BBC Learning English 英语教学

Vocabulary: education 词汇: 教育

Top of the class 成绩位居榜首

What lessons can other countries learn from South Korea and Finland?

Whenever anyone measures educational success, East Asian countries are always top scorers. But in a recent league table, a European country, Finland, was top of the class. South Korea was still in second place, though. Britain was at number 6. What is the secret of Finland and South Korea's success? Time to do some homework.

In Korea the school day is long - typically 7 or 8 hours, followed by hours of private tutoring in the evenings. All this hothousing leaves Korean students so tired, they sometimes fall asleep in class next day. Worries about the effects of late night cramming led the government to force cramming schools to close by 10pm.


Finnish children spend the least time in class in the developed world, often finishing just after lunch, with about one hour of homework a day. Private tuition is uncommon. The British school day is quite long in comparison, around 6 hours, and secondary school pupils do 2 or 3 hours of self-study a night.

The Korean education system, like many in Asia, is intensely competitive, with students even competing to get into the best cramming schools, to help them get ahead. Finnish education is far less cut-throat. Classes are all mixed ability, and there are no league tables. British schools again occupy the middle ground, with quite high levels of competition for places at university, and schools and universities battling to come top of league tables for everything from exam results to student satisfaction.

Korea and Finland both do well, yet their education systems are so different. So what lessons can Britain learn from these two swots?

Well, there are some similarities in Asia and Finland. In those countries, teachers have high status in society, and education is very highly valued. Those attitudes can't change quickly. But it can be done. They might be the star pupil now, but until the 1970s, Finland's educational system was poor. Their radically different approach to schooling has taken them to the top in just a generation.

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