South Korea education war heats up By Aidan Foster-Carter
South Korea is famously good at education. In the latest Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) rankings for 2012, published last December, Korea once again led the 34 industrialized democracies in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, ranking first in both reading and mathematics - just as it had in 2006 and 2009.
In a more regional context, be it said, South Korean performance was matched or even bettered by some other East Asian countries: China (Shanghai only), Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore.
This success has earned praise from United States President Barack Obama. Yet here is a paradox. On the ground, local perceptions differ sharply from those outside. In South Korea, education is regarded as being in crisis. None of the stakeholders - be it parents, pupils, teachers, employers, or government - are happy with the status quo. I reviewed the causes of this discontent in two articles for Asia Times Online four years ago, and unfortunately most of the issues still remain the same as then.