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Published : 2014-01-28 18:11
Updated : 2014-01-28 18:11

Arne Duncan (Yonhap)
U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan gave a thumbs-up to Koreans’ passion for education in his speech to a parents’ summit sponsored by the National Assessment Governing Board two weeks ago, according to the Washington Post.

The education secretary began his speech by telling the story about how South Korea’s then-President Lee Myung-bak once told U.S. President Barack Obama that his country‘s biggest education challenge was that “parents are too demanding.”

The speech came amid growing concerns over the U.S. education lagging behind other advanced countries in global rankings.

Duncan cited the result of the PISA exam, a major international assessment of the skills of 15-year-olds, to underpin his view. American teens scored below the international average in math and roughly average in science and reading on the test administered last fall.

In his speech, Duncan spoke highly of the education fever prevailing in Korean society. “Korean parents were relentless and had the highest of expectations - insisting their children receive an excellent education,” the newspaper quoted him as saying.

He then attributed the outstanding performance of Korean students to the nationwide efforts for nurturing high-quality teachers, implying the U.S. should also develop and reward great teachers.

“In South Korea, teachers are selected from the top 5 percent of their high school cohort, while in the United States, a significant proportion of new teachers come from the bottom of their college class,” he was quoted as saying.

Duncan also underscored the importance of educational infrastructure, citing that 100 percent of Korean students have access to broadband Internet compared to 20 percent of U.S. students.

However, he stressed in the speech that Americans should not try to emulate all aspects of Korea’s education system, noting some drawbacks of the Koreans’ educational aspiration that can lead to excessive pressure “getting out of hand.”

He encouraged the parents at the summit to raise their voices and engage other parents to speak up for the brighter future of American education. 

Meanwhile, World Bank chief Jim Yong Kim once criticized the heated competition for university entry in South Korea, pointing out that it has deterred the nation’s creative education.

By Ock Hyun-ju, Intern reporter (laeticia.ock@heraldcorp.com)

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