Education system starting to ‘normalise’

South Korea’s education system is both inspiring and intimidating. The country’s 15-year-olds ranked fourth in science (excluding Shanghai and Hong Kong), second in maths and first in reading in the 2009 Programme for International Student Assessment, or PISA. Its youngsters aged between 16 and 24 did equally well in the OECD’s international survey of adult skills, released this month, reports The Economist.

But South Korea’s enthusiasm for education has also been likened to a “fever”. Students spend long hours in hagwon, private cram schools, trying to outdo their peers in crucial exams and tests that have lasting consequences for their subsequent careers. In principle these tests are simply a measuring device, allowing universities and employers to rank students according to their underlying abilities.

The man in charge of this inspiring and intimidating education system is Seo Nam-soo, who became minister of education in March 2013. In an interview, Seo argued that South Korea’s passion for university was “normalising”. He also pointed out that universities were looking beyond tests results to take a broader view of applicants. Finally, he suggested that South Korean society itself was becoming more diverse and less “monotonous” in its aspirations.
Full report on The Economist site