South Korea: A Teachers's Dreamland or Nightmare?

South Korea: A Teachers's Dreamland or Nightmare?

Aug 5, 2013

GANGNAM STYLE: South Korea: a dreamland where teachers are rockstars or a cautionary tale of an education system on overdrive? The Wall Street Journal recently featured the country's $4 million dollar teacher, Kim Ki-hoon, who spends most of his time making and selling online video lectures that he sells for $4 an hour

Ki-hoon is part of the private tutoring academies, known as hagwons, and the story reveals the up and downs of a market where private tutors get paid based on their results and evaluations. Talent sells to the richest bidders, and what matters most is teacher quality. Families willingly empty their pockets, having collectively spent over $17 billion on tutors in 2012.

But research is mixed on the results of a system where students "essentially go to school twice a day." Stories like that of Ki-hoon should raise questions over the implications of statements from folks like Arne Duncan who suggest that U.S. parents should to match the fervor of those in South Korea. What lessons can be learned from South Korea about what drives teacher quality and the divide created when money drives teaching talent?

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