by Moody Adams In any high school in the United States, it would be a routine question met with a routine answer, WRITES Nasha Lee for USA TODAY. “But here in South Korea, ask a principal for her school's dropout rate and then stand back:” "No one just drops out of school," says a disgusted Chung Chang Yong, principal of Ewha Girls' High School. "A student may transfer to another school, but no one just drops out. … To drop out of school is a major disaster, a catastrophe. It wouldn't happen unless it was unavoidable."
But South Korea has driven its rate from 37% to 97% for the younger group, the highest percentage of any of the 36 nations studied by the OECD. While the U.S. and tiny Estonia, are the only two countries where high school graduations are lower than their parents.
"Foreigners may think it's strange. I think the main difference between the Western and the Korean parents (is) their way of life is quite different from ordinary Westerners. They are ready to sacrifice themselves for their kids. Whereas ordinary Westerners are seeking their own happiness," says Seo Dong Mok, 64, a school principal.
Three reasons America is slipping back in education are obvious.
1. South Korean families sacrifice to spend three times as much as Americans on education for high school students, rather than buying autos and electronic toys.
2. Parents raise students to revere teachers in Korea. An old saying has it that one should not dare step even on the shadow of a teacher. I remember teaching in a South Korean school where the young students would come on the platform and respectfully wipe the perspiration from my face.
3. The South Korean students who study nearly round-the-clock, rather than playing games and having “fun.” ”After a typical eight-hour school day, most students spend their remaining waking hours in private tutoring or reviewing schoolwork.”
America is doomed as a nation if her children do not study to compete in a global community.