The Korean and the American systems of education are the most intriguing today. Without doubt, culture plays a substantial role in the shaping and designing each of the two educational systems. This makes the two educational systems radically different from each other since the two nations have different cultures. However, this is not to say that the two systems do not have points of convergence.
It is important to note that history is also relevant in shaping the two education systems. In the course of history, education was mainly for the elites. Thus, only a small percentage of the population in each country would undergo formal education in the early years. In the case of Korea, it fell under Japanese colonialism from 1910 to 1945. During this period, elementary schools could accommodate only a small number of Koreans. In the US, women and blacks did not have an access to education during the days of the civil war. Therefore, both countries had limited access to education in their formative years.
Education in the two countries is also a social marker of class and status. As such, there is a lot of pressure on individuals in the two countries to acquire education so as to fit into a certain class move into a higher one. The demand for education has, consequently, risen to high levels, and in effect, has pushed up the cost of acquiring a decent education. The boon has been the fact that both governments made elementary education mandatory. Therefore, almost everybody in Korea and the United States is considered literate.
However, there are many differences between the two education systems. These differences are largely striking, although each of the approaches has its own benefits. To start with, this paper will analyze the issue of creativity. Whereas the American education system lays a lot of emphasis on the development of creativity, even at the expense of academic performance, the Koreans have little room for it (Kim 336). This is due to the amount of memory work and repetition that characterizes the learning environment in Korea. In the Korean education system the emphasis is laid on academic performance, and in the process, there is little room for creativity.
The two education systems have different requirements for college admissions. In Korea, three main factors come into play when determining if a student will proceed from high school to college. First is the GPA. Students must obtain the highest rank in order to make it to college. The ranks range from one to nine. Secondly, the college entrance exam, also known as Suneung, is another hurdle from prospective college students in Korea. Students in the last year of high school sit for this exam every fall. This exam tests mathematics, English and Korean languages and Social Studies among others.
Thirdly, there is the College Entrance Exam, also known as Nonsul. Unlike Suneung, this exam is not run or standardized by the government. The universities and colleges prepare different exams every year for prospective students. Students sit for Nonsul a few weeks after tackling Suneung. Nevertheless, the most competitive colleges and universities notoriously give out extremely difficult exams in order to filter out some students.
In America, on the other hand, prospective students do not need to go through harrowing exams in order to secure their way to the university. College admissions in the US are not necessarily pegged on academic performance. Instead, there are six major components that play a major role in determining entrance to college or a university. Although admission officers place considerable weight on GPA, they put into consideration a few other factors. These factors include challenging schedules, grades and standardized test scores.
The implication here is that in the US, GPA does not take center-stage when determining college admissions. This is the case with Korea. In the US, they seek to nurture creativity on the part of the learners. Other factors looked upon in determining college admission include letters of recommendation and application essays. Therefore, though one may not have a strong GPA, it is still possible to gain admission into college or university. This is strictly not possible in Korea.
Another dissimilarity between the two systems of education is evident in the area of family support. In Korea, parents take an active role in the education of their children. They contribute significantly to the academic performance of their children by completely supporting academic achievement. In fact, when a problem arises at school, Korean parents ally themselves with the teaching staff, effectively letting their children bear full responsibility for their actions (Kim 338). This is not necessarily the case in the US. Support for school programs vary from family to family, and in many cases, American parents tend to be more critical towards teachers than their children.
The United States has a poor education ethic while Korea sustains a strong education ethic. In the United States, many students turn down educational opportunities in favor of the workplace, thereby dropping out of high school. Some have resorted to crime making it a costly trend for the US government. As a result, tax-payers feel the burden of housing and feeding the prisoners who are high school dropouts. This has never been a problem to Korea, or any other East Asian country for that matter.
In Korea, there is a strong education ethic that encourages students to work harder and excel in academics (Seth 68). This trend is evident even in the diaspora where Asian American students dominate in many gifted programs (Clinton 30). Moreover, the enrolment into colleges among Asians is higher than that of non-Asians.
The educational system in America is surprisingly not superior to that of many other countries. This is in spite of the immense economic and political power enjoyed by the world’s only super power. What the US government provides as funding to public schools in America is rather minuscule if compared to Korea government. The Korean government spends a higher percentage of its GDP on education any other country in the world. Moreover, most of the funds dispatched to Korean schools are spent on classroom instruction. This is not the case for the US where most of the funds go to ancillary expenses like transportation and food leaving very little for classroom upkeep, such as purchase of books and other learning materials.
It can be observed that there are more differences than similarities between the system of education in Korea and the system of education in the US. This can be attributed to the diverse differences in the cultural set-ups of the two countries. Socialist inclinations influence the Korean way of doing things while capitalism denotes the American system. However, the bottom line is that the two nations attach a lot of importance on education.