Numerous education experts have been expressing concerns regarding the Korean education system. The notorious ‘Hagwons’ and the intimidating university admission process are considered to be some of the main problems of Korea’s education system. Furthermore, a majority of experts criticize the issue of widespread academic elitism. Simply put, one must have a diploma from one of Korea’s elite universities in order to be successful. Some examples of these elite universities can be Korea, Yonsei and Seoul National University.

It has also been argued that because of this tendency, young children are burdened with an excessive amount of academic work as their parents want to ensure that their children enter these elite universities. One educational expert asserted that we would have to break the link between entering a good university and successful career in order to make childhood a happier experience for children.

Here is an excerpt from a related article.

“Korea has made too many revisions to its college entrance system, but the fundamental problem will never be fixed as long as a university diploma continues to be used as the main barometer of one’s skills and talent.”

The key error behind this statement is that it assumes that Korea is the only country that is obsessed with education and admission into universities. Preference for academic prestige is a common characteristic of parents all around the world. Take the U.S. for example; prestigious universities like Harvard have ‘legacy admission’. Moreover, many alumni parents willingly spend billions of dollars so that their children can later become a beneficiary of Harvard’s high-quality education as well.

In addition, the prevalence of private education is not only occurring in Korea. Parents all over the world are spending millions on educating their children. Chinese parents spend up to $43,500 a year on after-school classes. More than a quarter of secondary school pupils in England are receiving private tuition.

Therefore, the cause of all the structural problems in Korean education does not lie in the importance of academic prestige, nor does it lie in excessive academic burden. Then what is causing all these problems?

The problem lies in the public education system. Teachers, especially high school teachers, are only focused on numbers: how many students from their class have moved onto elite universities annually. They are putting the focus of their classes and education on how students can prepare for college admission, and not what students can and ought to learn about a certain subject.

Let’s recall the movie, ‘Dead Poets Society’. Professor Keating detests how students are stripped of the freedom to pursue pure knowledge, and how education is focused on admission. He encourages his students to seek the essence of knowledge, which is the core of the poem itself. This is what school education should seek: pure knowledge.

The current high school education system is solely focused on teaching students how to excel in admission. Schools have completely forgotten about their true purpose and have undermined the meaning of educational philosophy. A student should invest his or her private time to do anything related to university admission. Public schools, at least, should solely focus on encouraging students to seek deeper knowledge of each subject. As Immanuel Kant has defined, true education must have its purpose in developing ‘human character’ through knowledge acquisition and logical thinking.

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