South Korea’s Education System “Produces Robots”

November 28, 2013

Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article. 

1. notorious [noh-TAWR-ee-uh s, -TOHR-, nuh-] (adj.) – well-known for something negative
Example: South Korea is notorious for making high school students stay up all night to prepare for the Scholastic Aptitude Test.

2. put to the test  [poot too thuh TEST] (idiom) – to assess or try something out
Example: The Scholastic Aptitude Test puts to the test the students’ knowledge on five different subjects.

3. panel [PAN-l] (n.) – a group of people gathered for a certain purpose
Example: The panel that will be making the examination is composed of the country’s best teachers.

4. conceal [kuh n-SEEL] (v.) – to keep something secret or hidden
Example: The organization conceals the identity of the makers of the examination.

5. obligatory [uh-BLIG-uh-tawr-ee, -tohr-ee, OB-li-guh-] (adj.) – required by a particular rule
Example: The college entrance exam is obligatory for all students who wish to enter a college or university.


Read the text below.
The recent notorious Scholastic Aptitude Test of Korea gave rise to some issues about the country’s education system.

The test, known as “suneung” [SOON-uh ng] in Korean language, is an eight-hour exam that puts the students’ knowledge on five subjects to the test. These subjects are Mathematics, History, Science, Korean language, and English.

This examination, one of the most difficult in the world, is conducted once a year and determines which school a student would enter. This year, more than 650,000 Korean high school students took the test.

A panel of 490 professors and high school teachers created this year’s examination. The panel met for 34 days in a secret location in the mountainous Gangwon province. The members brought with them thousands of test preparatory books to make sure that no questions are similar to the hundreds of “suneung-designed” review books in the country.

It was obligatory for the panel members to conceal the reason of their disappearance to their friends and relatives. They were also required to surrender their cell phones to ensure separation from the outside world.

Although South Korea’s education system is praised internationally, some people still expressed their criticisms. Sunchon National University professor Lee Yun-ho argues that South Korean schools focus on memorization. Students simply sit and listen to the teacher without engaging in creative thinking.

As a result, students who enter universities are ill-equipped for the pure intellectual capacity that tertiary education requires. According to Lee, South Korea’s educational system produces “robots.”

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.  

Discussion A

·         Is it necessary to have an extremely difficult college entrance exam? Why or why not?
·         Do you agree that South Korea’s educational system is producing “robots”? Explain.

Discussion B

·         How can we help students learn creative thinking and be well-prepared for university?
·         In your opinion, how important is college education? Explain.


November 28, 2013