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Rethinking Japanese and Korean Education

Global Education Colloquium

November 17, 2015
Hyunjoon Park, University of Pennsylvania

Japanese and South Korean students’ extraordinary performance in various international assessments of student achievement has attracted attention of educators and policymakers from other parts of the world. At the same time, however, both educational systems have long been criticized for their lack of flexibility and heavy focus on testing at the expense of creativity and problem solving skills. Based on empirical findings drawn from international achievement data of middle school and high school students such as PISA and TIMSS, in this talk Park challenges some stereotypes on Japanese and Korean education and highlights more complicated features of the two educational systems. By focusing on the distribution, not the average, of student performance, Park demonstrates how Japanese and Korean educational systems are distinctive from German and US educational systems, particularly in the bottom of the distribution. Park also reveals a more complicated story of creativity and problem solving skills that Japanese and Korean students are assumed to lack.

About the Speaker

Dr. Hyunjoon Park is Korea Foundation Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania. Park is interested in educational stratification and family in cross-national comparative perspective, focusing on East Asia, particularly Korea and Japan. He has investigated how school and family effects on children’s education are contingent upon institutional arrangements of educational systems, public policy, and demographic changes. Park has published more than 50 journal articles and book chapters.  He published a single authored book, Re-Evaluating Education in Japan and Korea: De-mystifying Stereotypes (Routledge 2013), and an edited volume (with Kyung-Keun Kim), Korean Education in Changing Economic and Demographic Contexts (Springer 2014).