The Opposing Education Systems of Finland and South Korea

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A recent report placed Finland and South Korea as the best two education systems in the world. Student writer Jacqueline looks at these two very different school systems:

The Finnish education system is far from demanding of its students and adopts an emphasis on development instead of competition. The relaxed system possesses principles of comfortable learning and provides merely a play date for students, leaving them with a lack of preparation for the real working world. The 6 hour school day is acknowledged as the "least number of hours in class per week in the developed world" which is hardly comparable to South Korea's intense 13 hour school days which push their students to extremes to achieve astonishing results whilst robbing them of their childhood.

The Impact of Culture

Culture is a large contributor to the success of an education system and its chosen teaching styles. The South Korean system is based on strong Confucian ideals including high culture, hard work and social relations between the young and old. After evaluating the recent learning curve report, the Times Higher Education presents the argument that "promoting a culture that is supportive of education is more important than the amount of money invested".

South Korea adopts a structured system that mirrors Korean traditions which clearly support limitations on the children's childhood and freedoms. With society on board and the government investing 7.2% of the country's GDA in education, parents feel obliged to push their children into achieving a committed and supported education. Students also comply to this theory, as one young boy told the BBC "the harder you work and the earlier you begin, the better university you get in to".

If such principles were adopted in a British school, it would merely provide a reason for rebellion and an increase in the amount of high school drop outs! I believe the education system is successful as a result of its backwardness and an inexperience of how other cultures ‘normal' school days play out.

At the other end of the spectrum is Finland. The short school day allows the child to feel comfortable in their learning environment which allows them to be more inclined to study for the duration of the day. However, a full school day in Finland is half of the average 13 hour day in South Korea so is there really a need for an hours relaxation lesson which deprives its students of valuable learning time?

Problems with Both

The two cultures may both end up with astonishing results, however a 1995 study shows us how 62% of South Korean students go into higher education but a mere 33% of Finnish students reach degree level. This could suggest that the relaxed approach in Finland deprives its students of a work ethic, leading to their short lived time in education.

A BBC study also presents the idea of how a "student- teacher relationship can improve because the student is more successful". The Finnish education system adopts this theory as children refer to their teachers on a first name basis. Indeed, Marjanna Arovaara, a teacher in a small school in Helsinki, acknowledges herself as the "school mother", showing how intimate a relationship the teachers aim to preserve. This breaks down any barriers that the child possesses between their home and school lives, and could later possibly jeopardise their understanding of boundaries in the work place.

On the contrary, South Korean students have to bow to their teachers when passing in the corridor as a sign of respect. Recent reports suggest that this strict relationship has led to minimal behavioural problems amongst students and have prepared them richly with life skills in their future careers.

Finland and South Korea may both top league tables, but does playtime or missing childhood really prepare either young culture for their future? I think not.

By Jacqueline Gordon

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