WED, JULY 17, 2024
Unique aspect of Korea's Education System in Global Contexts
Unique aspect of Korea's Education System in Global Contexts
  • Jane Kim
  • 승인 2024.07.02 13:17
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Recently, I had the opportunity to give a lecture on the Korean education system to a group of teachers from North Carolina. They had already visited various schools and educational institutions in Korea. My lecture aimed to provide insights into the unique characteristics of the Korean education system, including its historical, economic, and cultural background, to help answer some of the questions they had developed during their visit.

In addition to the lecture, I was asked to conduct a Q&A session to address any remaining queries the American teachers might have. From the very beginning, around 40 teachers from North Carolina actively participated, raising their hands and asking questions, which led to an interactive and engaging session blending both lecture and discussion.

Through this experience, I identified three key insights:

1. Korea National Support for the College Scholastic Ability Test (CSAT)

I explained the immense importance of the CSAT in Korea, which garners nationwide support. On the day of the CSAT, the entire country adjusts its schedule: work starts at 10 AM, police and volunteers help late students reach their test centers, planes are grounded during the English listening test, and even the stock market opens late. This level of support amazed the American teachers, who remarked, "We do not have the luxury of strong support from the government." This comment made me realize that what Koreans consider a norm is seen as a luxury elsewhere, highlighting the societal consensus on the significance of education in Korea.

2. Handling Student Illness on Exam Day

A particularly striking question was about what happens if a student falls ill on the day of the CSAT. I explained that in such cases, the education authorities arrange for the student to take the exam in the hospital with a special proctor. This response shocked the American teachers, who found it hard to comprehend that a sick student would still be required to take an exam. This reaction underscored the difference in perspectives: while the American approach focuses more on individual well-being, the Korean system emphasizes maintaining fairness and supporting the student within the system. This made me reflect on the different values prioritized in educational systems.

3. Language and Learning Barriers

Another important discussion point was the role of language in education. In Korea, students can study all subjects from elementary to high school in Korean, which eliminates language barriers in learning. The lecture was requested by an Indian organization. While I had an online meeting via Zoom with the Indian coordinator, she asked about the English proficiency level in Korea, as she had difficulty communicating while arranging the schedule. In India, many subjects and textbooks are in English, making it essential for students to be proficient in the language to succeed.

A relevant anecdote from the Teddy Travelog YouTube channel features a Rwandan student who studied in Korea for ten years. He said, “The most enviable thing about Korea is that you can study everything in Korean. Outside of English classes, you don't need to know English. It’s amazing that you can learn everything in your native language. This is quite unique, as Korea is one of the few countries where every subject can be learned in your native language.”

Koreans often criticize the negative aspects of the Korean education system. As a parent of one child who excels in school and another who struggles, it can be challenging to believe that opportunities exist for children who do not fit the academic mold. Despite these criticisms, it is undeniable that the current education system has contributed significantly to Korea's development. While the system evolves slowly, it keeps changing. Though it may not change as quickly as the world or as our children grow, Korean education will continue to adapt and improve, ensuring a better future for the next generation.

Jane Kim is a certified interculturalist and facilitator specializing in Korean and non-Korean aspects. As a DEI community builder, she organizes the Cultural Talk for Diversity & Inclusion conference every two months. Contact her at

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