Admission in America's Ivy League institutions is a dream come true for some hardworking students. For most, it remains an ardent wish. For South Koreans, it has become a national passion if not an obsession. High Schools have been set up aimed at getting its students in a"pedigree" college of their choice under very rigorous schedules, a multitude of subjects, and a heaping number of individual course requirements. There are also "cram schools" that provide intensive tutoring programs specializing in SAT courses, the mandatory entrance exam for US universities. Korean parents are also moving their families abroad so children can study in foreign schools to master English before reaching high school.
The importance of getting a good education is an intrinsic value among Asians, because of the recognition that empowerment is built from the pursuit of knowledge. The history of most Asian nations is replete with the conquest by western powers owing to their superior knowledge and technologically advanced applications of scientific studies. The rise of Asia's tiger economies have given an added boost to the value of education in sustaining growth, competitiveness, global economic influence, equality and respect in the community of nations. The Koreans however, have taken this value several notches higher.
There are currently 213 Korean applicants to Harvard this year, with 37 undergraduates presently enrolled - more than any other foreign country except Canada and Britain. Harvard, Yale and Princeton have a combined total of 103 Korean undergraduates. Between March 2007 to February 2008, 73,000 Korean elementary and middle school children left to study in foreign countries. Adults taking academic language courses increased in 2007 to 217,959 from 190,364 the year before. It has risen to roughly 33% for 2008. These are presumed to be parents and siblings of the younger children of school age. The Philippines alone has a population of 673,000 Koreans in its main island of Luzon. English, coupled with the western influenced urban culture, make it attractive for the end goals of Korean students preparing to go to the US. The cram schools expect foreign based Korean students to enroll this summer vacation to reach 25,000, to gain skills for admission in non-Ivy League colleges and universities.
Two of the most expensive and intense high schools established that gears its graduates only for "branded" American universities are Daewon Foreign Language High School and Minjok Leadership Academy. Both have a sensational record of admission in Ivy League colleges. In both schools, the school season is 1 month longer than the US, they have a 15 hour daily schedule of classes where the lecture based Korean national curriculum is supplemented by western style discussion classes. English language classes are taught by highly paid American and foreign ivy league graduates emphasizing composition, crucial SAT skills, admission essays, and unceasing study. Students are unmindful of suppressing romantic attractions as these fade with hundreds of hours of close quarters study.
Koreans in US schools are outnumbered only by Chinese and Indian students, largely due to their respective country's population size. But in percentages of students to population, Korea is slightly ahead. The tenacity with which the students pursue their goals, together with institutionalized support from Korean authorities is exemplary. It won't be surprising to expect China and India to follow suit. The technological savvy of a huge segment of their young and educated population is a force to reckon with; and ensuring entry of more students in "pedigreed" US colleges to learn what they know - and return to their respective countries to compete against US companies and products - is a winning strategic initiative.
In contrast, the continuous decline in the quality of high schools in the US has placed its future at a disadvantage in terms of competitiveness and knowledge. Students are not motivated and a general lack of respect for teachers, authority, and ethnic differences pervade its schools. Too much freedom, or too much rights, or too much of the good life have overpowered the hunger for learning and achievement. The pursuit of fame and fast income through shortcuts produces problems in terms of social responsibility for those who "make" it, and frustrations for those who don't. A confrontational orientation and exposure to a culture of violence compounds the chaotic environment of those who struggle to get by.
Are these developments signaling the end of the era of the white man? Could this be the seeds for the fall of the American empire? If it is, Americans have not awakened to its impact yet.