Lessons From South Korea
Neal McCluskey blogs about South Korean education and the roots of its success. McCluskey argues that the private sector is driving South Korea’s academic achievement, and that the state-mandated curriculum and tests do more harm than good. I was reminded of this article, which appeared in the New York Times about two weeks ago. The article describes how private high schools in South Korea are preparing students for American colleges, in some cases by requiring them to study for 15 hours a day. These schools go beyond the state curriculum:
Still, the schools are highly rigorous. Both supplement South Korea’s required, lecture-based national curriculum with Western-style discussion classes. Their academic year is more than a month longer than at American high schools. Daewon, which costs about $5,000 per year to attend, requires two foreign languages besides English. Minjok, where tuition, board and other expenses top $15,000, offers Advanced Placement courses and research projects.
For students who are studying many foreign languages and preparing for AP exams, a state-mandated curriculum is at best unneccesary. At worst, the required lectures could be a waste of time for students who are engaged in more interactive research and could push schools to lengthen their class time in order to fit everything in.
Besides cautioning us against state standards and tests, the case of South Korean education should give us a new perspective on educational innovations in the United States. For example, some people have objected to the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) charter schools that are coming to St. Louis because of the schools’ long hours and tough discipline. But compared to the Korean schools profiled in the New York Times article, KIPP school days are really not excessive. And although the KIPP program is definitely not right for every student, we can see that this approach works well for some kids in Asia.