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Students here among the smartest, but saddest

Dec 04,2019
The latest study by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) finds that while Korean students rank among the highest in terms of academic performance, they are some of the unhappiest in the world in comparison to their peers.

Students in Korea ranked seventh highest among 79 countries including OECD members in their reading capabilities, fourth highest in mathematics and sixth highest in science, according to the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2018 report by the OECD, a triennial report on student performances and happiness since 2000.

The OECD surveyed 6,876 students in 188 middle and high schools in Korea in 2018.

The countries that ranked higher than Korea in students’ reading comprehension skills were China, Singapore, Estonia, Canada, Finland and Ireland; in mathematics were China, Singapore and Japan; and in science were China, Singapore, Estonia, Japan and Finland.

On the other hand, Korean students’ happiness ranked among the lowest in the world.

A total of 22.8 percent of students surveyed in Korea reported very low satisfaction with their lives, higher than the OECD average of 16.2 percent, ranking Korea in seventh place among 79 nations when it comes to students’ dissatisfaction with life.

Those ranking higher than Korea in this category included students in China, Britain, Japan, Turkey and Brunei.

The indicators on Korean students’ happiness have not changed much since the last PISA survey in 2015, when 22 percent of students surveyed reported very low satisfaction with life.

In an analysis report on the survey results, the OECD linked students’ unhappiness with academic pressure to do well. It found that 80 percent of the students surveyed in 2015 reported that they want to be the best in whatever they do, compared to the OECD average of 65 percent.

“Anxiety might stem from the fact that students associate top grades with better career prospects and that they want to have the best opportunities possible when they graduate,” the report said in 2015.

It also noted that while 97 percent of students reported that “their parents are interested in their school activities,” less than 80 percent said they talk to their parents after school, which was lower than the OECD average of 86 percent.

BY ESTHER CHUNG, NAM YOON-SEO [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]


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