South East Asia Education Obsession

Although we often hear and talk about how disciplined south East Asians are with regards to their studies, we were shocked to read the Financial Times description of the days during which South Korean students were taking the university entrance exams. According to the FT, “traffic was diverted away from exam halls, airline schedules were tweaked to avoid distractions and police cars were put at the disposal of students who risked arriving late for their exams”. More than discipline, it seems that some countries witness a national phenomenon of obsession when it comes to education. Indeed, as several researches have shown, throughout South East Asia, parents invest huge amounts of money so that their children enter prestigious universities.

A BBC article reveals that in South Korea, households spend up to 70% of their incomes in private education. In China, this phenomenon is growing as well, as even lower-class families are indebting themselves in the hope of some social mobility for their children. Surely, we were taught that education is the best investment. Nevertheless, these kids grow up under a pressure that we definitely don’t know. They grow up knowing that not attending university would be an act of betrayal towards their families. And is it just a coincidence that South Korea has the highest suicide rate in OECD countries? 40 South Koreans kill themselves every day.  Like every obsession, the education one can be destructive, not only for children but also for their families.

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