Wrap-up #2

Globalization, Economic Capital and Higher Education in South Korea

For industrialized and industrializing nations, neoliberalism has been a powerful force, transcending borders as an ideology by defining and defending policy and shaping trade and markets around the world.  While the economic growth in a number of nations espousing economic liberalization has been staggering, so too has been the problematic bi-product of economic and consequently social inequality.  Neo-liberalism’s paradox is that the possibility if increasing economic growth and efficiency by way of increased output, open trade, and flexible employment also includes the potential for introducing level of inequality that did not previously exist. More so, these drastic changes in the levels of inequality have very real consequences for the members of society and are especially challenging for workers in the middle class, where in the past governments used to control unequal distribution of wealth with protectionist policies. The neo-liberalism paradox intensifies as it calls for a reduction in domestic protectionist policies and opening of markets to the global economy, which then hits the middle class the hardest by polarizing those with and without economic resources and thus intensifying the struggle to maintain class position.  This has led to massive mobilization of all available resources to obtain training and education associated with occupational stability, reward, and fulfillment. Education remained the single most important factor affecting social mobility in the 1990s. With the exception of the military, whose top echelons were educated at the Korea Military Academy, the postwar elites of South Korea shared one characteristic: they were graduates of the most prestigious universities. There was a well-defined hierarchy of such schools, starting with Seoul National University at the top and followed by Yonsei University and Korea University. Ehwa Woman’s University was the top institution for women.

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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.

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Delving Deeper into the Korean Education System

I was impressed by some comments on my work (Thanks Irene J!!!), which then prompted me to research some more and delve a little deeper into my topic– the Korean education system. Irene mentioned that “the best students go to top schools because they make the requirements”. However, these “requirements” to get into the top tier schools have less to do with merit and more to do with family background, higher socio-economic status, private tutoring, etc…Yes, this is a problem that is common in most industrialized countriesà money>merit.

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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.

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Putting the numbers together

So I’m finally back in the States and am right now in the middle of compiling all the interviews and surveys!!…Although I did not get as many interviews as I thought I would, I am happy with the results — over 90% of those interviewed agreed with my starting hypothesis. However, since all my data is qualitative…..I was wondering if there is any way to extract the info in a quantitative context?

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