The Korean Education System Needs to Focus on Entrepreneurship

South Korea is famous for educating its youth. However, this fame is not always positive. The Korean Education system is focused a lot on exam results and getting into the best universities in Seoul. This was the history in Korea where the only way to improve your life was through passing exams. Those that passed these exams were given land and social status. Therefore, the power of education and exams is deeply rooted in Korean culture.

Today, this deep focus on education and exams still exists. Everywhere in Seoul, you will find English Hagwons and self-study rooms. It is normal to hear of stories of students staying all day at school and taking private classes. Therefore, while they improve their memorization skills, their social skills do not get developed. Korean parents need to work extra hard to provide the education needed for their children to compete in an ultra-competitive environment. The amount of money spent on a child’s education has increased every year in Korea. However, with the outbreak of the coronavirus, it is becoming clear that the future of education in Korea will change, probably for the good.

Will Korea move to Online Education due to the Coronavirus?

elearningKorean universities closed for months since the coronavirus outbreak in Korea. Many have started using their online platform for virtual courses during that time. However, this does not address the need for students to meet other students and interact with their peers and teachers. This quick and unexpected introduction to online education shows a glimpse of the future of education in Korea. Soon many students will need to learn about cloud services such as G-Suite to be able to work from home. Soon more and more students in Korea will become comfortable with the idea of learning from home on the internet. This transition will be easy since Korea is already one of the most technically enabled countries in the world.
Furthermore, once 5G is fully integrated in Korea, there will be enough bandwidth to allow for all students to learn online. Soon Korean students will be some of the most technically advanced workforces around. While this might sound great, it can be very dangerous in the long run as technology and machine learning might soon replace the tech workforce in the coming decade.

Korea Needs to Embrace Creativity over Standardized Learning

Korea Universities are known for their boring and difficult subject matter filled with lengthy essay assignments. It is difficult for professors in Korea to encourage, engage, and motivate their students. What is lacking in Korean education is adaptability, flexibility, and creativity. Students are not taught to think outside the box and take risks. These are key factors for creating an innovative entrepreneur.
With the prospect of Korean Universities having to shut down again and go online, it will be vital to change the curriculum and focus more on innovation. This is because there is a real danger that the typical real campus life could be gone. What will be left will be students in front of computers listening to their professors on a screen. Even courses in creative arts and physical education will be conducted online. How will this work? Korea needs future thinkers that can solve the problems of the future. The current problem is how students will learn in the future? Due to the coronavirus, the future of online education looks depressing.

Online Education in Korea could mean fewer Universities

Many Universities in Korea are in trouble financially and some are even about to shut down due to COVID. They will face unprecedented enrollment uncertainty and lose multiple revenue streams through their offline products/services. Many students in Korea are looking to take a year off while COVID-19 dies down. Others are looking to take online classes not associated with Universities. Currently, the Universities in Korea can’t offer students the full University experience to match the tuitions they are charging. In addition, there have been fewer international students coming into Korea due to COVID. Many smaller colleges and Universities in Korea do not have reserves that are big enough to handle the expense increases and revenue loss caused by COVID. In the long run, those that will remain are the top Universities in Korea like SKY who have the budget and the reputation to survive.

Korean Education Still Focused on Getting Students into SKY

SKY UniversityThe goal of all this time spent studying is to get into one of the three prestigious schools.

These three schools are referred to as SKY. They are the top three Universities in Seoul. They are comparable to getting into Harvard in the US or getting into Oxford in the UK. Graduating from one of these three schools almost guarantees a job, but more importantly, gains them respect and admiration from their family and friends. In order to enter SKY, one must take the day-long national test called Suneung. Suneung prep is a big business in Seoul. Parents in Korea spend lots of money getting their children the best test prep tutors possible. Therefore those that have the funds to get their kids the tutors they need, have a huge advantage over low-income families.

Last year having a degree from one of the SKY University didn’t just get you the best job possible, it also got you the best marriage proposals. However, these three schools combined only enroll around 15,000 students per year. There are 3.5 million high school graduates per year. This means that a student has a .004% chance of getting into SKY.

Working for a Korean Conglomerate

ChaebolFor those that have graduated from SKY. There is a high likelihood they will end up working for a Korean conglomerate. 70% of CEOs from large Korean companies have graduated from SKY. The dream job for many young Koreans is to work for one of the top Korean conglomerates called Chaebols. Chaebols are basically “rich family clans”. They include big Korean corporations like Samsung, LG, Hyundai, Lotte, SK, and KT. Working for these companies might earn your social status but most employees are overworked and have a hard time climbing the company ladder. Most have to stay late during the night until their higher-ups leave the office.

Productivity remains low because even if they don’t have work to do they must put in at times 80 hour weeks. Most of the Chaebols workers only care about keeping their job. Most follow orders and dare not think outside the box. They are company workers and will most likely stay company workers for life. The risks of starting a startup in Korea are too risky for most.

Working for the Korean Government

Korean Office JobIn order to get a job with the Korean government, one must pass the civil service exam. Working for the Korean government means you will have job security for the rest of your life. Studying for the exam takes at least 3 years and only 1 in 40 passes the exam. Of the more than 200,000 that take the test, only 5,000 will get hired. These are low to mid paying jobs that they will have until they retire. Therefore the pay is not the motivating factor for working for the Korean government but rather the security. Working hours are just as brutal, however, in 2018 the Korean government lowered its maximum working hours from 68 hours a week to 52 hours.

The Korean Education System Needs Change

These two options do not sound great. But these are the kinds of jobs that Korean students are studying 80 hours a week for. There simply aren’t enough jobs to go around. Korea needs to nurture future entrepreneurs that will create the next Samsung or Hyundai. Entrepreneurship in Korea is the key to creating jobs. If you ask a typical high-school student on what they want to do when they grow up, most will say a government worker rather than a CEO. That is not a dream. Korea needs to focus more on innovation and entrepreneurship because this system of education can’t last. Instead of spending thousands of hours studying for a standardized test, they should be using their creativity and imagination to bring about new ideas and inventions.

The more Korean startups mean a higher chance for one of those startups becoming a unicorn. The future of Korea rests in their hands. A change has to come.