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Korean students outperform OECD average amid pandemic havoc: data

Dec. 5, 2023 - 20:37 By Choi Jeong-yoon
(Getty Image)

South Korea outperformed in tests that compare educational attainment among 15-year-olds around the world, despite COVID-19 having wrought havoc on global education systems, according to a survey released Tuesday.

Program for International Student Assessment is a study of 15-year-old students’ performance in mathematics, reading and science literacy conducted by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Typically conducted every three years, this year’s assessment, for 2022, comes a year later due to the pandemic.

Korea saw an elevation in its average scores across all sections, scoring 527 on math, 515 on reading and 528 on science, up by one point, one point and nine points, respectively, from the last test for 2018. The OECD average, on the other hand, saw drops of 12 points, 11 points and four points in the respective categories.

Education Minister Lee Ju-ho speaks during a webinar held by OECD on the latest Programme for International Student Assessment results, from Paris, Tuesday. (OECD)

To how Korea could maintain positive outcomes during the pandemic, Lee Ju-ho, deputy prime minister and minister of education, pointed to the country’s "outstanding remote education infrastructure."

“Korea has a nationwide high-speed internet network, while low-income students are provided with computer devices and network access for online education,” Lee said.

With the country’s strong will for digital transition in education, 60 percent of students across the nation have access to smart devices such as tablets and laptops, according to the Education Ministry.

Lee also touted the dedication of Korean teachers during the pandemic, as they came up with new teaching and learning methods for remote education, while still paying extra attention to students isolated from the system.

According to the PISA survey, 55 percent of South Korean students reported receiving daily support through live online classes.

The PISA 2022 survey involved the testing of around 690,000 students in 81 countries, including 37 OECD member countries, to evaluate the quality, equity and efficiency of school systems while identifying the correlation between variables in educational contexts and achievement.

Among OECD countries, South Korean students also ranked first to second in math, with Japan scoring the same, and first to seventh in reading, grouped together with such counterparts as Ireland, Japan, Estonia and Canada.

The PISA rankings are presented in scales that group together countries whose scores are not significantly different from one other, accounting for the margin of error.

Meanwhile, the country ranked second to fifth among the OECD for science, with Japan taking the top spot.