Swedish Politicians Debate Adopting Korean Education System

South Korea’s education system, long the subject of criticism and anxiety within the country, has emerged as a new model for the future of Sweden’s schools. After an opposition Swedish lawmaker praised South Korea’s education system following his recent visit, the Swedish Minister of Education took the unusual step of rebutting him publicly and criticizing South Korean schools in the press.

South Korean netizens were surprised to hear that the nation’s schools were being looked on with envy in Sweden, and advised the Northern European country not to follow in their footsteps unless they want to create bitter competition for higher grades and a higher youth suicide rate.

Article From Yonhap News:

Is There Anything Sweden Can Learn from South Korea? Controversy in Sweden over South Korean Education System


A political clash has erupted in Sweden after the country’s main opposition leader compared the educational systems of South Korea and Sweden.”

In an article in the Swedish daily Dagen Industri (DI), Jan Björklund, Deputy Prime Minister of Sweden and Minister of Education, rebutted the view of Stefan Loefven, the opposition Social Democrats leader, who praised the Korean educational system. Björklund stated that, “South Korea is not a role model for education in Sweden.”

Björklund pointed out in the article, “Loefven suggested the Korean system as a role model for us to follow, but OECD studies have been critical of the Korean education system, which has seen educational growth but disregarded the quality of tertiary education.”

“About one third of university curricula in South Korea would not meet the requirements of a high school in Sweden,” he added, “Sweden rose to second place in a ranking of higher education released, within striking distance of the 1st-place United States. In contrast, South Korea came in 24th.”

Universitas 21, a global network of research universities which released the U-21 rankings, assessed high school education systems in 40 countries on the basis of resources, environment, relevance, and performance.

The article by the Swedish education minister is seen as aimed at countering the the position of opposition lawmaker Loefven, who criticized the Swedish education system after a recent visit to South Korea.

In an Oct. 29th article on the DI entitled, “Why Sweden Should Follow in the Footsteps of South Korea in Education,” Loefven said, “South Korea has witnessed its educational level grow at an annual average rate of 5 percent or more over the past decade, contrasting with slowing investment in education by Sweden.”

He noted, “South Korea sets its goals high for improvements in educational systems and encourages students to continue their studies into tertiary education. Now South Korea has a superior education system, making Seoul have an edge over others in global competition.”

Some observers say that Loefven is inconsistent in his evaluation of the Korean education, as he told accompanying reporters, “We can’t push our students to work 40 hours a week and study 60 hours per week,” criticizing how Korean students are put under pressure and labor unions are not viewed favorably in South Korea.

Östernsund Posten, a Swedish daily retorted, “while Loefven talked a lot about the side effects of Korean education systems, his talk about using Korea as a model for future Swedish education remains unconvincing.”

The paper criticized Loefven, saying, “it is outrageous for an opposition leader to compare two countries in education that are the world apart.

Anther Swedish paper said on Oct. 30, “Loefven didnt mention the dark side of Korean education that he described in a previous article for the Aftonbladet. What exactly Sweden can learn from South Korea’s education system is highly questionable, fierce competition and intense studying pressure?”

High school graduation, South Korea (top) vs. Sweden (bottom)

High school graduation, South Korea (top) vs. Sweden (bottom)

korea-high school graduation-sweden

Comments From Naver:


I can’t agree more on this. Sweden has nothing to learn but cutthroat competition and studying stress from South Korea.


We study not for knowledge but for higher grades.


The purpose of education in South Korea is not to nurture future talent. It’s all about learning by rote and shallow knowledge. Worse still, science and math become the subjects of memorization as the CSAT is too easy. Essay tests for students who want to major in science and engineering have become worse in quality. The private education problems are not due to the content of the CSAT, but to the public mindset.


Do we have any real sense of education? We’re just manufacturing students.


Korean students are not doing well. They are just learning by rote. They are good at memorizing but are said to fall behind others in understanding, probably.


If Sweden follows suit, high school students in Sweden will commit suicide, run away from home. South Korean students stick it out, but for students in Sweden, it is out of the question!


The Education Minister understood the situation. Is education in South Korea education in any real sense? It’s just a way to domesticate students.


In South Korea, there could never be a Steve Jobs.


Students in Sweden will go crazy if South Korea becomes a role model.

Comments From Daum:


They can learn our obsession for private education, cheating and admission by bribery.


South Korea spends several trillion won in private education annually, only to take 24th place in education quality. I don’t know how much money Sweden uses for private tutoring. But if the money is less than ours, South Korea should learn from Sweden.

울산 바위:

Sweden has a level-headed political party in power. Fellow Swedes! Sweden will collapse if Loefven-led Social Democrats take power.


If Sweden needs a lot of slaves, Korean-style education couldn’t be better.

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