Some Thoughts on the Korean Education System

So, after two months of interviews and surveys, I can finally say I am done with my research. It was an amazing experience, not only because I spent my entire summer in Seoul, South Korea (an AMAZING city), but because I feel like I got a real taste of the education system and all its problems…and perhaps a few solutions as well.

Every student I spoke to was bitter about the situation in which only students from the top tier universities get the high paying managerial jobs. The rest are pushed to the margins, and there is not much they can do about it. The repercussions of this practice are vast, especially when a developing country like South Korea is marginalizing large swaths of their population.

It seems this practice is a fundamental part of society – not to be questioned at all, let alone asking for it to be changed. Some of the older people I was able to talk to believed that this system was merit based, where the smartest kids get into the best colleges and eventually get the plum jobs. What they did not understand is the test to get into college is not a test of smarts at all. If a student is good at memorizing facts and spitting it back out, they WILL do well on the test. However, if s student is smart but not good at rote memorization, they will probably get a lower score and as such, not get into the best colleges. So, at its most basic level, the entire system is dependent on rote memorization, not creativityà students who are smart are then put into lower tiered colleges and eventually drop out or stagnate.

I am hoping as awareness of this problem eventually leads to some changes to the system, but this is doubtful. Korea does produce some of the most well educated students in the world, and it is only those shining examples that are ever shown.


  1. irmorrisonmonc says:

    “the situation in which only students from the top tier universities get the high paying managerial jobs”

    Hey Anushya!

    I’m going to play devil’s advocate here. 🙂
    Doesn’t this system make sense? The best students, go to top schools because they make the requirements. Even in the US, how often does creativity have a chance to come through in applications for “managerial” concentrations? Isn’t ever student who gets rejected from Harvard “bitter”? What is the real problem…these top schools, or the lower tier schools that don’t make an effort to work with the students they receive?
    Should the education system change, or the students attitude about it? Which would be easier?

    I like your work! I’m also interested in education, but I am looking at this from the perspectives or both a Econ and Latin major.

  2. Hey Anushya,

    I have enjoyed reading about your research! I can definitely see why the subjects you interviewed are bitter about the Korean educational system. I have studied the education system in the United States and have learned that entrance to top tier schools and ultimately high paying jobs is less a matter of performance than of wealth and networking. I would guess that a similar scenario plays out in other countries as well. Furthermore, I agree with your statements about college entrance exams. They may make the college selection process appear to be merit based, but the test really measures how well you can take the test and how many resources you could obtain to help you prepare. I also agree that something should be done about the reputation of lower tier schools. Becoming disillusioned about future prospects makes students drop out and not attain their full potential. You have made some really great and insightful remarks and I wish you luck with the rest of your research!


  3. Thank you Kacie!!!!!! 🙂