Saturday, November 22, 2014

Korean Education (Part Two)

In part one of this series, Young-Gun identified some problems with the South Korean education system from an insider's perspective. In this instalment, Young-Gun addresses the future and possible improvements for Korean schools and students. 

Why is the reward for hardworking students even harder work and inception of insanity?

I had bad grades until middle school. So I went to a high school for "bad" students. So I had easier competition, and that tucked me into university almost effortlessly. Now I'm just waiting my turn to put on a black robe which means nothing to me. But I gotta look pretty anyways because that's how people's going to judge me behind the desk.

Good students up to middle school were rewarded by going to one of those hardcore legendary 15-hour-classes-a-day high schools. And that's not a made-up number. I don't know if they spend the whole time in the public school alone. But even if they finish a couple of hours after the time my high school was finished, which was what I heard was the earliest time they got off, it would be about 6 o'clock in the afternoon. Then there's a hakwon (private school) their parents send them to. And hakwons run until 10 o'clock in the evening, more or less. They go home on foot, by bus, or their parents pick them up, after a day they spent in their school uniform, like prisoners, and by the time they're home it's 11 or past midnight. Then they have to reverse-repeat the progress to get to school by 8 o'clock in the morning. Plus there's homework.

Teenage years of self-discovery is replaced by whatever this is:

Awesome. Hardcore. Most of them survived that effort, but probably picked up smoking, bullying, mobile game addictions and some reasons to commit suicide because of the stress level.

Where to go next? The hardcore colleges have even tougher competition than high school. A mass suicide that happened a few years ago in one of the best science colleges in the country comes to mind.

But are their futures guaranteed? Jobs secured? Can most of them even pass the course?

A few of my friends who did pretty well at my school got jobs with the Samsung company. Good pay. But I heard they treat their workers like insects because they can replace them at any time. And how many years do they need to do that until they're happily retired? And how much better is the institutional model? A couple of friends of mine didn't even apply for college and have had solid jobs for a few years. One of them is a graphic designer in Seoul who loves his job because he's getting paid to paint tattoo-looking thingies and shiny logos.

I always thought the people in this country need to adopt the habit of complimenting a bit more, to themselves and each other. Our reward and punishment system is all out of balance. Too much punishment, too little compliment. Control with fear.

And these high school kids, as brilliant as they are, have been noticing there is something wrong with the system. And they want their teenage years back. I saw their photos on the internet about a week ago. I am concerned.

I was lucky enough to have parents who supported everything I wanted to do for some time and enough financial stability to survive. But what about other parents? Even if kids can escape the education system, a lot of the older Koreans act as if the Korean traditions are basically the symbol of perfection without any more room for evolution. It served the country very well in the economics of the past century, however they hated the president who masterminded all of it. But I feel, now that we are not in a hurry for the next meal, perhaps we need some encouragement to escape the materialist mentality and enjoy our lives.

External Image Sources :
- Google, Search Words 'Korean English Signs'
I Am Koream, What South Korean Students Really Think About Their Education
The Three Wise Monkeys, Cancers of Korean Education

Young-Gun Park

Young-Gun Park has been studying various forms of visual arts for more than a decade and has been involved in various community arts projects. He has been a writer and photographer for GPTWT for more than a year. His future portfolio projects include work in cinematography and graphic novels. Read more.



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