By Vithusan Kuganathan 

Knowledge is Power

Education – many take it for granted, yet its power is truly astonishing. Throughout your lives, I’m sure you may have questioned at any given point what you’re studying for - why is it necessary? However, the pay off to a good education is irreplaceable. To clarify, in the following article, education won’t refer to simply studying in a classroom for X so many years, instead it will focus on the differences in the educational systems around the world and evaluating the true power of education.

Young South Korean Students

Young South Korean Students

South Korea’s education system is an intense bloodbath, not too dissimilar to the Hunger Games. Students will push themselves beyond their natural limits in order to reach academic greatness. Whilst we have primary and secondary school, South Korea has a different system, with a distinction made between primary school (Chodeung Haggyo), middle school (Jung Haggyo) and high school (Godeung Haggyo). The South Korean education system can be so brutal as a typical working day for the students can extend up to 15 whole hours. It’s absurd. This reflects the importance that education is given in South Korea and the high performing graduates they produce. So much so, that the economic growth and major developments in recent history have been fuelled by this intense system. The overall goal is for the students to get into a good college, motivating students to work hard in school. This coupled with societal pressure compels students to go the extra mile for academic attainment. However, this is not healthy, with 50% of adolescent Koreans saying that they have had suicidal thoughts attributed to this excessive pressure and the stress that comes with that. The 15 hours of work is split into 8 hours at school, followed by private tutoring at Hagwons. Hagwons are essentially night schools but translate more appropriately into cram school. They are dominating the streets of South Korea, with almost $20 billion being spent on Hagwons annually (estimated) and due to the unhealthy obsession over education that they represent and can inspire, the education minister has planned to establish more restrictions over Hagwons due to said dominance. Overall, South Korea is one extreme end of the spectrum, where their intense education system leads the students to become competitive on an international scale.

Let’s consider our education system. The education system was highly focussed on academic attainment, however there is an increasing emphasis on practical skills and making the job market in general far more specialised. Apprenticeships are becoming increasingly competitive as the potential of apprenticeships and degree-apprenticeships are being realised by the government. This demonstrates a diversification of the education system and is far more beneficial for students who are looking to enter a specific career but can’t due to the barrier that is university. Although degree-apprenticeships are a lot of hard work, they offer an interesting alternative for those who may want to get a degree as a back up if they decide to have a career change. It allows those interested in earning money whilst attending university to do exactly that. They get the necessary skills for the specific career they want to enter, whilst also allowing them to ensure they have an academic background, if they wanted to pursue a different career in the same field. The interesting progression of the UK is to get rid of the link that exists between background and educational attainment – i.e. reduce the inequality in educational achievement between the rich and the poor. Essentially, your background doesn’t dictate your destination. Whilst it may seem like a tall order, this is would mark an unbelievable point in the development of education. The potential of pupils could be going amiss due to them not having access to good education. The government have decided to invest £72 million in 12 areas to boost the educational quality in those areas. Although simply investing money into the education system isn’t going to solve all its problems, it’s a start in creating equal opportunity for those who are willing to work for a better future.

In conclusion, South Korea’s and the UK’s educational systems are massively different – both having their merits and drawbacks. Having said this, does the education system across these two countries need a complete reformation? Considering the fact that the problems of tomorrow aren’t going to be solved by throwing a text book at them, do we need to rethink how we inspire the next generation. Is the age of simply memorising textbooks over and is creativity now more important?