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Obama Praises Korean Emphasis on Education

Posted November. 25, 2009 08:47,   


U.S. President Barack Obama yesterday praised the Korean emphasis on education in kicking off his “Education to Innovate” campaign at a White House ceremony in Washington.

Fresh from his first trip as president to Asia, Obama launched the campaign to improve the performance of American students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Students from Oakton High School and Longfellow Middle School in Virginia attended, along with the education and energy secretaries.

Mentioning his luncheon with Korean President Lee Myung-bak, Obama said, “I was interested in the education policy -- they`ve grown enormously over the last 40 years -- and I asked them what are the biggest challenges in your education policy.”

He quoted President Lee as saying, "The biggest challenge that I have is that my parents are too demanding. Even if somebody is dirt poor, they are insisting that their kids are getting the best education."

The Korean leader told Obama at their summit last week, “Even beggars educate their children not to pass down poverty to them. Such passion for education has led to Korea’s economic development.”

President Lee also said, “I’ve had to import thousands of foreign teachers because parents insist that Korean children have to learn English in elementary school.”

Obama said, “That was the biggest education challenge that he had was an insistence, a demand from parents for excellence in the schools.”

The American president cited the example of Shanghai, with a population of 25 million. He said he asked the city mayor how Shanghai recruits teachers, and got the answer, “We don’t have problems recruiting teachers because teaching is so revered and the pay scales for teachers are comparable to doctors and other professions.”

Obama said American 15-year-olds rank 21st in science and 25th in math achievement in the world. He promised to invest in science and math education to move the U.S. from the middle to “the top of the pack in science and math education over the next decade.”