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The Importance of Education in Shaping The Society

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Education had a major role in transforming a 3rd world country with greatly limited access to learning into 1st world country. By looking at the events that had caused a major impact on the levels of education in South Korea we can see the true importance of education in shaping the populace. The first topic to be explored in this essay is the impact of Confucianism on Korean education and how it shaped the mindset and close familial ties which would later be a suggested as a reason for the outbreak of “English Fever”. The second topic is about the impact the Japanese colonist had on the populace and their education. Finally the topic of the “English Fever” will be discussed alongside the impact the Olympic Games of 1988 had on the populace of South Korea.

Confucianism education of the Joseph era was focused on how to train talent of intellectual and bureaucrats who had a high degree of sound role expectations and responsibilities. This was based on what we would today call a religion that were taught by people known as Sages. Sages thought that they were working for heaven and were the in between for heaven and the people. They promoted harmony and peace and had five moral virtues, benevolence, righteousness, proprietary, knowledge and sincerity. To cultivate these traits was a goal to all people. Parents realized eternity through their children, so therefore forming a strong family structure. This will be explored later as one of the main causes for the feverish desire to pursue education later. Confucianism was deprived of its base when colonized by Japan in 1910. But this did not sway the family values of living eternally, continued in the importance of education of their children. When modern education was introduced from the West, South Korea had a very high illiteracy rate due to the Confucianism fostered status orientation that discouraged activity for entrepreneurship and investment and was seen as a hindrance. When the Republic Korea was formed into Southern Korea the modern education system, we know of began to be built, however maths and science did not yet exist in this system. In my opinion Confucianism held back the learning and education of the South Korean public due to their believes of education not being important and therefore keeping the south Koreans naive and uneducated. This delayed the country moving forward and kept it as a third world country with a very low status in the global world. Although I believe that the South Korean people beliefs in family values and living through their children encouraged them in the future to seek out education when it became available was a positive outcome of Confucianism. This leads me to believe that Confucianism although a good healthy ideal in the community of the people, it did not benefit the South Korean people to move forward in the educational world.

When the Japanese formed a colony in South Korea, large numbers of ethnic Japanese occupied key niches in the civil service, education and businesses. The Japanese colonial education was designed to keep the Korean people in their place. The medium of instruction was ethnic Japanese and most teachers were ethnic Japanese as well. This made education difficult for the Korean seeking education. However, the Japanese manipulation of the school system did not prevent Koreans pursuing education. When the Japanese colonized South Korea I believe that this held the Korean people back in education. Because the Japanese had ethnic Japanese people in most of the key places of employment and used only their language most of the time, this made it difficult for the South Korean people to understand. This was especially difficult for students studying in schools. The use of Japanese language in lectures was especially unhelpful for the Korean students and feel that this was an unfair disadvantage. Especially as Japanese was the only language used in maths and science during their occupation. This suggests that this was purposely done to keep the South Korean people in low down employment roles and educational status and not to allow them to better themselves.

The South Korean people’s pursuit of education was said to be a learning frenzy. Parents working extra to pay for extra tuition. The most important aspect of their lives was their children’s education. Children were encouraged to study continuously to get admissions for schools and colleges. Admissions to these were costly and students had to go through hellish entrance exams with high tuition fees. Parents would invest all money in education for their children. This caused intense pressure on children to learn. The emphasis being that the child’s education success is for the whole family and qualification determines one’s economic level. A view that seems to have strong correlation to that of the Confucianism belief that parents could live on for eternity through their children. After all, if you are going to live for eternity through your children then you will be wanting for your children to get good jobs and acquire wealth. Which was viewed as only achievable through intense study and education. Modernisation of the education system in the 1960s helped to bring South Korea out of a third world country and more in line with western countries. Although this was not an instant change, as the teaching focused on spirit, rather than technology. In the early 1970s emphasis was in the education planning on citizenship, loyalty, patriotism, self-reliance and anticommunism. When the education system was updated again in 1973 special attention was given to science and technical studies. Although there was not much money from the government for education and class sizes doubled than those of the western countries, the South Korea students began to excel in science and maths. This shows the commitments to education made by the students to do better. Neither subjects are a traditional strength of Asia but have become a national pride for their country. The modernisation of education bought South Korea into line with western countries and excelled in their learning. The families respect for teachers and the teacher’s method of learning ‘teach to test’ was also a great step in their advancement in education. Wanting to please the teacher and successfully passing tests was an extra incentive to learn.

‘Yeongeo Yeolpung’ meaning English Fever, refers to the strong desire to become proficient in English. Heavy investment was made to ensure the South Korean children successfully acquired the language. The English Fever stems from the influence of the British Empire during the colonial era. It was also influenced by the people stationed in South Korea from the USA during the war periods. The English Fever did upset a few people as they felt it threatened the continuity of local languages and cultures. In many countries the English-language has become the second language. This English Fever that has taken over South Korea became more urgent when the country won the bid to hold the Asian Games in 1986 and the Olympic Games in 1988. In my opinion the Olympic Games was a large step towards bringing South Korea into globalisation. The Games have a westernized beginning and the main language being the English language, this made English being a more popular choice as a second language besides its own globalisation all over the world.

English being a global language made it an important language to learn as most countries know the language. The South Korean people were so keen for their children to learn English that they spent most of their earnings to pay for it. They did this by sending their children away whilst quite young to English speaking countries. This was seen as a necessary investment for the child’s future, although it was a conical burden on many families and resulted in separation of families which was especially hard as Korean people are very family oriented. It seems that if the children were sent to English speaking countries, they would learn the language quicker and therefore gain fluency in the English language as if they were born in the English speaking countries. It also has them an insight of how the western world worked. This has proven so popular that statistics show an increase of tenfold of the number of children being sent to study. Sending their children abroad to English speaking countries also gave the impression of a prestige and privileged background due to the fact that the family could afford to do this. This was another way that the South Korean people could raise their status through education, to try and show that they are not so low down the social scale as those less fortunate, that were unable to afford to send their children abroad to English speaking countries. The government noticed this and tried to gain votes by making English villages locally in their own country. These English villages were extensively advertised and aimed at families that could not afford to send their children abroad, therefore giving easy access to an all English speaking society. The English speaking South Korean people built these English villages that simulated an only all English speaking society. Only English speaking South Korean people started these villages. Shops, hospitals and the general structure of work people all spoke English as if they were natives, so that the students can learn the language and practise it without leaving the country. This saved many families the financial burden and heartache of sending their children away and have them the benefits of learning the English language. English is associated with capitalism, culture and technology. So, learning the English language helped bring South Korea more in line with the western countries, this was because English is the dominant language of many world organizations and is considered a means for upward social mobility. It seems that South Korean people and students learning English was encouraged by the government by introducing more English lessons in education, this was due to the competitive edge that other rapidly growing advance countries have an English speaking people. This effected universities that were then encouraged to lecture in English to force students to speak and learn English. I find this very similar to when the Japanese colonized South Korea and the lectures in maths and science were all in Japanese. The difference being that the English language being forced to be learnt by students is by their own government and the fact that this learning does try to withhold learning like the Japanese but helps to encourage.

In conclusion, the importance of education is in transforming a 3rd world country with greatly limited access to learning into 1st world country that is known around the world for a series of amazing products from make up and electronics to dramas and music. Confucianism embodied important ideals that helped form tight family structures which is likely to be responsible for the desire that parents had for the children to do better. The colonization of the Japanese established the base for change in education. While many struggled against learning a new language and ideas a few were able to succeed. However, once the hurdle for education was no more what is known as the English Fever came into being. Spurred on by the desire of parents wanting their children to do better in life this quickly led into an educational revolution which only continued its growth when the Olympic Games were held in South Korea. Seeing the importance of education and learning a widely spoken language with for the sake of communication and the need for technological advancement, parents started to send their children off to English speaking countries so that they could acquire the language at a faster pace and higher quality. The Korean government noticed this and tried to gain votes by making English villages locally in their own country. A curious phenomenon caused by the desire for better education of the English language.

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