You are on page 1of 7

Anna Gallagher

EDUC 310
May 6, 2015
Comparative Analysis Paper: First Draft
A nations education system is a reflection of that nations values and hopes for the
future. This is certainly apparent in Germany and South Korea, two countries that appear
significantly different at first glance but upon further examination share many attributes.
Germanys education system is constructed to ensure all citizens have jobs. This is accomplished
through the German tracking system and with the aid of the private sector. South Koreas
education system is designed to educate all citizens to the utmost extent possible, in the process
finding the nations next great leaders. South Korea achieves its mission by pushing students to
perform on a national college entrance examination. These methods of educating make sense
given each countrys history and national values.

The Educational Trademarks of German Education

Germanys education system is designed to prepare students for careers. This trademark
drives how students are educated, namely through Germanys comprehensive tracking system.
Children are tracked in Germany after fourth grade. Students enter one of three tracks:
Hauptschule, Realschule, or Gymnasium. Hauptschule is a vocational track that typically leads to
apprenticeships and later public service jobs. Realschule, too, includes on-the-job training and
graduates find work in the commercial and service sectors. Finally Gymnasium is a college
preparatory track. Gymnasium graduates go on to study at various universities across Germany.
Once in a track, it is difficult, if not impossible, for students to change academic paths.

Another key element of the German education system is the role the private sector plays
in preparing Germanys youth for the workforce. German employers and trade unions give
students apprenticeships and invest heavily in their development. In 2005, German employers
invested $27.7 Billion Euros in student training costs (Schwartz, 102).

Ecological Explanation for Germanys Education System

Germanys education system is largely shaped by Germanys traumatic past. In 1930,
Germany was the worst hit country in a worldwide depression. 6.5 Million people were
unemployed (The Rise of Hitler). The German people were desperate for new leadership.
When Adolf Hitler offered both work and bread to the German people, his rise to power began.
What followed was World War II and absolute devastation in Germany once more. The German
people today attribute much of their pain before and after World War II to unemployment.
Consequently, the primary goal of Germanys education system is to guarantee work for every
German citizen. It is a German value on the macro level that everyone has a right to work.
Another macrosystem value is that every German citizen should be an expert in whatever
they do. This value leads to Germany tracking its students when they are very young, after fourth
grade. All a childs schooling after this point is specifically designed to prepare students for a
specific career. Furthermore, this value impacts Germans view of teachers. Teachers have
undergone extensive training to become teachers and are seen as experts. Therefore parents and
families do not involve themselves in school life as they trust that their childs teacher is
ensuring their childs academic success. Homeschooling is actually prohibited in Germany.

On the exosystem level, the participation of employers and labor unions in the education
system of Germany, significantly impacts what and how children learn. As a result of the
funding provided by employers, students perform lots of practical learning through
apprenticeship programs. This partnership obliges schools to teach what the employers and labor
unions deem necessary for students future work.

The Educational Trademarks of South Korean Education

South Koreas education system has been lauded for producing top scores on
international achievement tests such as PISA. These scores are the result of an education system
that pushes its students to perform. One recent BBC news article described the school schedule
of Hye-Min Park, a typical 16 year old student. Hye-Min wakes up each day at 6:30 am to be at
school by 8 am. After school ends at 4pm, she goes to a hagwon, a private tutoring center, from 6
to 9pm. This session is followed by two hours of self-study. Hye-Min finally gets in bed at 2am
only to repeat the process the next day (Chakrabarti). As alluded to in this article, the private
education industry is a major component of South Koreas education system. There are almost
100,000 hagwons in South Korea and approximately 75% of students attend these institutions.
One family reported spending $1200 per month on their sons high school education (In-class
video). This is not uncommon in South Korea.
This spending by Korean families is viewed as necessary to prepare students for
high-stakes college entrance examinations, another trademark of South Koreas education
system. To prepare for the tests, students learn through rote memorization rather than individual
creativity. These high stakes tests lead to students feeling overwhelmed and depressed.

Consequently, South Korea has had the highest suicide rate in the industrialized world for eight
consecutive years (Kim).

Ecological Explanation for South Koreas Education System

South Koreas education system must be examined within its particular ecological
context. Perhaps most important to note is the influence in Korea of Confucianism.
Confucianism states that man is perfectible through education and that only the most learned
should govern the country and society (Kim-Renaud, Grinker, & Larsen). Education, is
therefore, a means to high social position in South Korea. This explains students desire to
perform highly and also parents willingness to invest in their childs education as they believe
any money invested will return as a high paying job and successful career.
Another important Confucian belief is that of Hongik Ingan, the belief that you should
honor the hierarchy. This leads children to respect their parents and teachers highly. Children are
willing to study outrageous hours because they recognize their parents investment in their
education and their desire to see success. Students view it as their duty to advance their familys
social position.
At the Exosystem level, South Koreas policy of having one national curriculum directly
impacts students experience in school. The National Common Basic Curriculum used in South
Korea includes 10 main subjects: Korean, Social Studies, Moral Education, Mathematics,
Science, Physical Education, Music, Fine Arts, Practical Arts, and Foreign Languages (Shin &

At the micro level, parents, specifically mothers, are tasked with managing their childs
education. Mothers ensure that children complete their homework and perform well. Families are
very involved in the education of their children and will advocate for their children to ensure
they are receiving the best education possible.
It is important to note that respect for teachers in South Korea is incredibly high.
Teachers are viewed as another parent to each child. On National Teachers Day, students give
their teachers carnations, the same gift they offer their parents on Parents Day. This largely has
to do with the aforementioned Hongik Ingan belief but also makes sense in that teachers are
meant to offer their students a moral education in addition to an academic education.

Comparison of Germanys and South Koreas Education Systems

It is fair to compare the education systems of Germany and South Korea because the
countries share some key similarities. Both countries have a population density of approximately
200 people per square kilometer (Population Density (people per Sq. Km of Land Area)). The
countries also have a roughly similar GDP per capita. In 2014 it was estimated that Germanys
GDP per capita was $44,700 while South Koreas GDP per capita rested at $35,400. In both
countries approximately 15% of the population lives beneath the poverty line. Germany and
South Korea are both relatively homogenous societies. In 2010, 91.5% of Germans claimed
German as their ethnic group while an even greater majority in Korea claimed to be Korean.
Finally, both countries spend approximately the same public funds on education. In 2010,
Germany spent 5.1% of GDP on education expenditures while South Korea in 2009 spent 5% of

GDP on education expenditures (Germany; Korea, South). Both Germany and South Korea
were required to rebuild and reinvent their education system after World War II.
However there are some major differences between Germany and South Korea. First,
Germany cultures a more individualistic society. This means that individuals view themselves as
independent and autonomous. Meanwhile South Korea is traditionally more collectivist.
Generally individuals in collectivist societies see themselves as a member of a larger group and
are inclined to act so as to benefit the group rather than themselves. Another key difference
between Germany and South Korea is that in Germany all positions in society have value. While
it is true that a doctor and baker might not be regarded in the same light, in Germany a baker is
valued for the essential work that he does and is seen as an expert in his field. In South Korea,
there is a belief that the most educated, measured by academic diplomas, should be the most
highly respected and granted the most power. These differences result in different motivations
for seeking education and satisfaction with the education received.

In conclusion, it is critical to understand the ecological context of a countrys education

system before making any judgements about its effectiveness. Germanys tracking system and
collaboration with the private sector make sense given that the ultimate goal of Germanys
education system is to ensure every citizen has a job they are well-qualified for. South Koreas
high pressure education culture, including its college examination test, makes sense given the
high value college degrees have in South Korean society and the possibilities for social
advancement. While there are several differences between these countries, perhaps most
significantly their foundations in Western vs. Eastern thought, they also share many similarities

including relatively homogenous populations, economic success, and similar public spending on
education which makes this comparison of the countrys education systems possible.

The Rise of Hitler. History File: Nazi Germany. BBC, n.d. Web.
Schwartz, Robert B. "The German Dual System." Schooling in the Workplace: How Six of the
World's Best Vocational Education Systems Prepare Young People for Jobs and Life.
Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education, 2011. N. pag. Print.
Chakrabarti, Reeta. "South Korea's Schools: Long Days, High Results." BBC News. N.p., n.d.
Web. <>.
Kim, Young-Ha. "Korea's Struggle with Suicide." The New York Times 3 Apr. 2014: n. pag. The
New York Times. 4 Apr. 2014. Web.
Shin, Sunwoo, and Myung-sook Koh. Korean Education in Cultural Context. N.p.: n.p., n.d.
Kim-Renaud, Young-Key, R. Richard Grinker, and Kirk W. Larsen, eds. "Korean Education."
The Sigur Center Asia Papers 24 (2005): n. pag. Web.
"Germany." The World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency, n.d. Web. 02 May 2015.
"Korea, South." The World Factbook. Central Intelligence Agency, n.d. Web. 02 May 2015.
"Population Density (people per Sq. Km of Land Area)." Data. The World Bank, n.d. Web. 02
May 2015. <>