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Asian vs American Education Systems

The education system varies in America as it does in Asia. The basic underlying principles are universal; mathematical formulas and theorems are the same in Japan as they are anywhere else in the world. But the way information is delivered varies in different countries, more specifically Asian countries versus North American countries.

Asian countries perceive life through a collectivistic lens; the society around us dictate our morals and identity, whereas western countries like the U.S. favour individualism, one's self-expression, identity, and goals. Societal views influence how education is structured to follow previous traditions. Two aspects drive the differences in the teaching of the east and the west part of the world; "national support for after-hours" and "the emphasis on culture."

Curriculum Differences

Asian countries, in general, have a more significant push from governments and municipalities for education. Korea has a "hagwon" system which refers to after-school academies where students learn challenging courses like languages, sciences, and mathematics. Although they are not free, most families can afford to send their children to the academies that fit their budget. These curriculums and after-school academies are set with the goal of providing students with extra practice, testing, and learning materials aside from regular school. They aim to level out the knowledge deviations among students to offer equal chances for the university since costs for even the top universities of Korea are about $6000 per semester.

Curriculum boards push for the need for specialized teachers such that even the annual education budget released by the government of Korea includes salaries and accommodations for these teachers. Whereas in America, education is standardized for all students. There are few opportunities for students to get one-on-one help for extended periods without sizable monetary value.

Life After School

Life after school for an average American teen is very independent of commitments from school. Personal hobbies and extracurriculars are at their discretion. No government system or policy influences students to pursue extra education. The average income of students who attend public schools varies drastically. Thus, there is no pattern in how teenagers mostly spend time after school; some work, play sports, study, and have family commitments.

As a result, there is a more significant gap between students' knowledge based on their ability to understand what is taught in the 6 hours of school. Statistically, only 36.0% of the population of America had post-secondary education at the age of 25 compared to their Korean counterparts, where 49.7% of the population was enrolled in post-secondary education for the 20-25 year age group.


Another significant difference between these two continents is their focus on culture. Culture is viewed as a complex system with three interrelated components: values, beliefs, and social norms. A Chinese and east-Asian education focuses on accumulation and how students manage and use the knowledge. This approach stems from Chinese traditional culture that emphasizes being and doing. There are general efforts to shift the emphasis from knowledge and information to learning. Chinese traditional culture views harmony as the ultimate goal of humankind. Students in elementary schools participate in intensive activities that require discipline and teamwork because a harmonized society is considered much more critical than an individual's rights or growth in Chinese culture.

In comparison, America is interested in how students use their knowledge in society. The American system lets students criticize ideas, challenge them, and create concepts. The Western culture prioritizes thinking and then doing and thus leans toward fairness and duty. Society encourages students to practice their free will and exercise their right to expression. In schools, this translates to participating in debate clubs, government policies, and even having the opportunity to become a jury once you are of legal age. Overall, the West has a technical-rational philosophy of education and learning, and the traditional Chinese view tends to be holistic.

Final Thoughts

While Korean education has a national emphasis on extra education as an effective method for success, American schools focus on the freedom and independence to decide the knowledge they attain from school even after school hours. China focuses on a holistic and cultural approach to providing education. Whatever these differences may be, our society is run by breaking boundaries and accepting other perspectives. We would not evolve if everything were the same.

Article author: Gurdial Gill

Article editors: Sherilyn Wen, Victoria Huang

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