South Korea: School Won't Be Easy
Education in South Korea and the rest of Asia is rooted in Confucianism. Confucius was a Chinese educator born around 550 BC who built a great reputation for teaching righteousness, thoughtful conduct and the potential of every human. He believed in making education universally accessible and that every person can achieve greatness through learning and dedication.
“If you think in terms of a year, plant a seed," he said. “If in terms of 10 years, plant trees. If in terms of 100 years, teach the people."
Taking this to heart, South Koreans believe every child can be brilliant. What separates the educated from the uneducated is hard work. They do not believe in talent, only effort.
They also understand rivalry. Near the end of the 20th century when the Japanese were influencing the world with cars, computers and other technologies, the South Koreans knew they could do it too. They made it a national priority to raise a generation that knew two things: technology and English.
With these two weapons, their students could change the world. The rise of Hyundai, Kia, LG and Samsung prove that they are achieving their goals.
It’s not fun being a South Korean student. Twelve hours of study per day, year round school, tutors and extra classes after class are common. School is not meant to be enjoyable. It is a rite of passage. It's a mountain to be climbed. When students graduate from this meat-grinder, they understand the value of hard work, they know how to learn and they can recover from failure.
South Korea employs over 20,000 foreign English teachers. English has become the universal language of business, but it's a curious mongrel of a tongue. Learning from a book does not compare to learning from a native. Idioms, figures of speech and local dialects vary broadly, so South Korea brings in Americans, British, Canadians and Australians to prepare their students for everything.
When you have a great job, then you might earn a vacation. Don't expect one in high school. Put on your uniform and cram for exams. Trust your teachers and parents that it will be worth it.