You are on page 1of 4

Asias parents suffering education fever



1. East Asian families are spending ever greater proportions of their income on
securing their children the best possible education. Andrew Kipnis, an
anthropologist at Australian National University and author of a recent book on
the intense desire for education in China, says the amount spent on education is
becoming extreme. Education fever is not only prevalent among middle-class
families but also among workers who want their children to surpass what they
themselves have achieved and see education as the only means of ensuring
social mobility.
2. In fact, educating a child has become an extended-family project. It goes
beyond tiger mothers, it also includes tiger grandmothers and grandfathers,
said Todd Maurer, an expert on education in Asia and partner at the consultancy
firm, Sinica Advisors. There is evidence of high levels of education spending in
China, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore. It is also increasing in
India and Indonesia. Many families borrow from relatives and, of course, some
people have difficulty paying it back.
3. In South Korea, where the government believes education obsession is
damaging society, family expenditure on education has helped push household
debt to record levels. According to the LG Economic Research Institute, 28% of
South Korean households cannot afford monthly loan repayments, and are hard
pressed to live off their incomes. A huge proportion of that income 70% of
Korean household expenditure, according to estimates by the Samsung
Economic Research Institute in Seoul, goes toward private education.
4. Michael Seth, professor of Korean history at James Madison University in the
US and author of a book on South Koreas education zeal, said families cut back
on other household spending across the board and there is less money to spend
on other things like housing, retirement, or vacations. Every developing
country in Asia, especially China, seems to have a similar pattern, said Professor
Seth. In China, there are many cases of rural parents not buying healthcare that
their doctors urge on them due to the fact that they would rather spend the
money on their childrens education. Parents may be forced to put off building a
new house, which they might have been able to do otherwise.
5. The education obsession is so all consuming that the South Korean
government has unsuccessfully tried to curb it, concerned about family spending
on extra-curricular lessons and cram schools for ferociously competitive exams.
While not yet at South Korean levels, a recent survey by market research
company Mintel found that nine out of ten children from middle-class families in
China attended fee-charging after-school activities. Parents are convinced that
the activities will help their children when it comes to university entry. Children
are being tutored for longer, starting younger. Whereas before it was for a year
or two up to the university entrance exam, now it can start in middle school or
even primary. The competition for places at good universities has become

more intense. As a result, parents are investing more of their savings to make
sure the child can achieve the grades they need to get in.
6. Parents are surrendering their last resources to wager them on a childs
future by sending them abroad, said Lao Kaisheng, an education policy
researcher at Capital Normal University in Beijing. In the past, an overseas
education was confined to the most privileged. Now many more want foreign
degrees to give them a shortcut to success. However, it is a massive financial
burden and parents may not realise the true costs. It means that when young
people graduate there is great pressure on them to start earning. This is
particularly an issue as record numbers of students graduate, seven million this
year, and an overseas degree no longer has the status it had in the past. In fact,
many graduates languish in non-graduate jobs.
7. Trying to dampen education fever remains challenging. In South Korea as in
other East Asian countries, it is deeply embedded in the culture. Its also based
on reality that there is no alternative pathway to success or a good career other
than a prestigious degree, this was true 50 years ago, and its just as true today.
As long as thats the case, its actually rational for parents to spend so much
and put so much pressure on their children, said Professor Seth.
(Adapted from:

EX.1: Match the headings with the correct paragraph. There is one more
heading than you need.
A. Inability to make ends meet
B. Government scheme for success
C. Excessive expenditure for higher position
D. Tradition fosters stress
E. Exam-oriented coaching
F. Contributors beyond immediate family
G. Gambling on high achievement
H. Making sacrifices


EX.2: The following sentences are statements about the main ideas in the text
above. 2 are incorrect. Put the 7 correct sentences in the order they appear in
the text.
A. Relatives are supporting parents to cover the costs involved in educating
B. Household debt has rocketed in South Korea with families facing hardship.
C. The number of students graduating overseas has shot up, with many ending
up overqualified for their job.
D. Ambitious parents are enrolling their children on tutorial courses in
preparation for university as early as primary school age.
E. Education fever is limited to middle-class parents who have high hopes that
their children will excel.
F. It is understandable that parents push their children towards gaining a topclass degree since educational achievement is highly valued culturally.
G. The trend in all of the developing countries in Asia is for families to prioritise
education at the expense of other items.
H. More than one sector of society is striving to move upwards by means of
I. Tutorial support for university entrance exams has been restricted to students
who are one or two years from starting degree courses.







EX.3: Vocabulary exercise

Match the vocabulary items from the text with a definition or synonym.
1. prevalent (adj)

(a)to fix

2. surpass (verb)

(b)to be forced to stay somewhere for a long

3. curb (verb)
4. embed
5. cram (verb)

(c)respected & admired

(e)recommend strongly

6. languish (verb)

(f)to reduce

7. prestigious (adj)

(g)to go beyond / to do better than before

8. urge (verb)

(h)involving everything

9. to make ends meet

(i)to learn a lot of things in a short time

10. to be hard pressed to do something

11. across the board
12. to cut back on

(j)control / limit

(k)to have just enough to live on

(l)to find something difficult