Friday, August 15, 2008

South Korea's mysterious Leadership strategy

A few months ago I was asked to speak at the European Regional Economic Forum (EREF) in Slovenia on the topic of Education and the Lisbon Agenda. When preparing for the speech I was surprised to see how many times South Korea came up in all sorts of education rankings. Most recently, in the OECD Programme for International Student Assessment South Korea came first in Reading and Problem Solving. When it comes to financing universities in % of GDP, South Korea scored 2,3 % in 2004 (2,03 % going to education and 0,27 % going to research). This was second after the US!!! (US scored 2,9%: 2,03 % for education and 0,87 % for research). Belgium scored a mediocre 1,2 % (0,8% for education and 0,4% for research).

Today South Korea is third in the ranking of the Olympic medals! This could change over the next couple of days, but fact is, after nearly a week of Olympics, South Korea scores a surprising third place after China and the US.

What is the secret here? What is going on in South Korea that brings this country to top positions in education and sport ? Is the answer hidden in the question ? Is their dominance in education also responsible for their dominance in sports ?

A centralized administration in South Korea oversees the process for the education of children from kindergarten to third grade high school. Mathematics, science, Korean, social studies, and English are generally considered to be the most important subjects and are considered compulsory. South Korea was the first country in the world to provide high-speed internet access to every primary, junior, and high school. South Korea's national IQ is estimated at 106, the second highest in the world after Hong Kong. Education in South Korea is regarded crucial to success and competition is consequently very heated and fierce.

If you have more answers, do not hesitate to contact me.