1st Edition

South Korean Education and Learning Excellence as a Hallyu Ethnographic Understandings of a Nation’s Academic Success

    204 Pages 5 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This book constitutes a sociological, anthropological, and curricular inquiry into the factors surrounding high academic achievement rates of students in South Korea.

    Taking root in similar studies conducted around the exemplary nature of the Finnish education model, it explores the phenomenon of success in South Korea, uniquely connecting it to the scholarship and models for examining the recent shift in attention and popularity of Korean culture. The authors argue that Korean education or "K-edu" can also be studied and understood as a Hallyu and an exemplary form of education. Drawing on longitudinal qualitative studies spanning over 15 years, the authors advance understandings of Korean academic success beyond more generalized understandings of how Asian students learn and towards a holistic explanation for the case of Korea. As such, the book challenges the perception of Korean students as passive learners with a controlled learning culture and instead advocates the ways in which Korean students are leading a changing culture by utilizing all available resources and opportunities in the space of South Korea’s evolving ecological system of education. In addition, this book provides one explanation as to how students from East Asian countries achieve such excellent academic performance.

    A crucial exploration of the culture and growth of education systems in Asian countries, this book will appeal to scholars and researchers with interests in Korean education and Korean students’ academic achievement as an emerging inquiry for both Korean studies and East Asian Cultural Studies. In addition, this book will also be informative for scholars of comparative education, sociology of education, educational policy, and postcolonial educational research in the world.

    Introduction: K-education as the new Hallyu: Does the ideal model of educational power have to be that of the United States or Finland? 1. The envy of the world: PISA and TIMMS scores of Korean children 2. Beyond Finnish teachers: Korean teachers serving as an international model 3. Learning DNA: Cultural motivation for educational success 4. Before age 7: Early childhood academic training for cultivating habits of mind 5. As many McDonalds: Individualized shadow education programs outside public schooling 6. The nation of Olympiad winners: BTS-style Spartan training programs for gifted students 7. In the age of homo cyborg: Post-human learning culture with cutting-edge technology 8. Korean students' nomadic study techniques: Global teen learners' new cover dance on K-education 9. Beyond tiger parenting: Korean ‘bear’ mom's educational sacrifices for their children’s success Conclusion: Waiting for the new 'Travels on East' on education: as England is best for Soccer and Italy is best for design, South Korea is best for learning


    Young Chun Kim is a professor in the Department of Education at Chinju National University of Education, South Korea.

    Jae-seong Jo is an assistant professor in the Department of Education at Gwangju National University of Education, South Korea.

    Jung-Hoon Jung is a research professor at the BK21 Education for Social Responsibility Research Program in the Department of Education, Pusan National University, South Korea.

    "This is an extremely important book because, as the authors note, education might well be the primary cornerstone of the profound successes of Korea in the 20th century. If we want to understand the "miracle on the Han River," then first look toward the ways in which Korean parents and their children have negotiated the "dance of learning," as I like to call what happens in a classroom. The authors write that "the purpose of this book is to present [to the world] the unknown secrets of the academic success of Korean students" and they do an excellent job of revealing those secrets. I highly recommend this book if you are looking for a comprehensive review of the institution of education in South Korea." – Sam Richards, Teaching Professor of Sociology, PennState University, USA

    "Paints an intriguing picture of the full Korean education system that ranks so highly on international assessments, describing not only the formal school system with its well trained teachers, but also parental teaching and the full range of shadow education; draws on vignettes from over 40 students, most of whom are committed to the Korean way of studying." – Kathryn Anderson-Levitt, Professor Emeritus, University of Michigan-Dearborn, USA

    "If you have watched the film Parasite, or watched Squid Game on TV, or listened to K-Pop bands like BTS and Blackpink, you will already have caught the tip of the Hallyu, the wave of South Korea’s cultural economy exporting pop culture, entertainment, music, movies, video and online games and Korean cuisine to the world. This volume by Young Chun Kim, Jae-seong Jo, and Jung-Hoon Jung provides an insightful and passionate account of the many reasons for understanding South Korea’s achievements in education as a component and complement of this cultural wave. The authors’ ethnographic approach offers nuanced analyses of how the enviable PISA and TIMMS scores of Korean children are achieved via the aspirations and sacrifices within families’ hopes and dreams and take us far beyond the tedious number-crunching that too often characterises such analyses. Referencing idiosyncratic tropes in South Korean educational discourses, such as "shadow education" and Bear Mothers", Jung and Kim clearly demonstrate how local curriculum discourses can resist their absorption into an imperial (global) archive." Noel Gough, Professor Emeritus, La Trobe University, Australia