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The Peninsula

Sensitivity to Inequality Reflected in Academic Anxiety

Published November 18, 2021
Author: Korea View

What Happened

  • Parents of elementary school students are pushing for national academic evaluations to be reinstated to know where their children’s education stands compared to the national average.
  • COVID-19 has increased concerns over a widening education quality gap between students.
  • The government attributes this widening gap to students with access to private education and those who do not.

Implications: Korean society is increasingly sensitive to the wider social consequences of economic inequality. The demand for elementary school evaluations is a manifestation of this concern among parents who are anxious that household incomes will influence their children’s educational attainment. This recent advocacy followed a report in February that identified access to private education as a factor in differing levels of children’s academic achievement. While this has been a persistent concern in South Korea, challenges with remote learning during COVID-19 have heightened the gap between students who have access to private tutors and those who do not.

Context: Economic inequality in South Korea has increased since the 1997-98 Asian financial crisis. While the gap between rich and poor is lower in South Korea than in many other peer economies, the pace with which inequality has grown has created deep social anxieties. Education especially has been in the spotlight because many Koreans view education as the primary driver of social mobility. Many people worry that the growing gap in educational attainment between children of rich and poor households will create a vicious cycle of poverty for families that are less privileged.

This briefing comes from Korea View, a weekly newsletter published by the Korea Economic Institute. Korea View aims to cover developments that reveal trends on the Korean Peninsula but receive little attention in the United States. If you would like to sign up, please find the online form here.

Korea View was edited by Yong Kwon with the help of Janet Hong, Yubin Huh, and Mai Anna Pressley. Picture from the flickr account of Daniel Ra

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