Same subjects, different countries: a look at school systems worldwide


Alice Yu

If the United States received a report card for 2014, the overall grade would be a D+ and the overall GPA would be a measly 1.40. According to, a website for the movement to “transform public education”, Missouri wouldn’t do any better. With an overall grade of D and a GPA of 1.02, Missouri’s education policies are churning out scores that land Missouri students with a national ranking of 36. The knowledge of the inefficiencies tucked into the United States’ education systems has been on the radar since the 2000’s, with studies that reported our 25th ranking out of 30 countries in science and math. So what are the differences in education systems that account for the different test scores of Korea, China, Taiwan, Australia, Libya, Uganda, Finland, and Sri Lanka?

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[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he bell rings, thus signaling the end of a school day, but the work is far from finished. Even when school ends at one in the afternoon in Benghazi, Libya, there isn’t relief from textbooks and worksheets. Rather, the work that is given during the  five hour and 30 minute school day amounts to more than 10 hours of shoveling through practice books.

“You will be studying from when you get home at one, until midnight,” junior Rosie Eldurlssi said.

Every day, Eldurlssi was given at least a chapter along with the practice problems in a textbook for all of the 15 required subjects.

Of course this strenuous amount of homework did not go to waste, as it helped the students for their daily and weekly tests and quizzes in various classes.

The free time a student has after school really depends on how much homework they get. All across the world countries have completely different amounts of homework, which on average, is quite a bit more than the United States.  Hours-spent-on2jpg

“I think parents and teachers in Taiwan are too strict to their children,” sophomore William Wen from Taiwan said. “They really care too much about grades.”

While Eldurlssi’s quantity of work was large, a lesser amount was given at most schools including Hyunjoong Kim’s school in Korea.

Kim’s homework was based on the amount of academies, the tutor classes outside of school, he was taking.

“The time spent on homework depends on how many academies you go to,” Kim said. “Going to multiple academies is typical.”

The school gave about 30 minutes of work every day, but many students ignore the homework because they already know so much about the material from the academies. They may not try as hard on homework, but students buckle down and study hard before tests, which only happens twice a semester. This is when the real pressure is put on the students, since the tests do not occur often.

Also with two tests a semester, but much more quizzes in between, sophomore Joy Wang from China had about four hours of homework each night. Kaz Thomas from Australia had four hours each night as well, sometimes reaching five, with tests every unit. This amount of homework does not overload the students with work, but keeps the knowledge fresh.

“You will be studying from when you get home at one, until midnight.” Rosie Eldurlssi”

“In America there’s more freedom. I think it’s great that you choose your classes, in Libya you don’t.” Eldurlssi said. “In Libya, they focus on math and science because they want to have more educated people in the country, so they want everyone to be a doctor or engineer,”

Instead of keeping the knowledge fresh, Taiwan’s school system gives the students something to look forward to. William Wen had much less homework the older he got. He did have to study and know the information though, because he had many tests all through the semester and three very important tests. He was able to relax at times and think of things other than the grim experience of school, contrary to education in Korea.

“Basically what Korean education is…is to make [students] into test machines,” Kim said. “To me, U.S. education system is much better. Just make [students] useful for society once they graduate rather just knowing a bunch of stuff but not knowing how to actually use them.”

Written by Tess Lovig

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[dropcap]G[/dropcap]raduation and college requirements vary among the different countries of the world. Standardized college entrance exams may be a student’s only ticket to success, and can be the cause of one of the most stressful junctures of a student’s life.

For junior Kaz Thomas in Australia, the WACE (an acronym for the Western Australia Certificate of Education) is a standardized test taken in the second semester. However, the WACE is only half of the puzzle for hopeful Australian college students.

The other piece is the ATAR,  the Australian Territory Admission Rate, which allows students to choose a tiered test with a range of levels of difficulty.

“If you take a 3ab/cd class you will be scored higher than someone taking a 2ab/cd class since the level 3 course is harder,” Thomas said. “They then throw it all into one big formula and give you a rank.”

This puts the power in the student’s hands to select the difficulty of test they take, requiring them to weigh the options that leave them in the best position to impress the scorers.

More than 4500 miles northwest from Sydney lies the island of Taiwan. Taiwan’s high school education system is much like that of the United States. Students have to earn a certain amount of credits to graduate and should a student fail a class, they must retake it.

“We take the exam in the 3rd grade of high school [before graduating],” William Wen, a sophomore student in Taiwan, said. “The score you get on that exam determines what college you can attend.”

“A lot of people fail because of the pressure of taking 15 classes a year. The grade requirement is always changing, so it’s kind of the teacher’s decision. A lot of people, whenever they fail, they just drop out of high school.” Rosie Eldurlssi”

Like the Taiwanese entrance exam, South Korea has a large scale test, however it occurs once every year in high school  and is 100 percent multiple choice.

Junior Hyunjoong Kim from South Korea stressed the importance of the test and the scarcity of jobs in Korea.

“Well, just in general, it is pretty hard to get jobs in Korea.” Kim said. “Pretty much everyone would have their bachelor’s degree, I’d say, then English scores are a crucial part of it.”

Kim also touched on Korean graduation requirements, and the effort a student must put in to get their high school diploma.

“There are certain minimum points, like scores that you have to have for your overall grade. That’s really low, so I’ve never been concerned about that requirement.” Kim said. “Other than that, I’m pretty sure that if you just attend school for three years, you’re going to graduate.”

Graduation requirements in China are far less stringent than Taiwan’s or South Korea’s, using a ranking system rather than credits.

“We don’t have specific graduation requirements,” sophomore Joy Whang from China said. “We have rankings, like if you’re in the top ten percent of your grade. We don’t have GPAs but we use rankings for everything. Sometimes people will drop out in the middle of the school year.”

If one thing can be said for Taiwan, China and South Korea, it is that studying is a priority in everyday life and the build up to these all important tests. These tests do not decide whether or not you graduate, but rather what college you will be accepted to or attend.

Most students in these countries already spend around five to six hours studying on an average day, but in the days leading up to tests students will often study for two or three days without sleep, cramming for the test that will ultimately affect the rest of their life.

Junior Rosie Eldurlssi, a student from Libya, experienced first-hand the study frenzy. The college entrance exam, the TOEFL, is the most recognized English-Language test in the world and is respected in over 130 countries, and gives a huge telling of a student’s English comprehension. However, some Libyan students do not even see this test due to the pressures of everyday school life.

“A lot of people fail because of the pressure of taking 15 classes a year.” Junior Rosie Eldurlssi said. “The grade requirement is always changing, so it’s kind of the teacher’s decision. A lot of people, whenever they fail, they just drop out of high school.”

Libya’s state of economy softens the fall from a lack of education though.

“Everything there is cheap,” Eldurlssi said. “Even if you work at regular places, you can still get money, because it’s so cheap there. College is free and healthcare is free there too.”

The study frenzy can also be seen in Finland. Heidi Aura, a substitute teacher in Columbia from Finland stated the importance of her end of the year tests in her home country.

“You have one big standardized test at the end of your senior year that you study a lot for. You don’t even have that month of school because all you do is study for that test.” Aura said. “Then you have two weeks where you choose 4-6 subjects and take tests over them. they usually take 4-5 hours a day and include several essays. So you need to pass that standardized test to graduate.”

These different college entrance exams and standardized tests are a heavy burden on students in many other countries, as well as here in the States. They are often only taken once and can affect your entire future. The challenges that surround these tests require incredible amounts of studying, perseverance, and drive but has the chance to capture great opportunities that pave the way for a dream job and new relationships.

As best stated by Eminem in “Lose Yourself”, “if you had one shot, or one opportunity to seize everything you ever wanted one moment, would you capture it or just let it slip?”

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Students and teachers give their views on our education system.

Written by John Flanegin

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[dropcap]R[/dropcap]oom 313 at RBHS, or more commonly known as the Guidance Office, is where two secretaries, one registrar, one outreach counselor, the director of Guidance, and five guidance counselors can be found. With roughly 2,000 students, that allots each counselor 400 students to check on and help with problems ranging from schedule mishaps to personal breakdowns. In Libya, Australia, Taiwan, China, and Korea? No such person exists.

“The system is quite different from America, so we basically don’t have the right to choose what we take,” junior Hyungjoong Kim from Korea said. “We just take whatever we test into.”

Similar to the outreach system of Chinese, Taiwanese and Libyan schools, students test into a set of classes and are placed in the same class together until the end of the school year; same classroom, same classmates, same level. Rather than students walking from class to class, it’s the teachers who make the rounds.

For Korea, China and Taiwan, out of one of the subject teachers is a homeroom teacher, the closest position to a counselor there is. In Libya, there is not even a homeroom teacher for students, much less a counselor.

Without even the requirement for teachers to provide students assistance with their school work, helping students with personal problems seems too far out of the job description of a teacher in Libya.

“Some teachers are really strict, so they don’t repeat something. They say that’s your problem for not listening,” junior Rosie Eldurlssi said. “But there are some teachers that are really nice. Sometimes if you want them to come to your house and help you, they can do that.”Class-size

Having more of a teacher support system, Korean, Chinese and Taiwanese schools provide students with a homeroom teacher.

With the process of choosing next year’s classes being handed over to tests, the primary tasks of homeroom teachers are to provide support to students and give them advice on test-taking skills, and life skills. Along with fewer duties, homeroom teachers also take care of fewer kids in comparison to counselors, supervising the 35, 40 and 60 students in each class for Korea, Taiwan, and China, respectively.

Even then, many of the administrative duties are handed to class presidents, who get the title through a process of majority vote. The class president’s tasks include anything the homeroom teacher tells them to do, which can include grading assignments, collecting materials from the classmates, making announcements and managing the class.

“It’s not a big deal to be a class president when everyone is well behaved,”  sophomore William Wen, who is currently a class president in Taiwan, said, “but my classmates are quite crazy.”

As part of managing the class, class presidents are responsible for keeping the class quiet, one of the more challenging tasks. To combat this problem, class presidents are given the authority to write down the names of students who show disregard for the rules. Those students are then subject to punishment, which mostly includes staying after school and cleaning the classrooms.

Despite all the grunt work, students are still eager to become the class president for another gold star to put on their resume.

“Students want to become a class president because it looks good on college applications and resumes.” Kim said.

A field in St. Marks Anglican School
The vast field in St. Marks Anglican School provides space for students to participate in extracurricular events. Photo by Kaz Thomas.

“It’s not a big deal to be a class president when everyone is well behaved, but my classmates are quite crazy.” William Wen”

Following a similar system, teachers in Uganda choose good student leaders to take on the role of a counselor, a role that sophomore Daphine Nalawanga held. Since the classes they take are chosen for them, a student counselor’s main responsibility is to punish students who display bad behavior, usually in the form of corporal punishment.

“I had to hit some kids, but they were my friends,” Nalawanga said. “I would hit them and tell them to look like it hurt.”

The lack of a public school system in Uganda created an exclusive environment and since going to school is a select opportunity only for the financially able, teachers hold a relentless rule over students, knowing that the opportunity to attend school is a privilege itself and the students should be grateful.

Unlike Uganda’s mostly student run outreach system, Australia’s system strikes a similarity with that of the U.S. Any personal problems are directed to subject teachers or to the headmaster, with one headmaster for every three grades. The task of choosing the following year’s classes is handed to a career advisor who also teaches careers education, where students learn how to write a resume and get a job.

A view of the courtyard at St. Marks Anglican School. Photo by Kaz Thomas
The early morning view of the courtyard at St. Marks Anglican School. Photo by Kaz Thomas

As a student who experienced the U.S. school system before moving to Australia in 2010, junior Kaz Thomas saw little, if any difference in the divergence of both school systems.

“The guidance system in Australia and the U.S. is pretty much the same,” Kaz Thomas, who was able to experience the U.S. school system before moving to Australia said. “I guess I’ve adjusted so fast I don’t even realize the difference.”

Like counselors in the U.S. school system, the career advisor makes sure the 400 students in their junior and senior years have enough credits to graduate.

“Environment-wise, the schools here are much smaller,” Thomas said. “In the two schools I’ve been to, I haven’t been in a class bigger than 20 which is a lot better because it allows for more of a bond.”

Written by Alice Yu

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[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he story of pages and pages of homework piling up throughout the school day is the universal song of school. It’s also the universal symphony that the song of homework will lead into the variation on a theme of life.  In Australia, the parents make sure their kids know the importance of school and homework.
“[My parents] expect me to have straight A’s and do well in everything,” Kaz Thomas from Australia said, “which is a completely unrealistic view”

on the way to school
Sometimes riding with her dad to school, Thomas gets a front row seat view of the scenery in Perth, Australia. Photo by Kaz Thomas

Waking up at or before six every morning, Thomas attends various activities like volleyball, orchestra, and sailing. Afterwards, she goes to school, then to another activity, then does her homework and goes to bed, leaving free time only on Friday night and the weekends.

“I feel that if I wasn’t working, then the time for my social life would be at its peak,” Thomas said.

Sophomore Joy Wang from China is more caught up in school than anything else. Wang played piano for six years, until realizing that school would not give her the time for anything else.

School lasted  more than 10 hours a day, but the work continued long into the night. Wang would would do homework until she fell asleep every night. Wang was busy, but doing different activities than Thomas.

train station
To get home from school, Thomas takes a 5-10 minute train ride. Photo by Kaz Thomas

Junior Rosie Eldurlssi, was also able to participate in extracurricular activities, but only until the start of high school. During her years of elementary school, Eldurlssi played soccer and belly danced, until she quit soccer to focus on belly dancing, which she eventually had to quit as well. She did not get to continue doing the things she loved because her  time consuming schedule would not allow it.

Like Thomas, Eldurlssi’s free time only occurred during the weekend, which was Friday and Saturday, rather than Saturday and Sunday.
In Korea, after going to school for eight hours, students study for four hours when they get home.

As the school day begins, students pile in through the front gates of St. Marks Anglican School. Photo by Kaz Thomas
“Parents constantly look at their kids’ grades to see if they’re studying and take their phone away to make sure they’re studying,” Hyunjoong Kim, a junior from Korea said. “My parents are pretty liberal, so they don’t urge me to study, but typical parents would.”

When he wasn’t doing one of his many activities, William Wen, a sophomore in Taiwan, was able to connect with his friends and hang out, when he wasn’t doing one of his many activities. Wen focused more on extracurricular things than school. He was involved in photography, basketball, cycling, violin, and guitar. Although Wen only gets six hours of sleep a night, he does what he likes and has friends who do it with him.

Everyone is busy with something, whether it’s school, sports, clubs or friends. Where someone lives and what school they go to is the deciding factor in how they spend their free time and who they spend it with.
“In America, you have more freedom,” Wang said. “You can be in activities and clubs.”

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Students from St. Marks Anglican School, a private school located in Perth, Australia, were required to attend a two week camp. This video was compiled by an attendee, Kaz Thomas.

Written by Tess Lovig

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What do you think about the United States education system compared to the education systems worldwide? Share your opinion below.