Korea rethinks Sleep

Posted by & filed under All Subjects, Chemistry, East Asia, International Education, Politics, Science.

In recent years, South Korea has become an economic powerhouse, being known as one of the ‘Four Asian Tigers’ alongside Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan. It’s academic power rivals those of Shanghai, China, placing 5th in both Maths and Reading and 7th in Science. The small break-off from the larger North Korea has certainly proven its prowess in the developing world, especially in Asia.


Most teenagers need, on average, around 8-9 hours of sleep a night. With children needing a couple more hours than that still, varying on age. In most countries across the world, a good night’s sleep of this calibre is guaranteed with no worry on the quality or duration. However, in South Korea, the academic stresses and, more notably, the timetable, have made this almost impossible.


School hours typically start at 8am and finish at 5pm, but a large majority of students go a step further and are entered into private academies called ‘Hagwon’. And although the law is that these academies must end at 10pm, many continue until midnight. After factoring in time to travel, shower and eat, there’s simply not enough time for many students to sleep a full 8 hours, let alone 10 that some children need.


Hagwon are also so highly regarded that students who don’t enter them often fall behind in the incredibly advanced classes, which, quite frankly, put classes several years ahead of them in many other countries to shame. To boot, schools take place for six days a week, Monday to Saturday, as opposed to the usual Monday to Friday we’re so used to over here in the west.


The huge downside is that this solid schooling effort often ends with poor results, with students finding themselves limited in skillset, unable to think divergently and many crumble under pressure from their parents, teachers and peers. As a result of the increased pressure, especially after the College Scholastic Ability Test (CSAT), suicide rates skyrocket. In the background, between 43-48% of students consider suicide.


To solve these pressing issues, the Korean government has opted to move the start time to 9am universally for all schools across the country. Additionally, reports have mentioned that the government will be cracking down more strongly on Hagwon staying open past the 10pm curfew. This will likely lower student stresses, optimize sleeping patterns and help regulate health among students.


Do you think more sleep is the way forward for Korea? Perhaps it’s time Asia underwent an educational revolution? If you’d like to teach in the country, why not check out our jobs in South Korea today?


[Source: AsiaOne – Seoul City to push back school hours]

[Source: OECD – Pisa 2012 Results]

[Source: Wikipedia – Suicide in South Korea]