U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan has hailed Korea as a model for the U.S. education sector. During an event at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York on Tuesday, Duncan said, "In the space of a little more than a generation, [South] Korea has developed one of the world's best-educated workforces and fastest-growing economies."
He quoted President Barack Obama as being "curious about how South Korea had done it, so he asked President Lee [Myung-bak], what's the biggest education challenge you face? Without hesitating, President Lee replied, 'The biggest challenge I have is that my parents are too demanding.'"
"I wish parents were beating down my doors, demanding a better education for their children now," Duncan said.
Duncan pointed out that globalization means that U.S. students will have to compete with their peers in South Korea, Canada, China, European countries, India and other rapidly developing nations. "Just one generation ago, we had the highest proportion of college graduates in the world. Today, in eight other nations, including [South] Korea, young adults are much more likely to have college degrees than here."
He added that while 58 percent of young people in Korea have a degree from a two-year college at least, the figure for the U.S. remains at 42 percent.