Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Unhappy Children

Today is Children's Day in Korea.  Parents give children presents and take them out on excursions (this is in principle, I did not see any out today).

All the papers had articles on children's happiness and, as it turns out, it sucks.  According to a survey from a major university, 53% Korean children are happy with their life, the lowest number in the OECD. Children in the Netherlands are the happiest at 94% and 84% for the entire OECD (this seems remarkably high to me)

A couple of different reasons.  According to one article it is 
"Heaviest on their minds were school grades and physical appearances in 2002, but this had changed to school grades and their careers in 2008."
A total of 39.8 percent of 5,658 teenagers said school grades is their biggest worry, followed by their career path at 24.1 percent.
Another article said 
"Of the students, 26.5 percent said they were unhappy with their health, and 18.3 percent said they felt they don’t belong anywhere. Another 16.7 percent said they feel lonely." 
This could be one reason Korea has the highest suicide rate in the world.  According to the same article:
"Suicide was by far the leading cause of death among teenagers. Government research found that 13.5 out of every 100,000 people between the ages of 15 and 24 committed suicide in 2008."
As I wrote before, the kids go to school for long hours then they go to cram schools and study hall.  A different article today
"Korean teenagers spend an average of 10 hours and 47 minutes a day studying,
Three out of four people in elementary school, middle school, and high school were receiving some form of private education" 

Is it any surprise that kids that have almost no time to socialize are lonely and feel like they do not belong anywhere?  Is it a surprise that kids who have no time for sports are not happy with their health?  

One of my students wrote an essay last year saying that the Korean education system does a good job developing test taking machines, but a terrible job developing happy, well rounded children. I could not agree more.  I hope someone is listening to brilliant kids like her.

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