Good morning everyone!
I hope you’re enjoyed your week and have exciting plans for your weekend.
If you have read my previous blogs, you would know I love to travel. Since travelling to Japan, I have learned that is easier when going to a foreign country to research and learn about its culture.
Before I travelled to Japan recently, I did not do any research about modern Japan and their culture, all I knew about Japan was WW2!
Going to Japan without knowing anything was a very big culture shock and it was still a wonderful trip, but I do wish I knew more about Japan beforehand. As I am going to South Korea next year, I wanted to research more about South Korean people and their culture. While in Japan I visited two high schools and I found that their schooling was very different to Australian high schooling. During my research, I found that Japanese high school is very similar to South Korean high school and I was very much intrigued.
WHAT IS A SOUTH KOREAN HIGH SCHOOL LIKE?
Six days a week, South Korean students go to school to study for their University entrance exams. In South Korea, high school students have little freedom pick their own subjects, leaving them learning subjects that could be uninteresting or difficult – depending on the student. According to the editor of the ICEF Monitor (unnamed), intelligence resource for the international education industry, this is because “…South Korean students learn to prepare for university entrance exams, opposed to learning for practical use” (2014). Also, writer and editor, Amy S. Choi, explains that in Korean high schooling “Talent is not a consideration, there is no excuse for failure.” (2014). High school in Australia is very different. We have a lot of freedom to pick our own subjects, especially in Year 12.
In Australia, we move around to almost every lesson. As an Australian high school student, I feel swapping classrooms is a nice chance to refresh for the next lesson, however, this is different in South Korea. According to Richard Diem, Tedd Levy, and Ronald VanSickle, who visited and researched about South Korean high schools, “Teachers typically move from room to room, while students stay in one place” (1996). Other than school during the day, Korean teenagers also “…receive private education, typically in cram schools known as hagwon” (2013) after school, said Reeta Chakrabarti, Education Correspondent for the BBC News.
After I found this basic knowledge on Korean high school, I was really interested in the effects on the wellbeing of Korean teenagers who are confined indoors while studying for long hours. So, I continued researching and found the below information.
INTERESTING THINGS I FOUND RELATING TO MY QUERIES…
I found the following themes:
- High school students in South Korea have a lot of pressure put on them to succeed and this creates intense stress.
- As a result of the stress, and the pressure they have to perform, many students fall into a depression and commit suicide.
- Korean high school students do approximately 13 hours of study a day and as a result, they have a loss of sleep.
- South Korean students are mentally affected as they become unmotivated as a result of barren appearance of classrooms, long hours at after-school private tuition, little breaks and little freedom for subject choices.
#1 CREATES INTENSE STRESS (NEGATIVE)
I found that throughout the schooling lives of Korean teenagers, “There is a lot of pressure for the kids to do well on the big entrance exam at the end of High School,” (Dalporto, 2015). This was stated in an article by Deva Dalporto, former Senior Editor of Nickelodeon’s parenting website, titled South Korea’s School Success. But the pressure doesn’t stop there. On the day of the exam, “Offices open late [and] planes aren’t allowed to fly over test sites…” Deva Dalporto wrote in 2015. Isn’t this crazy? I feel a tad stressed just thinking about this!
I watched a documentary directed in 2014 by Kelly Katzenmeyer an American student who went to study in South Korea for a high school exchange. In the video, an unnamed Korean high school student in 2014, said parents of Korean students who participate in the final exam participate in a prayer ritual called 3,000 bows. This is where parents come together in a communal place to pray to photos of their exam sitting sons and daughters. Even more than this, the parents write prayers on a communal wall also! All of these things I just listed all contribute to the overall wellbeing of Korean teenagers in high school. Christian, a former South Korean high school teacher agrees, that “The stress exhibited by the kids, definitely increased as they got older” (2016), this is because “They understood that they had high expectations placed on them” (Christian, 2016) and as a result the teenagers feel intense stress.
#2 LEADS TO SUICIDE
While I was researching I found that South Korea has an extremely high suicide rate with 24.7 people every 100,000 committing suicide (Washington Post, 2016). Can you believe that? That is almost double to the suicide rate of Australia, with 12.2 Australians committing suicide in every 100,000 (MindFrame, 2016). According to Reeta Chakrabarti “The most common form of death for the under-40s is suicide.” (2013). Stress is a contributor, because if the teenagers feel immense amounts of pressure, they will become depressed. Unfortunately, that depression in South Korea, commonly leads to suicide (ICEF Monitor, 2014).
Rufina Park, Research Assistant for the Harvard Kennedy School Student Publication, states in her print journal that “…suicide [is] the leading cause of death for young people between the ages of nine and twenty-four” (2015). This statistic is around because of the long, stressful schooling and study hours that the teenage students have. This is very saddening. Along with “…worry[ing] over career and academic performance is the main reason youths aged 13-19 contemplate suicide” said the editor of the ICEF Monitor (unnamed).
I interviewed Jini, a South Korean high school graduate and a current South Korean University student. When I talked to Jini she agreed, “many Korean students suffer from depression. Some even commit suicide” (2016) and this is a result of the stress that is put on the teens.
If I continued to search the Internet for stories on South Korean teenagers contemplating or committing suicide, I would have found heaps, but I decided not to. I did, however, come across in the documentary I mentioned earlier by Kelly Katzenmeyer (2014), a story of a girl who tried to commit suicide 5 times, even though she did very well in school. That is very important, as it made me understand that is not just the students who are failing at school; it is the students in South Korea that commit suicide, who can no longer take the pressure, whether they are good or bad in school.
Alright, I think I should move on because this suicide talk is very upsetting.
Here is a funny gif to cheer you up!
#3 PHYSICAL EFFECTS: LOSS OF SLEEP
So, I looked further into this after school private tuition or “hagwon” as the South Koreans call it, that every student attends. I read an article by Richard Diem, Tedd Levy and Ronald VanSickle, who visited and researched about South Korean High School and found that students “…attend private schools or tutoring sessions until between 10:00 P.M and midnight” (1996). That is so late! According to Rufina Park “…older students in high school sleep even less, on average five hours and forty-five minutes” (2015). These students sleep so little because they are pressured into studying for extremely long hours a day. Christian who I mentioned earlier, taught in a South Korean high school and he said “Korean teens are told before year 11, if they are lazy and sleep more than 5 and a half hours a night they will fail” (2016).
I sleep approximately 9 hours a night and I don’t fail!
Also, I added it up; it is approximately 13 hours a day that these students study. I found this when reading a Reeta Chakrabarti article because she explains that when she interviewed a student, she said “She rises at 6:30am…[and]…goes to bed at 2am” (2013).
This all isn’t my opinion either; I researched if inadequate sleep does affect your concentration and it sure does! According to the University of Minnesota, after doing a study with subjects who had a good night of sleep and others who had a bad night of sleep, they concluded that the “…sleep-deprived subjects that were asked to press a button each time they saw a light flash had trouble focusing and missed more of the light flashes than their well-rested counterparts” (2015). So, if people can’t focus on a light flashing, how are they supposed to focus on their difficult school work and succeed?
A loss of sleep affects the overall wellbeing of South Korean teenagers, as physically they are exhausted because of long hours of study.
#4 MENTAL EFFECTS: UNMOTIVATED
When reading all of the amazing information I found, I realised that many students become unmotivated because they don’t have adequate breaks, they learn for exams only and they have barren looking classrooms. In Australia, we have a break of 25 minutes for Recess and 45 minutes for Lunch. Unfortunately, this is not the case for the South Korean students; they only have one lunch break for an hour and “10 minutes…to shuffle between classes” (2015) said Deva Dalporto. Jini a graduated South Korean high school student and current South Korean university student, said that besides their lunch break and gym class a few times a week, “the rest [of the] time is spent sitting in [a] chair. I think this reduce[s the] ability to concentrate” (2016).
Also, Jini was telling me that there is little choice in subject selection. Jini said that “I wanted to be an actor, but [my] teacher said that studying is important” (2016) and as a result, she was forced to do subjects that she did not like. Plus, the editor of the ICEF Monitor agreed with Jini’s statement saying, “South Korean students learn to prepare for their…exams…not for practical use” (2014). How boring??
Richard Diem, Tedd Levy, and Ronald VanSickle, South Korean high school researchers said, the classrooms in South Korea are “large and rather barren in appearance…[with] sparsely furnished halls…” (1996). The classrooms that are barren in appearance do not have any kind of stimulating materials to make the learning a bit more fun. I looked it up and Mary Firestone, Professor at the University of California, compared “…learning environments filled with sunlight and stimulating educational materials would likely be considered more conducive to learning than drab spaces without windows or decoration…” (2015).
WHAT I THINK…
Being a high school student in South Korea must be very hard. People around you are putting pressure on you to succeed, they want you to get amazing grades and pass your University entrance exam with flying colours. BUT, then they put all this pressure on you and you get depressed because you can’t handle the pressure. Some of the people in your school commit suicide and people all over your country commit suicide because they can’t take the pressure either. You study all day, every day, you get a tiny amount of sleep, so you are tired all of the time. Then, of course, your classroom is boring and you can’t learn what you want. No way would I be able to deal with that.
Tell me that the wellbeing of South Korean students isn’t affected. I dare you!!
I think that is enough for today, I hope all my readers out there have a fantastic day and those in Australia appreciate their more relaxed schooling lives. I know I do!!Word Count: 1975