A Heaven for The Best ?

Photo: Seokyong Lee for The New York Times

Sam Dillon of the NY Times posts a portrait of two of the most demanding schools in Korea for those students seeking entrance to an Ivy League school in the U.S. and it is all work, with some play. Read the article and see the slide show here.

  • http://throughwhiteyseyes.blogspot.com Whitey

    Interesting article. Thanks.

    Has anyone here been to either of these schools, or teach there, or know of anyone who does? I’d be curious about what the 분위기 is like, and what the pay is. Do the teachers get any sleep?

  • judge judy

    as i recall, daewon had something like the highest admissions rate to the ivy leagues, and that included U.S. schools. truly an impressive feeder.

    too bad mr. dillon didn’t sit in on a composition class or two himself.

  • http://www.yeomso.blogspot.com The Goat

    An Ivy League factory…cool.

    Unlike the American ones where the rich/connected kids go to further their networks with other rich/connected kids who will get into Ivy schools with or without the proper qualifications…

  • SomeguyinKorea

    Only 34 former students of these two schools are going to an Ivy League school? Since it’s not difficult for top students to get accepted at these universities, maybe the reporter should have toned down the Ivy League angle because, clearly, not all these students really want to attend those schools. Where did all the other ones go? McGill? Queen’s? Dalhousie? Oxford?

    I graduated very near the top of my class in high school. I could have studied anywhere, but I chose to get my degrees from Canadian and UK schools because tuition was more affordable and yet they offered very competitive programmes.

  • Sperwer

    These places sound like part of someone’s full employment plan for psychiatrists and psychonanlaysts, especially those specialized in disorders having or complicated by a cross-cultural basis.

  • cm

    It’s just one more example of Korean racism, xenophobia, corruption, and media distortions against ESL teachers.

  • dogbert

    I chose to get my degrees from Canadian and UK schools because tuition was more affordable and yet they offered very competitive programmes.

    That’s a shame.

  • Arghaeri

    #6 An article by a non-korean in the New York Times!!!!

  • Granfalloon


    I don’t follow. Please elaborate.

  • MrMao

    Why don’t they ask the question, “Why is South Korea so busy destroying its own universities by sending its best students overseas?”

    Dogbert, why you harshing on the Canucks?

  • Alejandro Marivosa

    I doubt very much if a Korean with an opportunity to get into Harvard has ever chosen to go somewhere else.

  • tbonetylr


    Come on people, don’t you get it? CM(from Canada) is a dork, it thinks everything on this site is about “Korean racism, xenophobia, corruption, and media distortions against ESL teachers.”

  • judge judy

    maybe the reporter should have toned down the Ivy League angle because, clearly, not all these students really want to attend those schools.

    but that’s the point. they all really do want to attend.

  • seoulmilk

    they should attend THE UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON!

  • nachoinkorea

    I went to this school once a few years ago, to do some recording work. To be honest, I still got the “ooohhh, waeguk saram!!” reaction from many of the students. So don’t know if some of these kids are really as multi-cultural and open as the author tries to portray.

    seoulmilk, awesome!!! I went to UW as well. Korean students focus way too much on the private schools in America. As someone who as taught at an American university (and not English), I can tell you that the work you do and the quality of the professors at many of the state universities is just as good as the private schools. The University of Washington, University of California, University of Texas, University of Virgina, University of North Carolina, University of Michigan, University of Wisconsin, and Indiana University are all top schools, hands down.

  • corncan

    I guess the average state school is probably no better than the average private school, especially factoring in price, but the best state schools cannot compare to good/above average private schools.
    I did my undergrad at a state school, and now i’m doing my doctoral work at a ivy league, and its really really different seeing what kind of opportunities the undergrads have at the two schools. Cost considerations always need to be factored, but come on. The caliber of your peers is so much higher in a good private school than in any state school, hands down.

    Furthermore, I’ve heard many Univ of California professors complain about how they can’t attract top talent because they are handcuffed in how much money they can pay a professor to woo them away from a private school. Most big private schools have seemingly unlimited endowments and they can easily attract good professors, while a state school is limited heavily by what the state gov’t will let it pay.

  • Rook

    About 7 years ago my friend worked at Minjook. I was under the impression that the school was free for students at that time. He receivied about 4.5 million a month, plus housing and meals. He told me the stress for preparing for classes was intense, as well as the general stress level at the school, both students and teachers. The founder of the school was(is still?) nuts. He also was the owner of a major milk company. I heard he was in and out of the mental hospital. Some teachers who got on his bad side, would be removed from teaching and would just have to sit in the office for 10 hours a day.
    The students would have to wake up extra early and if they were caught sleeping, the founder would drag them under a cold shower to help the process along. Long story short, the founder grabbed my friend’s wife by the neck infront of the whole school. My friend left with half a year left on his contract and both he and his wife received full pay for the those last 6 months. I was offered a full time job there, but declined.

  • http://www.dprkstudies.org/2008/04/27/young-korean James Na

    as i recall, daewon had something like the highest admissions rate to the ivy leagues, and that included U.S. schools. truly an impressive feeder.

    It is less impressive given that the student body is extremely small and highly selective. The acceptance rate might be high, but the small “volume” speaks, well, volumes. If these schools can replicate that rate with, say, two thousand students, that would be something else.

    An Ivy League factory…cool.

    Unlike the American ones where the rich/connected kids go to further their networks with other rich/connected kids who will get into Ivy schools with or without the proper qualifications…

    That may be true of American private schools like Exeter or Andover, but is certainly not the case with the likes of Stuyvesant in NYC (my alma mater — go Stuy!) or Thomas Jefferson in Virginia. Both are publicly-funded and select their students through a rigorous admission process (considered by many to be more selective than Ivy League universities to which many of their graduates are headed), completely devoid of any financial consideration.

    Although I cannot speak for TJ, Stuy had children of Korean deli owners, Russian cabbies, Chinese laundromat owners, Indian postal workers and so on along with the Park Avenue contingent of beautiful people. But they all had to pass “The Test,” for which many immigrant parents would prepare their children by sending them to cram schools (of course by saving and scrounging for the fees).

    These are Ivy League feeders on a par with, or better than, boarding schools, but are also completely egalitarian and merit-based.

  • http://www.metropolitician.com The Metropolitician

    I taught at Daewon for a year-and-a-half before quitting in the middle of my contract (having an F-4 helps with that) because of me finally being faced with two roads — participating in evil, or maintaining my sense of ethics. Beyond that, I can’t elaborate. I’ve already waxed about it at my blog here and here.

    Their rival institution, Waedae’s boarding school in Yongin, recruited me once they learned I was quitting. I worked there for a year before choosing not to renew my contract after the Ministry of Education made it illegal for a foreigner to teach a non-language-based subject based pretty much entirely on a hack-attack job done on my school by a reporter from the Kyunghyang Shinmun because I was teaching an AP US History class taught during normal school hours. A disgrace to the nation! That made the morning radio news nationwide. Lovely.

    I now teach at Ewha Girls Foreign Language High School, which is small and very much not a pressure cooker. I teach American History to about 20 girls, not 120 test terminators, which makes my life markedly easy. I’d never teach in a Daewon or Yongin again, since the kids’ life is a living hell.

    The reason I think the NYT article is superficial and lame is because it’s just a recycling of the PR stats. The problem with these schools is that they apply the best aspects of the Korean system (test assassination) to the requirements of getting INTO American colleges (SAT, SAT II subject tests, and now the AP’s which have become de facto required). The kids do remarkably well on these tests. But when they get to the American schools, they are woefully ill-prepared. But the schools don’t have a vested interest in caring about that — they just want their kids to get INTO famous schools, and it doesn’t matter how they DO at them.

    Daewon is one of the few schools that actually has the clout and money to attract sparkly foreigners and lets them teach a few “discussion-based” classes, which are, though, linked to an AP test of some kind. Still, though, most of the FLHS system in Korea is basically tests, tests, tests. One of the struggles in the FLHS has always been to actually teach them something substantial, rather than for the tests.

    Now, I am in contact via chat and Facebook with many of my former Daewon students, whom I first met 3 years ago. They agree that their first year in American college was like getting hit with a Mack truck; I had always told them that it would — “it’s true for native speakers attending their own American colleges, so it’ll be triple-true for you.” They always kinda rolled their eyes. Now, they get it.

    Anyway, I did what I could to prepare them, and it was always a struggle, fighting against the stream. Other teachers fought the same battle, and usually got attacked by the Korean teachers for it. Most of the foreign teachers at these schools quit after a year. When I was in Daewon and Yongin, I was not the first teacher at either school to quit before the year ended. Turnover rate is nearly 100% per year for foreign teachers. And Daewon paid an hourly rate of $100 per hour, average part-time teaching load 12-15 hours per week. How bad must it have been for people to quit, or not renew their contracts? Don’t just do the math — try to imagine the extreme suck of one’s life to consider quitting a job that paid sometimes as much as $6,000 per month for (technically) half-time work.

    Won’t find that in the NYT article.

    Basically, your life sucks at these schools for 3 years, but the kids and parents swallow their pride and ire, since it is the fast-track to America’s best schools. Period. That’s the exchange. But it absolutely brings out the worst of the Korean school system in a soul-crushing nightmare of pain that many students realize only gets them to the door of the institution they wanted, but has woefully under-prepared them to make it through.

    I can’t believe the Times was comparing the SAT scores of Exeter and Daewon, playing into the “Asian powerhouse” myth. Scores aside, a school like Exeter prepares you to think, gives you a spectacular education. Because you’re not spending all of your time sitting in a chair.

    And if the Times reporter actually thinks the school approves of rock bands (or the cheerleading squad that was summarily crushed by the principal when I was there) or anything non-academic that isn’t a 1-hour-per-week weekly meeting so the kids can put it down on their college apps as filler without it technically being a lie, I’ve got a bridge on the Han River to sell him.

  • R. Elgin

    Michael, please write and post more often regarding these issues you mention above; it could only give people a new perspective on these issues and thanks to the others for your insight as well.

  • aaronm

    Michael, thanks for the story, I enjoy your postings on pretty much everything (although I often disagree) but I particularly relish your criticisms of the Korean education system. Although these abound in expat blog-land, very few are done as articulately or as scathingly as the ones you put forward. Anyhow, just as a matter of clarification, I am a bit confused when you say “after the Ministry of Education made it illegal for a foreigner to teach a non-language-based subject”, but then go on to say you now teach history at a girls’ high school? What is the full story here? It obviously doesn’t hold for international schools either, right?

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  • SomeguyinKorea


    I attended grad school at what is arguably the best in my field of study and I only had 4000$ in student loans to pay off after I completed my studies. Yeah, it’s a shame.

  • SomeguyinKorea


    Maybe I should have bought my degree…


  • r.rac

    very interesting perspective michael. i’ve always thought about teaching history or government/poli sci at one of those schools.

    i think i wont now

  • http://www.boshintang.com boshintang

    I used to teach at Daewon, the school is a joke, at best. Like TheMetropolitician, I ended up quitting.

    The teachers were treated very poorly at Daewon, no effort was made to accomodate to them. For example, the building where they house the English teachers was infested with rats, you would hear them every night in the ceiling, and occasionally see them in the hallway, despite numerous requests to disinfect the building.

    The administration is extremely corrupt – at one point the school was investigated for tax evasion, to which the president of Daewon quit and simply switched positions with the Daewon middle school’s president, problem solved. Daewon found many ways to cut corners to save money, including not paying a severance pay to many teachers there (renaming it a “bonus” so they could pay half the amount). I won’t even talk about the bribery.

    Daewon also treated teachers unfairly. They even fired one popular and highly qualified teacher because they said she “was too short to ever be a real teacher.” It’s no wonder there is such a high turnover rate there.

    The school is a joke, but the students were some of the most motivated kids I’ve taught in Korea. If the salary weren’t so low, I might have put up with the rats and continued teaching there.

  • dogbert

    The real surprises about the NYT article, were:

    1. it was a frontpage above the fold piece in the Sunday Times; and

    2. it was not written by Norimitsu Onishi.

  • dogbert

    @10: Nothing against the Canucks, but linkd could’ve gone to a quality U.S. state school for the price he wanted and it would have had better name recognition than any Canadian collete.

  • hardyandtoiny

    dogbert, did they use the same title picture in print?
    It’s a good draw.

  • dogbert

    Unfortunately, no. I also thought the online pic was better.

  • hardyandtoiny

    Which one did they use?

  • hardyandtoiny

    I wonder how many Korean kids realize they can go to university
    in the USA with a high school diploma and some English language
    ability? SATs are not necessary. You can take the SAT after
    attending college for a couple of years at a public uni and then
    transfer over to a prestigious school. Everyone else does it, why not Koreans? There are so many different ways to get what you want here
    in the USA – it’s not like going to SNU.
    It appears a lot of Korean kids are led to believe the American
    system is like the Korean system.

  • dogbert

    Three female students smiling and chatting, with a student identified as Kim Hyun-kyung in the center.

  • globalvillageidiot

    “It appears a lot of Korean kids are led to believe the American system is like the Korean system.”

    Based on what some here have to say about the paramount importance of name recognition of American universities – regardless of program quality or cost – it doesn’t seem so different.

  • http://gypsyscholarship.blogspot.com/ H. J. Hodges

    I taught for a few weeks over a break at this sort of school here in Korea. The students were smart and hardworking but sometimes rather arrogant and mostly interested only in preparing for the SAT. When I tried to teach them how to compose a logical thesis statement when writing an essay, many of them — and their mothers — objected that I was wasting their time because I explained too much (they called it “too much blah blah blah”) when all they wanted to do was take practice exams.

    Jeffery Hodges

    * * *

  • http://www.park-hyun.com Park Hyun

    Did anyone connect this with the figure that popped up a few days ago: Koreans are 10% of Ivy Leaguers, but 60% of Ivy League suicides?

    Koreans have no hope in the ability of their own educational institutions to reform, and so are moving abroad, even if it kills them.
    More here: http://www.park-hyun.com

  • http://www.metropolitician.com The Metropolitician

    #21 – Sorry for that confusion. Some things are clear to me, since I’m inside it, but I forget to clarify to those who aren’t.

    The policy was changed such that foreigners could not teach normal-curriculum classes during regular school hours. My American history class was taught within the Ministry-required 6 hours of “Social Studies” for students during that semester.

    It was unusual, but kosher. But not after the Kyunghyang Shinmun got a hold of it, after lying about their intentions to come and “observe” the operations of our shiny, new school, while sneaking around interviewing students without permission, often not even identifying herself as a reporter. She then did a hack job on my class, interviewing my students, and then finding a map of the Korean War in our American History textbook that referred to the “Sea of Japan.” Teaching “pro-Japanese” and “pro-American” propaganda during normal class hours (oooook). She just scanned through the index looking for something to use. And she never interviewed the teacher (me) before putting my class on display as Insult to the Nation #1. Sneaky bitch.

    So after that, the regulations were changed in Kyeonggi-do, where the Yongin FLHS is.

    Anyway, most FLHS classes, such as US History, Economics, or any other subject, can’t be taught during normal school hours, except by a Korean teacher. Which means that if you were a Ph.D. in Economics from Harvard, you could only teach English conversation during normal school hours in Korea.

    All this depends on the province you live in, though. But that’s pretty much the rule. And is why all the calls for teaching certificates and for any foreign teachers to jump through whatever hoops actually cuts out a lot of qualified people. People might say “well, you need a teaching cert in America, so you well should here!”

    But the reality is that in the US, we’re not spending god-awful amounts of societal energy and money trying to teach our kids Korean, or send them to Korean colleges. And if the only people we allowed to teach AP Advanced Modern Korean History were American, school-board certified teachers, well…you see the problem.

    After I left, and another teacher I recommended taught in the evenings there for another year, the next teacher they came up with was a Korean teacher who was randomly assigned to teach the US History class. Needless to say, armed with an AP US History book from Barrons and no background in US History, that class quickly fell apart, so they changed the curriculum. My former students told me that an Ewha-educated Ph.D. in American Lit had been hired, but she conducted their American Literature course entirely in Korean. Again, kinda misses the point when you’re doing close textual analysis in Korean, and the students have no experience doing analytical essays in English. Silliness. And those are GOOD scenarios. I could go on for days about the stupid curricular decisions made by Korean staff more concerned with filling teaching slots with human bodies than teachers qualified to teach the courses. 휴.

    As for international schools, they do not fall under the Ministry’s guidelines, since they are not Korean schools. At least that’s my understanding.

  • http://www.metropolitician.com The Metropolitician

    Oh, and in case it wasn’t clear, I teach in the evenings now at Ewha Girls’ FLHS. Technically, the classes taught during the evenings don’t exist, at least from the Ministry’s POV. It’s private study, but the students treat the classes pretty seriously, since they’re taking a big test based on them.

    The ironic thing is, all of the FLHS students say they find their American classes far, far more interesting than their Korean ones. This is my greatest source of info as to what Korean teachers are teaching kids these days, since the kids go on and on about what their Korean teachers tell them during class. You wouldn’t believe the ridiculous things that come our of the mouths of supposed “teachers” in Korean schools sometimes.

    Oh, and it’s no surprise that so many young Koreans are anti-American and have no sense of history. I don’t even blame them for it anymore. Between the leftist/nationalist Korean History textbooks, and their teachers telling them things like “the international context doesn’t matter. The great powers split Korea according to their whims” as if there was no such thing as the end of WWII and Cold War geopolitics, but merely some international conspiracy to screw Korea just for the sake of doing so…

    It’s no wonder they think the way they do about the US, as simply an “enemy” of South Korea. I don’t want to get my kids in trouble, so I’ll spare any more details. Let’s just say that there are a lot of utter idiots teaching Korean History in Korean schools, and all of them have teaching certificates.

    Some of my kids say they learned more Korean history by studying History with me than they ever learned from their Korean teachers. We use Korean history as parallel examples all the time in American history, but that fact is just really, really sad.

    I won’t wax on much more about the quality of ALL Korean teachers, but I do know at least that a lot of “Ethics” and “Korean History” teachers are complete and utter buffoons who shouldn’t be allowed to talk in front of people.

    And that’s all the ranting I’ll do on that for today.

  • Sonagi

    And is why all the calls for teaching certificates and for any foreign teachers to jump through whatever hoops actually cuts out a lot of qualified people. People might say “well, you need a teaching cert in America, so you well should here!”

    US public schools can and do hire people without standard certificates in shortage areas like math, science, and foreign languages. The 2001 NCLB legislation has made this much harder, but it still happens.

    Moreover, my district and others hire foreign nationals for three-year contracts under the VIF (Visiting International Faculty) program. Teachers are expected to hold teaching credentials from their home countries. These teachers come to the US for the experience and more importantly, to make 2-10 times what they make back home, for they are paid the same salaries as US teachers. A Costa Rican couple worked in the US for nine years (you can renew twice) and used their savings to take back a car and build a lovely home.

    Certified teachers from North America, the British Isles, and Oceania might enjoy a larger disposable income teaching in Korea, but they accrue no pension benefits and their experience may not be counted in calculating salaries when they return home.

    There’s also the issue of spouses. English-speaking spouses of VIFs can legally work in the US. I don’t think that’s true for E2 visa holders. In fact, when I was there, only male E2 visa holders could sponsor spouses. Married women teachers could not. Either their husbands had to qualify for visa on their own (most were teachers, also) or come in and out on tourist visas.

    All in all, teaching in Korea is an attractive option for licensed Western teachers only if a) they’re single; and either b) they’re fresh graduates looking for experience and adventure; or c) they’re bored and having a midlife crisis. Even then, certified teachers with at least two years of experience can get MUCH better remuneration teaching in international schools.

  • globalvillageidiot

    “All in all, teaching in Korea is an attractive option for licensed Western teachers only if a) they’re single; and either b) they’re fresh graduates looking for experience and adventure; or c) they’re bored and having a midlife crisis.”

    Agreed. I was once a) and b), but returning home to teach next year to avoid becoming c)!

  • http://www.xanga.com/wangkon936 WangKon936

    Alright here is my twenty won on the subject.

    First of all, the NYC article read like a propaganda piece. I bet those schools are hell. I took 8 AP courses in high school and I KNOW I didn’t have time to enjoy my teenage years. Other commentors are right. These schools have no incentive to mold intelligent, well rounded human beings, but only exam “terminators.”

    About Korean (and other Asian) attitudes about academics I’m torn. I think that kind of single mindedness can be quite damaging for young people, but at the same time, some discipline, direction and focus is good for kids too. I think there needs to be a balance. How the average American family raises their high school kids is a little lax, but how the most determined Korean family does it is overboard as well.

    I’ve met some of those Korean foreign students (dated a few back in the day) and they are an odd bunch. As a group, they strike me as being very unhappy and lonely. Some of them are lucky enough to have family here in the states, and those are luckier then others because they at least have extended family to go to for a nice home cooked meal and such. However, as a group, they are antisocial to begin with and they don’t readily make friends. Even most gyopos keep their distance and vice versa. It certainly doesn’t help their mental health to only socialize with other Korean fluent speakers (which would only be their circle and a minority of gyopos).

  • http://www.xanga.com/wangkon936 WangKon936

    Another point in the article is that there are so many Koreans studying in the U.S., in all levels of higher education. This type of thinking, going to a larger country to study in, is not a recent event, not by a long shot!

    The Tang official histories have accounts where the largest foreigner contingent in their universities were Sillian. They made the largest group of non-Chinese to pass the state exams. Less academic inclined Koreans went to Tang China also. Chinese histories talk about there being Sillian “wards” in most major cities. The most famous of these Sillian immigrants was Chang Bogo, who was featured in the drama “The Emperor of the Sea” (Haeshin). Chang would of never amounted to anything in Silla, which was stratified by a strict bone rank social order (as a matter of fact, it was Chang’s plan to move up in the bone rank system that would eventually get him assassinated). Japanese buddist monks would write about how trade in the Yangtze River was dominated by Silla immigrants. So much of Korea’s elite got educated in Tang (as subsequent dynasties) that over 50% of today’s Korean vocabulary are Chinese loan words (although it’s similar in English as over 40% of English words are Latin loan words brought over by the Norman Conquest).

    So, today the U.S. is like Tang China of yesterday for Koreans. A place of opportunity for those with out much opportunity back home and where elites sent their children to get educated. At this rate maybe in the next 50 years 50% of Korean words will be English loan words! It’s amazing how many English words have worked their way in Korean modern vernacular even today!

  • gregg

    I had taught at Daewon for almost two years teaching Economics until I changed schools to work for a different foreign language high school in Seoul, a school that I consider to be far more “educational and beneficial” for both students and teachers.

    One of the interesting things about the NYT article is that it specifically mentions that a student’s father works on the Korean Olympic Committee. The writer failed to mention that the student’s father is the President of the Korean Olympic Committee which brings me to the point that the average Daewon student turns out to be a “developmental admit” student: that that can provide financial benefits to a school, as in the case of all of Tommy Hillfiger’s children going to Duke regardless of their average SAT score of 1600 out of 2400. Those students (developmental admits) have an enormously higher probably to go to the school that they want to go to.

    When the son of the President of a chaebol came here, it was a foregone conclusion that he would go to either Yale or Harvard. He chose Yale. Nothing new there.

    In a survey done by the school several years ago, one of the Korean office people told me that the average income of each family was approximately 485,000$/ year. The wealth in resources that the students’ families generate allow for the best in tutors and private educational opportunities that don’t exist for others.

    Mix that with accepting the best middle school students in Korea and how could they not go to the Ivy League. If the school’s program graduates an average of less than 115 students every year and if their freshman high school SAT scores are an average of 2150 when they enter the high school that by the time they leave the school, an improvement to almost 2400 doesn’t exactly equate to a substantial education that they should be getting.

    Their social lives don’t exist either and when it comes to part time jobs for their college applications, I saw too many students who used family connections to get pt and summer jobs at the Korean Supreme Court, Parliament, and the top companies in Korea. No student actually went through a competitive process to obtain the job.

    And while the school does not offer AP classes, the classes are generally taught that way since the students can handle difficult material. Nothing new there also. Many schools do not offer AP or IB but run the classes that way.

    So mix extremely wealthy families, developmental admit students, and a guaranteed set of As on their transcripts and you have a recipe for the best achievement. Whether they can handle the work at the colleges is a whole different story, since approximately 30% of all Korean students return before the end of a full year at a foreign university.


  • sumo294

    Which college in Canada is the best? Thought about it and im thinking Toronto for some reason.

  • Janus

    This Ivy-centrism is terrible. I’d protest it were it not in my self interest to perpetuate it.

  • http://www.xanga.com/wangkon936 WangKon936

    # 42, as wrong as it may be to admit rich, but less academically talented students, there is a form of that happening with athletes and scholarships. They are also less talented academically (in many cases) but they bring in economic benefits to the academic institution.

  • gregg

    #45, I agree that of course it is not wrong to be rich, but when your student body is 68% developmental college admits, it is pretty hard to force a rigorous education on them, which is why their college education was already predetermined by 10th grade, and most teachers feel more like baby sitters than actual teachers there.

  • http://www.xanga.com/wangkon936 WangKon936


    I can’t argue with someone who’s actually been there!… 😉

  • gregg


    My friends at Minjok, HAFS, Myungduk, and Hanyoung, all say the same thing. A real indepth article would ask the bottom 1% how they feel about the schools and if they are satisfied with the education they received. It is definitely not all for one there like many other top schools in the USA where there is a real comraderie spirit. At Daewon, it was all illusionary since most were fighting for the same spots.

    Teachers at high schools are asked to be babysitters and not disrupt the system while hakwon teachers are asked to be miracle workers and bring in additonal students and money.

  • http://www.metropolitician.com The Metropolitician

    Here’s a little thing I wrote back about a year-and-a-half ago on the problematic way these schools are bumrushing admissions offices with padded transcripts and often, application essays that are pretty much ghostwritten for them. That’s par for the course.

    There are good, motivated students out there, but even they get sucked into a system that requires them to check in their sense of morality and fairness for the best possible spot in an Ivy. To be fair, my worst experience was only at Daewon, where I refused to hand in a recommendation to be held “on file” and open for the staff and student’s perusal. I simply demanded, for another student, that I simply be given the application to sign, or be allowed to fill out the online forms with the school directly (which a lot of them are doing now). It was clear I was the one making things difficult for their process; yet, it was also my conclusion that applications were being “managed” beyond the the ethical event horizon.

    When I was there, I flat out refused to help “edit” students’ application essays after I got my first few, some of which were half-written (nearly in outline form) and it was clear that I was expected to generate a complete and finished version.

    Such places, unfortunately, are not the place to send your children (or go to work, for that matter) if you want them to not see the worst of how money, power, and influence come together to tip scales and rig the machine of life.

    Yeah, I went to Andover, where there are legacy admits, certain students with famous names who can’t seem to spell much beyond that, and your “postback” sports ringers (already-high school grads who come to the school for a single year of “finishing” as well as to pummel the other schools on the football field and in crew boats) and the like; however, the vast majority of the students come from very diverse backgrounds (even before nearly all students were getting very nearly a free ride, our minority population hovered at around 30%, and it is far higher now). The main difference, though, is the school’s commitment to developing complete human beings (our school’s motto was “non sibi,” meaning “not for self”) — the difference was that we, as students and faculty, took that pretty seriously.

    Point is, if you’re not a reporter for the NYT and you ask a Daewon student whether their school is committed to fully developing them as human beings, or is even truly concerned about their welfare as thinkers or even students, they’re laugh in your face. But the arrogance and disconnectedness of the faculty from this fact is what is the most shocking.

    A former director of the GLP program there asked me to ask my former school if we could develop a sister relationship, since Daewon was the “Andover of Korea.” I simply asked him, “What would I tell someone at my school they would have to gain by entering into such a relationship?” because that’s what an “exchange” is about. He realized he could think of nothing.

    An exchange program? Having Andover kids put on Daewon uniforms and stay half the night studying Kaplan cram books? A daily curriculum with no sports, no real extracurricular activities, a dirt soccer “field” that doubles as a parking lot? Class rankings tipped by bribery and kickbacks? Padded transcripts?

    Hmm. I dutifully wrote an email to someone at an international office of development or some such at my old school, CC-ed it to my director, and let the inevitable inertia of doing something ridiculous just let the issue resolve itself. In the end, any such “sister school” relationship would be nothing more than a notch on Daewon’s headboard, which is how that school treats pretty much everything it touches.

    Bitter? Yep! Exaggerations? Totally unnecessary.