Education is a very big deal in South Korea. The country boasts one of the most educated populations of nations around the globe, and Korean students consistently rank at the very top worldwide in average reading, math and science test scores.
Moreover, you really can’t exaggerate the importance South Koreans place on education. In South Korea, you have to get into the right kindergarten, so that you can get into the right elementary school, then into the right middle school and high school, and of course into the right college. The belief is all of that education is needed to make sure you get the right job and attract the right spouse.
Educational system may be pushing kids too hard
The constant emphasis on education has become so pervasive that some politicians and educators have begun to question whether things are getting out of hand. The reality is, however, that even parents opposed to the race to the top educational system have no way to opt out as their children say that they can’t keep up if they don’t attend an online or brick-and-mortar after-school (called a hagwon).
Of note, Korean students come in last in OECD surveys with regard to the question are they are happy at school. South Korea also suffers from the highest suicide rate in the developed world, which experts suggest suggest is likely related to the high-stress related to education in Korean culture.
Star teachers in South Korea make millions
The great popularity of hagwons in Korea is very good news for instructors like Cha Kil-yong, who began teaching at a hagwon several years ago to pay for grad school.
Cha is a top-ranked math teacher. But instead of teaching in a school, Cha runs an online hagwon called SevenEdu that focuses on preparing students to take the college entrance exam in math
Cha said he took home more than $8 million last year. Of note, Cha’s hagwon is one of the most popular in the country.
“I’m madly in love with math,” said Cha, dressed fashionably in a crimson shirt and pants and tweed jacket, in his office in trendy Gangnam.
Around 300,000 students are taking his online class at any given time, paying $39 for a 20-hour course. Cha teaches students tricks for taking timed exams, including shortcuts to solve a problem faster.