrived with Christian missionaries in the late 19th century. Mass schooling for all is newer still. As recently as 1945, when Japan’s harsh 40-year rule ended, less than a quarter of Korean adults (22%) were literate.
By Aidan Foster-Carter