Students' academic circumstances in Finland, the United States, and South Korea

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Regarding student academic performance

Finland and South Korea are at the top of the list, with the USA coming in somewhat below them. This can be attributed to the various educational philosophies and environments in which the students learn, including how standardized the tests are, whether the academic environment is rigorous or relaxed, the amount of homework the students are required to complete, and teacher-student relationships. While some of these circumstances may apply to all three of these nations, others may be in sharp contrast because of how each one defines success. The United States may want to see what works for these two countries and incorporate it into her system to respond adequately to intellectual and emotional needs of students. This way, she will be improving its education dramatically.

To begin with, educational programs in Finland and South Korea

Simply put, Finland has got a laid back program, short school days, little homework and lots of playtime. That of South Korea is intense. Students study non-stop, more than any other kid in the world. Finland owes the success of their system to PISA survey which is conducted every year by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The survey compares 15-year-olds in different countries in Math, Sciences and reading in which Finland has ranked at or near the top in all the three competencies in every survey since the year 2000. South Korean reputation picked after the Korean War in which education was considered the best way to pull their country up out of economic misery. They overhauled their schools and committed to an equal-opportunity system which promised to educate every child, and this is the only way their system bares similarity with Finland.

Differences in educational environments

South Korea's education situation is very intensive, characterized by long hours of exhaustive cramming and rote memorization, which means school all the time while that of Finland is strikingly laid back - lots of summer vacations and fairly flexible family leave. The success of Finland is especially superb because its schools assign very less homework which allows students to engage in more creative play. In my opinion, the Finnish system, due to its flexibility, allows students to develop their talents in sports, music, among others. At the end of the day, they have all-rounded individuals. In the US, however, it can be a bit tricky to conclude on whether the system is laid back or intense as she has 51 different systems when you include the District of Columbia. It can be very tricky, however, in America to conclude whether the system is laid back or intense as it has 51 different systems when you include D.C.

The role of standardized testing

Though when it comes to testing, America is among the world leaders having an affection for standardized testing with an overwhelming amount of tests which, on approximation, ticks 112 mandated tests on a student's 13 years of schooling. Finland, on the other hand, has no standardized tests. Their students are only tested to help teachers see what they know. Nevertheless, students are needed to take an exam so that they can graduate high school and enter college. The problem is when it comes to the lessons offered by Finnish schools, most of the discussions seem to be impractical and fiercely irrelevant. But unlike Finland, South Korean schools are largely test-driven. They have consistently been at the top of global standardized tests. Their tests emphasize memorization over analytical thought. Students take many other standardized exams throughout their educational experience, along the way to entrance exams. In both South Korea and United States systems, standardized tests are continuously being pushed, and those standards are growing more and more unreachable. What can generally be done is making the exams just a part of school experience and not the definitive substance of the future of students? America can follow the footsteps of Finland but only remove the impractical and irrelevant aspects of it.

Academic success and happiness

Academic success and happiness go hand in hand. South Korean students study in a very authoritarian environment due to their intense education system and pressure from parents. This demand to achieve excellence overworks South Korean students and causes a loss of valuable sleep and unhealthy stress. This is in contrast with Finnish students who enjoy the calm pace of lessons and a relaxed attitude of learning which is shared by the teachers and students.

In conclusion

It is agreeable that the Finnish system is remarkable since students can study while relaxed at their own pace and still get time to pursue activities that spur emotional, social, and psychological development. To make their system more formidable, South Korea should remove the pressure element placed by parents and teachers on passing exams. America should then adopt a sound educational system which includes a friendly and laid-back learning environment, less emphasis on exams, but more on developing skills. These adoptions will prove relevant since they develop the learner all-round and not just their academic construction.


Warner, Margaret (21 January 2011) In Hypercompetitive South Korea, Pressures Mount on Young Pupils. PBS Newshour Retrieved from:"

Hu, Elise (15 April 2015) The All-Work, No-Play Culture of South Korean Education. National Public Radio. Retrieved from:"

Se-Woong Koo (2 August 2014) An Assault upon our Children: South Korea's Education System Hurts Students. New York Times: Sunday Review: Opinion Retrieved from:"

March 10, 2023

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