International Education, Policy

The Grass is Always Greener – in China?

Made in ChinaWhen President Obama made his first trip to South Korea in 2009, he created a national buzz by declaring his deep admiration for the South Korean education system. And how could he not, with its stedfast students and astronomical test scores? Since then, Obama has repeatedly reaffirmed his call for the U.S. to learn from education systems like South Korea’s.

Back in 2009, I found this deeply ironic: At the time, I was living in South Korea and worked at a private English academy. The company’s main selling point was advertising a unique, “American-style” curriculum in which students engaged in critical thinking and problem-solving as opposed to rote memorization and test prep – educational emphases that nearly every teacher, student, and parent I met in Korea realized would not make their country globally competitive for much longer.

Now, working in the U.S., I often hear the argument that we desperately need to learn from, admire, and emulate education systems like South Korea’s. And I must say, I’ve long been confused by this mutual envy. Do we have such diverging needs? Does one system really have it right? Or is it just that the grass really does look greener on the other side? Continue reading “The Grass is Always Greener – in China?”