The Wrap Up

It’s only toward the end now that I have noticed a dramatic shift in my original topic. I began my research with a focus on how, and to a lesser extent why, Koreans were so keen on attending the three top tier universities, but through my interviews and reading up, I have realized my research has become more about the Korean education system in general. This is some of the things that really stick out in my mind.

–          “At some point, the Korean education came to be controlled by an unprecedented massive private tutoring marketà Korean students are now suffering from the ills of private tutoring ßà major burden on household finances.

–          There are families which move into certain neighborhoods for the sake of better educational conditions, causing a rise in real estate in those areas where famous private tutoring academies and high-income families are concentrated.

–          Some Korean full-time mothers whose husbands are high-income professionals have become experts on how to get children into prestigious colleges. For example, some mothers have published books, which detail the process of passing entrance exams for prestigious schools. This seems to indicate to the rest of the population that some well-educated and wealthy women, who don’t have to work, will become the mothers of successful children.

–          Finally, “goose dads”, is a term given to men whose wives and children move abroad, while they live and work in Korea earning money for their children’s education. These men and families have become victims in a sense as they make huge personal sacrifices and often suffer from mental problems such as loneliness and depression”.

So why go through all this hardship?

–          “The established idea that prestigious colleges in Seoul can guarantee many things such as high social status, decent jobs, financial stability, and a rich and easy life.

–          Parents feel insecure and socially isolated unless they provide the same or more opportunities that other parents are providing for their children’s futures.

–          The incoherent education policies have contributed to parents feeling uneasy. Parents are not able to obtain reliable sources on how to prepare their children for college entrance requirements. Furthermore the market is flooded with advertisements from private tutoring academies claiming that students will be left behind without private tutoring. Under these unpredictable situations parents have no choice but to push their children into private tutoring at all costs.

–          And finally, many parents have self-fulfilling sentiments where they live vicariously through their children’s successes. They would like to be rewarded with that which they have not achieved themselves, therefore investing all they have in their children. This often happens because, even though Korean mothers themselves are highly-educated, they haven’t enjoyed the benefits of using their skills and knowledge”.

The consequences of this type of education system are serious. It seems a large swath of the student population have become selfish, dependent, and self-important citizens (in the words of most parents). For those who are successful in school, society can’t expect social responsibility and social competence from them. On the other hand, unsuccessful students will never be free from feeling inferior, insufficient, and victimized, preventing them from developing a clear and positive sense of their own identity. In a society where people are ranked and labeled, it never requires an ongoing effort on the part of people to mature and develop their whole lives. As such, the society is on its way to losing its competitiveness and become stagnant.