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Education: Korean High School vs. American High School protectflag What determines intellect? Western culture seems to judge it solely based on your ability to churn out lengthy pieces of writing under time pressure. If you struggle with this skill and often find yourself thinking ‘I wish someone would write my argumentative essay for me’, fear not, it’s not like this everywhere. The standards for intellect differ in many countries, and it’s hard to determine a person’s intellectual capacity. Well, fear not! This article will give you the answers to achieving great intellect by showing you the comparisons between the Korean and American high school education system. I’ve attended both American and Korean high schools, so the following content is based on my personal experiences.

weekhorse Note: experiences may differ for other people.

Time for School!

dustnotice view Time for School! threatscience discoverthink School Hours:

bitpopular Korea:

To make sure high school students in Korea are ready to be the most intellectual minds on Earth, they usually come to school by 8:00 am. The classes last until 4:00 or 5:00 pm, which in my opinion, is too short. How is one expected to become more knowledgeable by only studying seven or eight hours a day?
Fortunately, thanks to the ingenuity of the Korean education system, students are required to stay an extra four to five hours for mandatory in study hall and review the lectures they learned that day.

Most korean schools will use an online grader (such as to save time and give more time back to the teachers.

Thankfully, Korean high school students can stay longer at school and study some more!

Thankfully, Korean high school students can stay longer at school and study some more!

As you can imagine, the students’ faces light up in anticipation when they hear they can’t go home, but instead have to stay at school longer to study. Why go home to your family when you can stay at school and cram more knowledge into your brain? Who needs family and home when you have the comfort of books to quench your thirst for knowledge!


Like their Korean counterparts, American high school students go to school around 8:00 am as well. However, unlike those lucky Korean students, their classes finish around 2:30 pm.
It pains me just thinking about all that studying those American kids are missing out on. It’s amazing how these American kids can go to college with only this amount of studying. Sure, most high school students in America partake in some form of extracurricular activity, but sticking your nose into a book for over five hours is more fruitful than going out and enjoying the sunshine.

Why would any kid in their right mind want to take time away from studying?

Why would any kid in their right mind want to take time away from studying?

Grading system:


Because Korean high school students study so hard, it’s hard to pick out the best students. After all, education is all about choosing only the brightest and the best, right?
The only way to motivate these kids to study is by having them compete against each other! In Korea, only a certain percentage of students can achieve 1st rank percentile. The education system is broken down into ranks, so the students with the top grades are ranked into first, and those with lesser grades are ranked into second, third, and so on, all the way down to the ninth rank percentile. What exactly does that mean?
Well, it means, if in one class, the majority of the students get high marks on a test (ex: 95 on their math tests), the minority that scored less (let’s say 94), would automatically drop down to the second and third rank. Now, that sounds really fair.
After all, how are top-notch universities supposed to choose the brightest students without such a magnificent grading system? And you can’t argue that it’s unfair for the students who studied really hard for an exam and dropped down an entire rank because they made one simple little mistake.

It's every man for himself when it comes to exams.

It’s every man for himself when it comes to exams.


Students in America are graded based on their individual efforts? You mean they aren’t pitted against each other to compete for grades? What nonsense is this?
Apparently, students are encouraged to take things slowly, at their own pace until they learn the material. Now why would you want to learn, when you can memorize entire books, pass some tests, and forget the materials afterwards?
It’s also amazing how anyone can get an A on their tests and not be ranked into percentile groups like in Korea. I’m not sure how American universities know how to choose the smartest and most intellectual students without percentile ranks. No wonder American students can go to good colleges without having to spend every single minute of their high school life studying from a book, they could even just check out this test prep for high school students and they would easily be able to pass.

Teachers interacting with students in a non-traditional way can prove to be fatal.

Teachers interacting with students?



Like most nations, Korean high schools have summer and winter vacations. Summer breaks last about a month, but winter breaks last nearly two months. But who needs all that time off from school? It’s preposterous to think that high school students would take all that time off from their studies. Thus, the great nation of Korea has wisely cut down summer and winter breaks to one and two weeks, respectively.
Sure, technically, the summer and winter vacations are supposed to be at least a month long, but the schools ask the students to be back in class during the breaks for suppository lectures.
Once back in class, these kids jump in excitement and giggle at the pleasure of utilizing their summer and winter breaks to enhance their much needed education.

The right way to enjoy your vacation

The right way to enjoy your vacation


Summer break, winter break, and spring break? And let’s not forget all those silly holidays like Christmas or Thanksgiving. And can you believe some states even have snow days? Only in America, would dedicated students not go to school because of something as insignificant as fluffy white powder.
I can only imagine the toll it takes on those poor American students who had to suffer during their vacation, away from school. They come back from their long and unexciting holidays only to be too well-rested to get any studying done.
If you want to educate these young minds, the only sane way to teach them anything is taking away their personal time and cramming a book under their noses.

The wrong way to enjoy your vacation

The wrong way to enjoy your vacation

As you have read above, intellect is determined by how much you study. And as such, Koreans are highly intellectual. Who needs happiness and creativity when you have knowledge! Keep up the good work Korea!

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Written by Isaac Kim

Hey there, I’m an aspiring journalist who is in the prime of his life. I’ve lived in America most of my life, but because I can adapt to anything, I’ve integrated quite well in Korean society. I hope to see the world and write about and share what I see. I like places with large bodies of water (especially the ocean), and one day, I will have a kickass beach house where I’ll spend my time writing and sipping mojitos.

There are 4 comments

  • o0aquamentus0o says:

    You sound quite bitter in this article (which is not necessarily a bad thing; it seems to take a certain amount of fire in order to change society for the better). I wonder if you are coming from any negative personal experiences in the Korean system?

  • Matthew says:

    Love the sarcasm! Is there much difference in the topics/material studied? I remember when I first got to Korea and learned how hard their educational system was on the students, I stopped being hard on them in my classes. I worked at English Village in Paju at the time, and it was really supposed to be a sort of “break” for the kids anyway, so if they fell asleep in my class, I just let them sleep.

  • Thing is, being among the best is good but for which aim?
    What Korean education didn’t get, is that anybody can be the best in one specific thing they like (one average student passionate by geology might be excellent just in this field) and it’s not because you are the best in many things (Maths, languages, history…) that you will be the best in a specific field (for example geology).
    Now, at your college selection, who’s gonna be the best student for the geology department? certainly the one who is truly passionate about it and not the one with the greatest versatile abilities.
    The aim of school is for sure to determine what student fits the best for which job. Of course, it has to take into account student’s potential and abilities, but it should also take into account students wishes and passions. Because I wish to be healed by doctors that are not only among the smartest people, but that also are truly passionate by the speciality they learned and the job they are doing.

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