ETS' 2024 "Human Progress Report" shows Koreans' struggle with access to education

“Continuous learning is critical to achieving security and well-being.”

Esther Baek 승인 2024.07.10 11:11 | 최종 수정 2024.07.10 12:34 의견 0
Credit: ETS Homepage

On April 10th, the ETS Research Institute published the “2024 Human Progress Report” in partnership with Harris Poll. This comprehensive polling research was done to explore the “transforming landscape of education and career progression” and to assess the state of learning in a fast-paced world. With over 17,000 respondents from 17 countries, the research focused on access to education, pursuit of upward mobility, and engagement in upskilling/reskilling.

Lifetime learning pertains to continuous learning and the self-motivated pursuit of knowledge. When asked if lifetime learning is a part of the respondents’ identity, in comparison to other countries, South Korea ranked second-to-lowest at 61% in agreement.

Credit: ETS 2024 Human Progress Report

It does not help that 61% of South Korean respondents were pessimistic when asked about the current state of higher education in Korea, the second highest right under France. When asked about the current state of K-12 (primary to secondary) education, Koreans were 55% pessimistic. Students in Korea are consistently under higher pressure to perform and excel. The long hours of studying and private tutoring (hagwons) required to keep up with their peers can take a massive toll on the mental health and optimism of the younger generations. There is notable tension that requires intervention from the government and educational institutions, but the new standards that may be required seem to be lagging.

This negative-leaning sentiment from South Korean respondents was exemplified when asked about how difficult they felt accessing education was, how difficult they felt upward mobility was, and how difficult they felt upskilling was. Out of a maximum score of 200 where 200 is “Extremely difficult” and 0 is “Not at all difficult,” South Koreans consistently gave higher marks to all 3 categories.

Access to education, although it may feel more universal in South Korea, could be perceived as how easily one can receive high-quality education. This usually is only achievable through great financial investment. Many Koreans also feel that the “social ladder” is broken; monthly income is not enough to allow young professionals to save, much less invest for their future. Along with great familial and societal pressure to be “successful,” quality education and upskilling may be on the back burner when most are simply trying to get by.

Credit: ETS 2024 Human Progress Report

The respondents were also asked how important they feel quality education is and how easy they feel it is to get access to quality education. Surprisingly, compared to other countries, Koreans felt that access to quality education was less important yet it was difficult to access. This sentiment may be correlated with the rising related costs for people in Korea to be educated, with hagwons for students and certifications for workers.

Credit: ETS 2024 Human Progress Report

The study showed that there may be a big pressure for people in Korea to gain quality education and continue learning, yet the means to achieve that may be difficult to attain. People may need more incentives to aim for better education and focus on upskilling. This could be motivated through government programs, subsidies, or more generous scholarships to universities.

Surprisingly, the Korean respondents were leaning more positively on whether or not education would be in a better state by 2035. Perhaps this optimistic outlook on the future will be a solid foundation for the trajectory of education regulations and societal expectations.

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