The cost and commitment to education is enormous here.
Parents pay about $1400 a year for tuition for public high schools. In addition, they pay for extra classes at independent schools (called Hogwans). The fees for these range between $150-$350 a month. These costs are on top of all of the usual expenses for child rearing.
I asked colleagues why they do not have more children and many say it is impossible to afford more children. Consequently South Korea has one of the lowest birthrates in the world.
There are three things in the life of the students (particularly the seniors) school, study, sleep.
Most of our students live in the dorm. They get up, eat, go to class (starts around 8:30) continue in classes until 5 ish (some days later) eat dinner and study in the dormitory until 11 ish. They have every Sunday and every other Saturday off. This gives them time to go to their cram schools.
A colleague told me, "My daughter lives with us, but she really only sleeps at home. She is gone from early in the morning until 11:30 at night every night."
I am not sure this is the best lifestyle for a kid, but it is pretty effective for increasing student achievement scores. Korea is either number one or two in the standardized tests for a reason.
Given the huge commitments by both parents and kids to education, I wonder how the US will be able to compete in the long run.