Back! Alive!

Well, I'm mostly recovered from India after a course of Cipro and a few hours on a dextrose IV. I enjoyed myself anyway.

Today's topic is education (shock.) in Korea and the US. I got into an argument with a coworker on Wednesday about the Korean education system versus that in the US. I'll admit that when I was at her point (1 month into my time here), I was a bit enamored with the Korean system too -- hell, their sixth graders actually KNOW their multiplication tables! But last week was my four-month anniversary, and I've had a bit more observation now and a couple differing opinions. I still like the hagwon system, which really does allow for instensive study in an area of particular interest to the student, though I'm sure parents abuse the system by keeping their poor, overworked kids in as many as 12 at a time.

But what really bothered me was that her parting shot was, "Not everything in America is the best!"

Well I certainly never said that. It did, however, make me realize that she was arguing from personal experience. Now don't get me wrong. I was a student that would have absolutely excelled in the Korean system. The worst thing that could have happened to my grades was going to a high school where the emphasis was on how you thought, not memorizing facts, but I got a far better education for it. I don't regret the decision, and I'm not bitter that I'm in Korea now (saving a good amount of money at that). Unfortunately, she does seem to be a little bitter about the way her life has gone, and I'm afraid that colored the debate.

Her: I think the Korean system is great, kids have a chance to study exactly what they want and focus from a young age.
Me: That's good for some, but they're also so test-intensive that if a middle schooler fails the wrong exam, he or she gets shuttled into the vo-tech track with no hope of escape.
Her: Maybe that's where they should be, though. It means they don't have to waste time learning things they don't need and can just learn a career.
Me: What if they want to learn those things they don't need?
Her: But at least they graduate with job opportunities, unlike our system where you end up with people in their mid-twenties who have no idea what to do with their life!

Which is when I backed off, as she has a masters and is teaching English to small children in Korea and was clearly talking about herself being failed by the US education system. I'm not sure how. Is it the school system's job to find the thing you're best at and train you in it to the exclusion of all else? Or is that your job? I admit that I don't know what I want to do, and after earning a BA in psychology and exercise science, I'm considering returning to school for a BS in biology.

If I'd grown up in Korea, I'd probably be a medical student right now, but I wouldn't be nearly so educated.

So which system IS the best? I've no idea, but I do know that different types of students would excel in Korea and the US. Many would excel in both, but they'd end up completely different thinkers as a result of their education. I wouldn't say one is better. But I think that the differences speak a great deal to the differences between the cultures themselves.

1 comment:

Lyn said...

I teach 1st grade in the US. I have enjoyed my visit to your blog and will check back with you. Your job in Korea sounds fascinating.