Omnibus School Swap: Korea Style


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Omnibus

Three British teenagers swap their teachers and parents for school life in South Korea, a country with one of the top education systems in the world, but also one of the toughest.


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SCHOOL BELL RINGS

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When it comes to school exam results,

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Britain is nowhere near the top of the international league table.

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In fact, it's Asian countries that consistently take the top spots.

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The UK lags behind these masters of education.

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And my home nation, Wales, is the worst performing country

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compared to England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

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I'm Sian Griffiths, education editor at The Sunday Times.

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I want to know, what would it take for Welsh schools to compete,

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and be at the top of those rankings?

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And to do that I need some help.

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I'm inviting three pupils from my old school in Wales to

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swap their classrooms, teachers and even their parents

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to experience school life on the opposite side of the globe...

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in Gangnam, in South Korea.

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# Oppa Gangnam style... #

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Here, pupils work long hours...

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teachers can become millionaires... HE SHOUTS IN KOREAN

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..and parents plough a small fortune into private tuition for their kids.

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This is extreme education.

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So, for three days, three Welsh teenagers

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will live and breathe Korean education

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to find out the secret to their success.

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I honestly couldn't keep my eyes open.

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This is School Swap - Korean style.

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St Davids in Pembrokeshire is the smallest city in Britain.

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This is where I grew up and went to school.

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Here, I got the grades to go to Oxford to study English.

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And back then the quality of Wales' education system was renowned.

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But something has changed.

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So I want three students from my old school to help me find out what.

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I'm sending them to one of the best and toughest education systems

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in the world today,

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South Korea.

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I'm looking forward to experiencing it,

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but I honestly don't know how they cope.

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Some days I'll only have two lessons in the morning,

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or sometimes I have triple lessons at the end of the day,

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so I can have a lie-in in the morning.

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I do like the social part of school,

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but I don't really enjoy the educational side of it.

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Some might say that I like my PlayStation a bit more,

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or playing sports with my friends a bit more than studying.

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School, for me, is about, yeah, sure,

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you come along and you see your friends every day,

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but it's also about knuckling down and getting some work done.

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I want to get the best, I want to be the best,

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and I think that all starts with education.

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I want to go to Korea because I want to know

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why they're doing so much better at education than we are,

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and what they have that we don't.

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Three very different kids.

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But how will they take to the super-tough system of South Korea?

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# Everybody is kung fu fighting... #

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Our three Welsh teenagers are travelling 6,000 miles

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from Pembrokeshire to the capital of South Korea, Seoul.

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# It's the book of your life that you're writing... #

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For three days, I've arranged for them to be totally immersed

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in Korean school and teenage life.

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And they need to look the part, too.

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It looks like I'm going to play cricket.

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So first stop is the local school uniform shop.

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EWAN LAUGHS

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-I feel like an air hostess.

-You look like one.

-Oh, my goodness!

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Most schools in this area are single sex schools,

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so the three will have to split up.

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Tommy and Ewan will attend Dankook,

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an all-boys high school in the most affluent neighbourhood in Gangnam.

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The school is surrounded by expensive high-rise flats,

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with Korean parents spending a fortune

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to move into the school's catchment.

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Mine's a very posh school,

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and I have a feeling they're going to be really strict.

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Sarah will attend the nearby all-girls school, Suhmoon.

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Over 1,500 girls attend this high school,

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and it's one of the best in Gangnam,

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with strict rules on uniform and appearance.

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Our three Welsh students will also be staying with a Korean family,

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but before they head off,

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I want to know if they're ready for the challenge.

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Do you already know any Korean?

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Have you learnt it in the few hours you've been here?

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Well, I've picked up a little bit.

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I mean, like, kamsahamnida is thank you.

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And Tommy knows the way to introduce yourself.

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Yeah, when you greet someone, you say mannaseo bangapseumnida.

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-Sarah?

-I'm useless!

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I've been relying on these two.

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OK. Well, good luck, all three of you. Off you go!

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Cheers.

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Sarah, Tommy and Ewan now split up and head off

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to meet their Korean classmates for the first time.

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They know nothing about their host families,

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and the nerves are definitely starting to show.

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Yeah, a bit nervous.

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But should be good to meet them.

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I think nervous doesn't quite cut it.

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Do I press here?

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What do I do? This one?

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Here we go.

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OK...

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-Hello!

-Nice to meet you.

-Hello.

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Sarah will be staying with 16-year-old Si-yeon.

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When she was young, Si-yeon went to a school for gifted children,

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and her favourite subject is maths.

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-That's the living room.

-OK.

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-And the dining table.

-Yeah.

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-And that's the kitchen.

-Oh, my gosh. I'm actually here!

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Meanwhile, on the other side of town,

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Tommy is going up in the world.

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-Hello.

-Tommy!

-Nice to meet you.

-Nice to meet you.

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Tommy's Korean classmate is Min Young.

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He has a bird's-eye view of Seoul from his 36th-floor apartment.

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And there's an 86-inch television to amuse him.

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Ooh, you've got a home cinema!

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That's really cool!

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That's a lovely view, as well.

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Ewan is the last to meet his Korean counterpart, Young-chang.

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-Hello.

-Hello, hello. Mannaseo bangapseumnida.

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There's no television here.

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Young-chang's parents believe it's a barrier to good education.

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This is a really nice house.

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You make the most of the space as well, it's really good.

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Both are top students in their class,

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and it's not long before they check out each other's maths homework

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and musical skills.

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That's amazing.

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First impressions, he's amazing.

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He can play the piano backwards, for Christ's sake.

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I don't stand a chance.

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Finally here, I'm finally here, and it's crazy. It's really good.

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I look like an idiot now.

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Tomorrow, our three Welsh students are going to discover

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why Korean education is the toughest in the world.

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What time does school start tomorrow?

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We need to be there by eight.

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-Eight? All right, OK.

-Yeah.

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Eight o'clock is quite an early start.

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-Yeah, yeah.

-But it's all right.

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-I think it is math, English and history.

-OK.

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And then we're going to have dinner at school.

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And then we're going to have, like, the extracurricular stuff.

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-We stay there until, like, ten.

-Ten o'clock at night?

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-Ten, yes.

-OK.

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I'm normally fast asleep at ten o'clock,

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but...I think I can change for a couple of days.

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I don't think I'm prepared for this.

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6.45 in the morning,

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and in Young-chang's house, there's no sign of Ewan.

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-HE KNOCKS ON DOOR

-Hello, Ewan?

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It's already, like... a quarter before seven.

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Yeah, sorry. I fell back to sleep.

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-That's normal.

-Yeah.

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Over at Si-yeon's house,

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it's a different type of wake-up call for Sarah over breakfast.

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We have this bag in each class for us to put our phones in.

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-We have to give our phones in?

-Yes.

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You're not even just, like, allowed to turn them off...?

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I guess you can, but if the teacher finds out,

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they'll take it for, like, a week and a half, to a month.

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I guess it depends on the teacher.

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-They can take your phone off you for that long?

-Yeah.

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-LAUGHS:

-Oh, my God!

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I did wake up, and then I just fell back asleep.

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-HE SIGHS

-Ready for school now.

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Apparently, I might be out until 11:30 at night, so...

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could be quite interesting.

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While Sarah and Ewan make their way to their respective schools,

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over at Min-young's house, Tommy's only just getting up.

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I don't usually function at this time.

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God, you get better weather out here than we do. Much better.

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This is like...this is actually quite a nice day.

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It gets a bit tiring after lunch.

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I think I'll be tired before lunch.

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Because Tommy got up so late, his Korean classmate is worried.

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We're going to be there on time, I think.

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He's never been late to school before.

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I'll catch up, don't worry.

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In Dankook High School,

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punishment for missing the bell is coming in even earlier

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to clean the corridors and classrooms.

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With seconds to spare,

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both have avoided mopping up duties -

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for today, at least.

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Sarah is creating a bit of a stir over at Suhmoon Girls' School.

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Everyone's watching.

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Being the only blonde in school can make you quite a celebrity.

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I'm not normally awake until about quarter to eight.

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It's strange. Too early.

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It's ten to eight, and first up, it's English.

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And a gentle easing in for Tommy, Ewan and Sarah.

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'Well, I'm not very familiar with that genre of music.'

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'I cut myself when I shaved this morning.'

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'Maybe you could shave in the shower?'

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'Hmm, sounds like a good idea.'

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More than 99% of Korean students

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choose to stay in school after they turn 16,

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compared to only 50% back home in Wales.

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For the next three years, they prepare for a make-or-break exam

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to get into a good university.

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While I wait to see if the kids survive their first day,

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I've been looking around the local area

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and come across this Buddhist temple.

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This sign is pretty interesting.

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It's inviting people to come and do 3,000 bows or prayers overnight

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this Saturday for... Guess what?

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Good exam results.

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These mothers are praying for good results

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in the end-of-term exams.

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Each prayer book has a picture of their child.

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And on the roof of the temple,

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the light stays on in the family's lantern

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until the child reaches university.

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In the temple courtyard,

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the mothers burn old textbooks

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to destroy any possible bad luck in the looming exams.

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It is this religious devotion to education

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that has helped transform South Korea's fortunes.

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60 years ago, nearly 80% of the population here was illiterate.

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Today, South Korea is an economic giant.

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They did all that through education.

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HE CHANTS IN OWN LANGUAGE

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So, how good are they?

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I've arranged a test for the boys in Dankook School.

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-Good morning. ALL:

-Good morning.

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Today, you're going to be sitting a Welsh GCSE maths exam.

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You have 60 minutes, and your time starts...

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now.

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It's usually a two-hour long paper,

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but we've randomly selected half of the questions

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to fit this exam into 60 minutes.

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-(In my maths exam, I got an A star.)

-(An A star?)

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(An A star, yeah. I was told to aim for full marks, so...)

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After only 15 minutes,

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some of the Korean students have already finished the paper.

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But even on his second attempt,

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GCSE maths is still a headache for Tommy.

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For my GCSEs, I got two A stars, four As, four Bs, and a C.

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I thought I did quite well,

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considering the amount of work I did.

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The only grade that I would've liked to have got higher was a C in maths.

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I would've liked to get that up to a B, but...

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you know, it is what it is.

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OK. so, can I just ask you all,

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can you put your hands up if you found that paper difficult?

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LAUGHTER

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OK. So, can I ask you now, can you put your hands up

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if you found the paper really easy?

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OK. Oof!

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Everybody found it really easy.

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'Well, that was really interesting.'

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None of those South Korean teenagers found that paper difficult.

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Most of them finished it in about 15 minutes -

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it was supposed to take an hour!

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I'm not really surprised because the teacher said that paper

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was primary school-level maths for those children.

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It just shows how far we've got to go to catch up in Wales.

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Thousands of children in Wales -

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not just in Wales, across the UK -

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would've failed that paper this summer.

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That says a lot about where we are, and how much we've got to do.

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I asked them, and they thought the exam was very easy,

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and I said, "Well, some people in our class have failed that,"

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and they said, "Well, that's...that's astounding," so...

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I just think they just work harder, they go over it

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and then, an exam they've never studied for before,

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they just did it straight through, so...yeah, amazing.

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Korean teenagers are exam-busting machines,

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and are among the top-performing students in the world.

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We know this because of the PISA test.

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Every three years, 15-year-olds in 68 different countries

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sit the same exams in maths, science and reading.

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In the latest PISA maths test,

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Asian countries, like South Korea, once again come out on top.

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England and Northern Ireland are down with Scotland, at 29th,

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and my home nation, Wales, right down at 36th.

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One obvious difference here is the long hours they put in.

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Sarah is struggling to stay awake.

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Others have just given up.

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But still, the teacher carries on.

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I feel really bad because I've gone really sleepy now,

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and that lesson, I was just like...

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Ooh!

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At least there's one similarity between Wales and South Korea -

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they do have school dinners.

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In Seoul, all kids up to 16 years old have free school meals.

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But you won't find any chips being dished out here.

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Korean school dinners are hailed as some of the healthiest in the world.

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Plenty of rice, soup

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and gut-friendly fermented cabbage called kimchi.

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Oh, yeah, rice!

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It's really nice. It's sort of like a stew sort of thing.

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But there's less stew to it and more meat and veg and stuff.

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It's really tasty, really tasty.

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With their bellies full, it's back to the classroom,

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and our Welsh students are actually getting

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a taste for Korean-style lessons.

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The method of teaching out here is

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they just give it to you in black and white

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and you memorise it and you learn it,

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but that does not necessarily mean that you understand it.

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What stuck out to me a lot is, in class,

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they don't even talk to each other.

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It's just bizarre.

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The school here is better in terms of the results,

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but are they really living a life that a young person should be?

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I'm not so sure.

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In response to such criticisms,

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the principal at the boys' school has introduced a school sports day

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to tackle the problems of stressed-out and tired students.

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This is one of the best schools in Seoul,

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and South Korea is at that the top of the international rankings

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for education.

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But do you feel that this kind of sports day is necessary

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to give them some kind of release from that pressure?

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Yes, that's a part of the reason I do this with these kids,

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because, you know, like, this time never comes back, you know?

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Like, this is a beautiful time of our life.

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But they're kind of, like, squeezed under a big load of pressure.

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Their day's probably like 6 till 12 or something.

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-6am in the morning to midnight?

-Surely, yeah.

-Whoa.

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-So they're getting about six hours' sleep?

-Six hours' sleep.

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That's a very, like...insufficient.

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So, we've been seeing some children sleep,

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actually nodding off in lessons.

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What do you do when you see children doing that?

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Actually, I tap the glass, the window of the classroom,

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and I try to wake them up by sending my finger signal to them.

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-Does it work?

-Yeah, it's working.

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Eventually, probably, that's going to damage

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their efficiency of their studies,

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because they need to sleep, they can't have lack of sleep.

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So that's the primary reason why we're doing this.

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It's kind of like some activities to release their stress.

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The final event of the day is rope skipping,

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and Tommy's been given the responsibility

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for swinging the rope for his team.

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I'm actually quite nervous. I don't want to get it wrong.

0:19:490:19:52

Look how many people are watching!

0:19:520:19:54

I'm petrified.

0:19:560:19:58

Look! Look how wrong it can go.

0:20:000:20:03

Next up, it's Tommy's team.

0:20:080:20:10

CHEERING

0:20:250:20:28

Most of the Korean students don't know anything about Wales.

0:20:280:20:32

That's until they see the flag.

0:20:320:20:34

There's one famous Welsh footballer and everyone knows his name.

0:20:340:20:38

-STUDENTS:

-Gareth Bale! Gareth Bale!

0:20:380:20:44

4:20, and the bell rings for the boys.

0:20:570:21:01

Over at the girls' school, the lessons may have ended,

0:21:010:21:04

but now it's time for after-school study.

0:21:040:21:08

Ten hours in,

0:21:080:21:09

and Sarah's sitting in the same classroom in the same chair.

0:21:090:21:14

I feel really bad,

0:21:170:21:18

but honestly couldn't keep my eyes open during that lesson.

0:21:180:21:24

It's all getting too much for Sarah,

0:21:240:21:26

so her Korean classmate Si-yeon comes to the rescue.

0:21:260:21:29

We're going to get you to go to the nurse's office.

0:21:290:21:33

There are a lot of beds there, so you can take a rest.

0:21:330:21:36

I feel so bad!

0:21:360:21:38

And after that, we can go to my extracurricular class,

0:21:380:21:42

and then we go home.

0:21:420:21:44

I feel bad going into the nurse's room.

0:21:440:21:47

I should be awake, but I'm just so genuinely tired.

0:21:470:21:53

As night falls on Seoul,

0:22:010:22:03

Ewan and Young-chang make their way to a five-hour self-studying session

0:22:030:22:08

in the local public library.

0:22:080:22:09

At the moment, we're waiting to get into the library.

0:22:110:22:14

I was amazed that there could be so many people all in there at once

0:22:140:22:18

and the fact that they're all exquisitely silent.

0:22:180:22:21

There was even kids in there studying, about ten years old.

0:22:210:22:24

It's surprising but...

0:22:240:22:27

shows the work ethic that Korean people have

0:22:270:22:29

and it's just impressive, it's amazing.

0:22:290:22:31

Studying for 14 to 16 hours a day is normal for Young-chang.

0:22:330:22:39

This is his way of staying at the very top of the class.

0:22:390:22:42

I found that if you review your school works

0:22:420:22:45

which you've learned on that day then it really helps you a lot.

0:22:450:22:48

So the library where I study near my house,

0:22:480:22:51

it only opens until ten,

0:22:510:22:52

so if I want to study more and finish my work,

0:22:520:22:55

then I just come back to school and, yeah, stay here until 12.

0:22:550:22:59

My parents' influence is the biggest part

0:22:590:23:02

cos my dad grew up in the countryside.

0:23:020:23:03

He had a really poor background, and he studied really hard

0:23:030:23:07

and he made it into Seoul.

0:23:070:23:08

If he can do that, maybe I can study more.

0:23:080:23:12

But second purpose is that it's really kind of happy

0:23:140:23:17

when you get your results from studying.

0:23:170:23:19

It's really not comparable with any other achievements.

0:23:190:23:22

Yeah, that's what drives me to study.

0:23:220:23:24

When they're not self-studying in libraries,

0:23:250:23:28

most Korean students go to private night schools called hagwons.

0:23:280:23:32

This area of Gangnam has over 1,000 of these hagwons.

0:23:320:23:37

Min-young is taking Tommy to his English hagwon -

0:23:370:23:41

a two-hour top-up lesson in English grammar.

0:23:410:23:44

I've arranged to meet Tommy at his hagwon,

0:23:470:23:50

and on my way over in the taxi,

0:23:500:23:52

the driver has plenty to say about the role hagwons play

0:23:520:23:55

in society here.

0:23:550:23:57

This is mathematics hagwon, and this is English hagwon.

0:23:570:24:03

This is mathematics hagwon.

0:24:030:24:05

-This is a street of hagwons, really.

-Yes.

-This is Hagwon Street.

0:24:050:24:08

Yes, that's right.

0:24:080:24:09

And the children come here what time? After school? Five o'clock?

0:24:090:24:13

About five o'clock to twelve o'clock.

0:24:130:24:16

-So at midnight, this street will be full of children?

-Yes.

0:24:160:24:19

It's crazy.

0:24:190:24:21

Byung-hoon has sent all of his three children to hagwons.

0:24:230:24:27

So when you have three children in the hagwons,

0:24:270:24:30

how much is that costing you?

0:24:300:24:31

Almost 2,000 per month.

0:24:310:24:33

-2,000?

-For only mathematics.

0:24:330:24:37

How many hours do you have to work to pay for the hagwon?

0:24:370:24:40

About 14 hours.

0:24:400:24:42

-14 hours a day?

-15 hours in a day.

0:24:420:24:44

-How many days a week?

-Six days.

-Six days a week?

0:24:440:24:48

You're working 14 hours a day.

0:24:480:24:50

So you never see your children!

0:24:500:24:51

When do you see your children?

0:24:510:24:53

Very hard to see children, yes.

0:24:530:24:55

It's a high price to pay for hagwons.

0:24:550:24:58

Yes, yes, that's right, that's true.

0:24:580:25:01

Korean parents spend more on private education for their kids

0:25:020:25:05

than any other country in the world.

0:25:050:25:08

It's almost an addiction here.

0:25:080:25:10

The government has even placed a ten o'clock curfew on the hagwons

0:25:110:25:14

to try and control their influence.

0:25:140:25:16

To keep the kids out of private education,

0:25:170:25:20

the girls' school offers its own version of a hagwon.

0:25:200:25:24

But it's all too much for Sarah.

0:25:240:25:26

We were supposed to stay until ten,

0:25:270:25:30

but I've actually been really tired,

0:25:300:25:33

so, luckily, we've been let out a bit earlier.

0:25:330:25:38

But, yeah, it's been a really intense day

0:25:380:25:40

and definitely not used to staying in school this late.

0:25:400:25:44

At his private hagwon, Tommy and his Korean classmate, Min-young,

0:25:440:25:48

now face another test.

0:25:480:25:50

Tommy, what's the difference between present perfect and past?

0:25:500:25:56

-Present perfect?

-Yeah.

-Uh...

0:25:560:25:58

"I have learnt in Wales for 20 years."

0:25:580:26:03

OK. Uh...that's present past.

0:26:030:26:07

Present perfect.

0:26:070:26:09

-Like "have lived".

-Yeah.

0:26:090:26:12

What is the difference between "have lived" and "lived"?

0:26:120:26:14

Uh, I lived...

0:26:140:26:17

-I don't know.

-Yeah... OK.

0:26:170:26:19

Can I ask you, cos you've been teaching, tonight, a grammar lesson

0:26:200:26:23

to one of our students from Wales, Tommy,

0:26:230:26:26

but in the English grammar test, Min-young did better than Tommy.

0:26:260:26:29

He should.

0:26:290:26:30

Min-young is excellent. He's a good student,

0:26:320:26:35

and also he's diligent.

0:26:350:26:36

I noticed that Tommy was writing down everything

0:26:360:26:39

and he wanted to memorise it.

0:26:390:26:41

So Tommy is really diligent and he has passion,

0:26:410:26:45

so if there is a system that helps Tommy,

0:26:450:26:48

then Tommy can, you know, get a better score.

0:26:480:26:51

So hagwons seem to be doing a good job, from your point of view,

0:26:510:26:54

but a lot of people criticise them

0:26:540:26:56

and they say that children are here too late and they get very tired.

0:26:560:26:59

What would you say to that?

0:26:590:27:01

You know, personally, I just run this hagwon to help the students.

0:27:010:27:06

Everyone wants to go to SNU, Seoul National University,

0:27:060:27:10

and I help students to go to those schools.

0:27:100:27:14

So, in a family, if someone goes to SNU, Seoul National University,

0:27:140:27:18

it's a kind of really big pride in that family.

0:27:180:27:22

I think it's a kind of culture.

0:27:220:27:24

It's ten o'clock at night.

0:27:260:27:28

The hagwons are closing because of the government curfew,

0:27:280:27:31

but many students, like Young-chang, are carrying on.

0:27:310:27:36

So, where are we going now?

0:27:360:27:37

So, we're actually heading back to school.

0:27:370:27:40

-Back to school?

-Yes.

0:27:400:27:41

Our study room is open until, like 11:30.

0:27:410:27:43

11:30?

0:27:430:27:45

Luckily, we have our bikes there, so I'm sure we'll take them back home.

0:27:450:27:49

That makes things easier.

0:27:490:27:51

God. And then a long day tomorrow.

0:27:510:27:53

-And the one after that.

-THEY LAUGH

0:27:530:27:56

Dankook Boys' School is open until 11:30 at night,

0:27:560:28:00

so they're carrying on with their studying there.

0:28:000:28:03

This is a relentless education system.

0:28:030:28:05

It's ten o'clock at night, and the street's just full of children.

0:28:060:28:10

A lot of them are still in their school uniforms.

0:28:100:28:12

And I've been speaking to a few groups of children.

0:28:120:28:15

Some of them are tired, some of them are hungry.

0:28:150:28:18

One said he would love to be playing basketball,

0:28:180:28:20

and one girl I spoke to, she was 14, she said, "I just want to sleep.

0:28:200:28:24

"I'm so tired, I just want to go to sleep."

0:28:240:28:27

Like other countries around the world,

0:28:290:28:31

the Welsh Government has sent civil servants out to South Korea

0:28:310:28:34

to see if changes need to be made to our education system back home.

0:28:340:28:39

But is this what it takes

0:28:390:28:41

to get to the top of the international rankings?

0:28:410:28:43

And if it is, is it actually worth it?

0:28:430:28:46

Schools open early in Korea.

0:28:530:28:55

After the pupils have finished

0:28:550:28:57

cleaning their classrooms and the corridors,

0:28:570:28:59

it's the start of lessons.

0:28:590:29:00

For Ewan and Tommy,

0:29:020:29:03

this is a far cry from their school back in Pembrokeshire.

0:29:030:29:07

It's 8:30 in the morning. Quite a few people are having a nap.

0:29:080:29:11

I think I might join them in a minute. I'm feeling a bit tired.

0:29:110:29:14

It's taken a toll on me.

0:29:140:29:16

I mean, I prefer our type of school.

0:29:160:29:18

They don't have to come in till nine,

0:29:180:29:20

they don't have to work so much in the morning.

0:29:200:29:23

Across the city, in the all-girls school,

0:29:260:29:29

Sarah has more energy than she had on day one.

0:29:290:29:32

Yeah, definitely, I'm much more alert today. 100%.

0:29:380:29:41

But then again, we have got history and Korean next,

0:29:410:29:44

so I don't know how that's going to go for me.

0:29:440:29:47

Hopefully, fingers crossed, I'll stay awake.

0:29:470:29:49

This all-girls high school is one of the best in Seoul.

0:29:520:29:56

These girls are passionate about their education.

0:29:560:29:59

They work long hours -

0:29:590:30:01

anything from 8 in the morning to 11 at night

0:30:010:30:03

to pass their exams.

0:30:030:30:05

And what's striking is the respect the teachers have here.

0:30:050:30:09

An old Asian proverb says that the king and the teacher

0:30:110:30:14

are both equal in status.

0:30:140:30:16

No wonder, then, that some teachers have made a fortune

0:30:160:30:19

off the back of that belief.

0:30:190:30:22

I'm on my way to meet the most famous teacher in South Korea,

0:30:220:30:26

and we've arranged to meet in a hair salon.

0:30:260:30:29

Cha Kil-yong, or Mr Cha to his hordes of adoring fans,

0:30:310:30:36

is preparing for his next lesson.

0:30:360:30:37

Your hairstyle today, it's your normal style,

0:30:390:30:41

or there's a good reason for your hairstyle today?

0:30:410:30:44

Yeah.

0:30:440:30:45

TRANSLATION:

0:30:450:30:47

In education-obsessed South Korea,

0:30:540:30:56

Cha is a top-ranked maths teacher,

0:30:560:30:58

and here, it makes him a celebrity.

0:30:580:31:01

HE SINGS IN KOREAN

0:31:030:31:06

He looks every bit the pop star

0:31:100:31:12

and shares the limelight with some of Korea's biggest idols.

0:31:120:31:16

This is Mr Cha's latest single,

0:31:230:31:26

an appeal for students to smile as they study

0:31:260:31:29

for their big college entrance exams.

0:31:290:31:31

You are very rich from this, yeah? You are a millionaire?

0:31:360:31:40

TRANSLATION:

0:31:400:31:41

He doesn't actually teach in a bricks-and-mortar school.

0:31:530:31:56

He's made his fortune by running an online cram school, or hagwon,

0:31:560:32:01

part of the country's huge private education business.

0:32:010:32:04

And he has a variety of props, masks, costumes and wigs

0:32:060:32:11

which he wears according to his mood.

0:32:110:32:13

Entertainment is a fundamental part of the learning process.

0:32:150:32:19

HE SPEAKS IN KOREAN

0:32:190:32:22

But this is a very serious business.

0:32:220:32:24

He has three million registrations on his website,

0:32:240:32:28

and at any one time, 300,000 students are logged on,

0:32:280:32:32

each paying £22 per month to watch his maths lessons.

0:32:320:32:37

He is a celebrity superstar.

0:32:370:32:38

He has built up an empire here in just six years.

0:32:380:32:42

HE SPEAKS IN KOREAN

0:32:420:32:44

You think it's stupid, but then you realise that, actually,

0:32:490:32:52

even 17-year-olds are captured by him.

0:32:520:32:54

He has a massive following,

0:32:540:32:55

and it just goes to show how big maths is in South Korea.

0:32:550:32:59

HE SPEAKS IN KOREAN

0:32:590:33:02

Over in the girls' school,

0:33:060:33:08

Sarah is about to have a taste of mathematics, Korean-style.

0:33:080:33:11

Teenagers here are notoriously good at maths

0:33:140:33:16

and consistently top the international rankings.

0:33:160:33:20

But Sarah seems to be holding her own.

0:33:200:33:23

I know that one.

0:33:230:33:25

You have to add the first number, you minus the two together,

0:33:250:33:30

so 5 minus 3 is 2, so that's where the 2 comes from,

0:33:300:33:34

and then 5 plus 3 is 8.

0:33:340:33:36

Unfortunately for Sarah,

0:33:360:33:38

it's first-come, first-solve in this school.

0:33:380:33:41

What just happened?

0:33:450:33:47

But one of the answers has been left unfinished.

0:33:490:33:53

-GIRLS:

-Oh!

0:33:530:33:56

CHEERING AND APPLAUSE

0:34:030:34:05

I think all the girls knew how to do it

0:34:050:34:07

but they just thought they'd let me do it.

0:34:070:34:10

I kind of felt like they were doing it out of a sympathy vote,

0:34:100:34:13

because that was the easiest one on the board,

0:34:130:34:15

and I couldn't do any of the other ones.

0:34:150:34:18

But at the end of the day, I got some food out of it, so it's fine.

0:34:180:34:22

In between lessons at Dankook Boys' School,

0:34:240:34:27

Tommy and Ewan get a chance to visit the school farm.

0:34:270:34:31

This is random.

0:34:330:34:35

A while ago, they built

0:34:350:34:37

this biological study centre, or whatever,

0:34:370:34:39

to help with biology and stuff,

0:34:390:34:42

and they've just got animals on the school grounds.

0:34:420:34:45

And we've come down here,

0:34:450:34:47

and there's cats and rabbits and chickens.

0:34:470:34:50

It's just bizarre.

0:34:500:34:52

Before, this was in much bigger scale.

0:34:520:34:56

There were peacocks and iguanas and, like, exotic animals.

0:34:560:35:02

I'm allergic, so I don't really want to get too close.

0:35:030:35:06

Halfway through their three days in a Korean school,

0:35:130:35:16

and the long hours are taking their toll on Ewan and Tommy,

0:35:160:35:19

as well as a few others.

0:35:190:35:21

The hours are bad.

0:35:240:35:26

I'm usually this tired every day.

0:35:260:35:29

If you keep doing it, you sort of get tired.

0:35:290:35:31

-You get used to it, probably.

-Yeah.

0:35:310:35:33

When do you go to school? You know, like, when school...

0:35:330:35:37

-Nine o'clock, and then we finish...

-STUDENTS:

-Whoa!

0:35:370:35:41

-And we finish at...

-Then we finish at 3:30.

0:35:410:35:44

-STUDENTS:

-Whoa!

0:35:440:35:46

By spending so much time with Tommy,

0:35:460:35:49

Min-young has a growing curiosity about Welsh education.

0:35:490:35:54

I don't think you can say which is better.

0:35:540:35:56

People in Wales, they get more active

0:35:560:35:59

and they get more social ties, I guess,

0:35:590:36:01

and, you know, we study more.

0:36:010:36:04

So if we find a middle ground where we can study

0:36:040:36:07

and engage in those kind of fun activities,

0:36:070:36:09

then I think that would be the best.

0:36:090:36:12

In three years' time,

0:36:120:36:15

Min, like all other Korean high school students,

0:36:150:36:18

will have to sit a university entrance exam, called the CSAT.

0:36:180:36:22

The test, offered only once a year, is seen as the make-or-break exam,

0:36:220:36:28

not only when it comes to college admissions

0:36:280:36:30

but for a teenager's entire future.

0:36:300:36:33

It's like a defining moment in your whole education, I guess.

0:36:330:36:37

Everyone wants to go to Seoul National University,

0:36:370:36:40

which is, like, the top... at the top.

0:36:400:36:43

Yeah, I'm aiming for it.

0:36:430:36:45

Everyone's aiming for it, I think.

0:36:450:36:47

Seoul National University is just like Oxford or Cambridge back home,

0:36:500:36:55

and it's just as difficult to get in.

0:36:550:36:57

These students are the next generation of Korean maths teachers.

0:36:590:37:03

This year, 3,000 students applied

0:37:030:37:06

to go on this teacher's training course.

0:37:060:37:08

Only 36 got places.

0:37:080:37:10

I think maybe 2% or maybe 5% high school grades

0:37:120:37:16

can only be admitted to my department.

0:37:160:37:18

So if you want to be a maths teacher,

0:37:180:37:20

and be trained in this university,

0:37:200:37:22

-you're one of the top 2% to 5% of graduates in South Korea?

-Right.

0:37:220:37:27

Why is it that your best graduates in South Korea

0:37:270:37:29

want to become teachers?

0:37:290:37:31

What is the number-one reason, do you think?

0:37:310:37:33

-Number one, top stability.

-A-ha!

0:37:330:37:36

-Number two, two months' holiday.

-Yeah.

0:37:360:37:41

And number three, maybe it's still we respect teachers.

0:37:410:37:46

Becoming a teacher is a dream job for many high school pupils.

0:37:460:37:50

Do-yen Kim is one of them.

0:37:500:37:53

Under enormous pressure,

0:37:530:37:55

he studied 16 hours a day for three years solid

0:37:550:37:58

to get into this university.

0:37:580:38:01

It was real difficult.

0:38:010:38:02

Especially in Korea, we have a lot of students

0:38:020:38:06

who want to go to college, so the competition is really tough.

0:38:060:38:11

We have only one exam for college entrance once a year,

0:38:110:38:16

and that is the major source of stress

0:38:160:38:20

for lots of high school students in Korea.

0:38:200:38:23

After only a few minutes talking to Do Yen Kim,

0:38:230:38:27

I could see that it was almost painful for him

0:38:270:38:29

to talk about his time in high school,

0:38:290:38:32

and then I found out why.

0:38:320:38:34

-I lost about two or three friends...

-To suicide? Really?

-Yeah.

0:38:350:38:41

Because they were studying too hard?

0:38:410:38:43

One was extremely stressed by the studying part,

0:38:430:38:48

and the other also committed suicide, yeah.

0:38:480:38:51

Oh, I'm really sorry to hear that.

0:38:510:38:53

-How old were they?

-Well, they were about 15 or 16.

0:38:530:38:57

South Korea has the highest suicide rates in the industrialised world.

0:38:590:39:03

It is astonishingly the number-one cause of death

0:39:030:39:07

for those aged between 10 and 30 years old.

0:39:070:39:10

Some say it's time to make changes to the system,

0:39:130:39:16

including the former Minister of Education,

0:39:160:39:18

who was in charge of South Korea's success

0:39:180:39:21

in the last PISA international rankings.

0:39:210:39:24

Those high test scores in PISA

0:39:240:39:27

mask very important problems

0:39:270:39:30

in Korean education.

0:39:300:39:31

For example, Korean students don't have enough time to read,

0:39:310:39:36

to do sports, to do music, and to spend their time freely

0:39:360:39:41

because they are too much pressured to prepare for their exam.

0:39:410:39:45

Even in PISA test,

0:39:450:39:47

when they ask Korean students whether they are happy in school,

0:39:470:39:51

Korean students were the lowest.

0:39:510:39:54

-Really?

-It's really worrisome.

0:39:540:39:57

It is time for Korean parents to make changes,

0:39:570:40:02

to prepare our next generation for the 21st centuries.

0:40:020:40:06

Our children may need a different set of skills,

0:40:060:40:09

other than just high test scores.

0:40:090:40:11

Communication, collaboration and creativity -

0:40:110:40:14

they should be nurtured.

0:40:140:40:16

The government are introducing changes to the system.

0:40:200:40:24

All middle schools now have to allow

0:40:240:40:26

one school term free of any written exams.

0:40:260:40:30

Though there's still another five terms of exams left.

0:40:300:40:34

The aim is to get pupils into sports and other creative activities.

0:40:340:40:39

In the girls' school,

0:40:390:40:41

Sarah is swapping her classroom for a kitchen.

0:40:410:40:44

She's learning how to make Korean pancakes.

0:40:440:40:48

Taste, ten.

0:40:480:40:49

Presentation is probably about four.

0:40:490:40:53

And joining them in the class kitchen are a group of parents.

0:40:540:40:57

In South Korea, parents are free to observe the teacher,

0:40:590:41:02

to judge the quality of teaching,

0:41:020:41:04

and they give them a score.

0:41:040:41:06

For most teachers, it's an uncomfortable experience.

0:41:070:41:10

Personally, it's awful, but sometimes it's really helpful for me

0:41:120:41:17

to keep awake as a teacher,

0:41:170:41:19

cos I need to train myself

0:41:190:41:22

and sometimes I need to learn more things about education,

0:41:220:41:26

and that really helps me to encourage my students, too.

0:41:260:41:30

After this lesson, I've kind of got to know everyone.

0:41:350:41:37

I still don't know all their names,

0:41:370:41:39

but I think they've definitely tried to make me feel welcome,

0:41:390:41:43

and I feel much more relaxed now

0:41:430:41:46

than I did at the beginning when everyone was just staring at me.

0:41:460:41:50

I think they kind of actually see me as a person now.

0:41:500:41:53

This lesson, it was as if it could've been a lesson back at home,

0:41:550:41:59

and we've got to kind of, like, take over ourselves,

0:41:590:42:02

so that was really good.

0:42:020:42:03

I think that brought my mood up a little bit.

0:42:030:42:06

Teachers are under pressure.

0:42:060:42:08

They're not only marked by the parents,

0:42:080:42:11

but by their fellow teachers, and even by the pupils.

0:42:110:42:14

Korean parents consider it their duty to give their children

0:42:170:42:20

every opportunity to be their best,

0:42:200:42:22

and they are prepared to make significant sacrifices.

0:42:220:42:26

Long into the night, parents are seen ferrying their kids

0:42:260:42:30

between schools and top-up classes in the hagwons.

0:42:300:42:33

Parents dedicate both time and money into developing the next generation.

0:42:330:42:38

It is a responsibility that is taken most seriously.

0:42:380:42:42

Tonight, Young-chang is taking Ewan to a three-hour maths hagwon

0:42:420:42:48

for some probability equations.

0:42:480:42:50

-..all this!

-THEY LAUGH

0:42:500:42:52

Oh, my God!

0:42:520:42:54

You should open a restaurant.

0:42:540:42:57

Young-chang's parents pay for this extra tuition

0:42:580:43:01

to make sure that he passes his exams.

0:43:010:43:04

But their sacrifices don't stop with paying for classes.

0:43:040:43:09

They even took a decision to move house,

0:43:090:43:11

leaving a bigger property to live in this small apartment

0:43:110:43:15

because it is nearer to a good school and good hagwons.

0:43:150:43:18

The family only see each other at weekends.

0:43:350:43:37

Dad works away all week in a nuclear power plant

0:43:370:43:41

to pay for the top-up tuition for his son.

0:43:410:43:43

Whoa.

0:43:460:43:48

That's a big sacrifice,

0:43:480:43:49

and this is so Young-chang can finish his education?

0:43:490:43:52

Here, parents have high expectations of their kids,

0:44:100:44:14

and they're willing to sacrifice so much to ensure their success.

0:44:140:44:17

Do I look tired? I wonder why.

0:44:210:44:23

While Ewan finishes his hagwon,

0:44:250:44:28

Sarah is having private maths tuition in Si-yeon's apartment.

0:44:280:44:32

'They're just working so hard.'

0:44:330:44:36

I think, in the long run, it probably isn't that beneficial

0:44:370:44:40

because of mental health and everything like that.

0:44:400:44:43

Sarah's school in Pembrokeshire is more than a place to study.

0:44:480:44:52

In her GCSE exam year,

0:44:520:44:54

the school helped her through a very tough and emotional year.

0:44:540:44:58

Yeah, it's been quite a difficult year this year

0:44:590:45:01

because my mum was diagnosed with cancer again.

0:45:010:45:04

So, on top of my GCSEs, there was quite a lot of stress.

0:45:040:45:08

The school, they helped me so much

0:45:080:45:10

because Mum was going through chemotherapy

0:45:100:45:12

as I was doing my GCSEs.

0:45:120:45:14

So having that support network at school was incredible.

0:45:140:45:19

So I hope to go on to do medicine at university

0:45:190:45:23

in either Cardiff or Bristol,

0:45:230:45:25

which is kind of fuelled by Mum being poorly.

0:45:250:45:29

I will do whatever it takes to get into university

0:45:290:45:33

and to go on and, obviously, become a doctor then.

0:45:330:45:36

So, what if you had to decide

0:45:390:45:41

between a Welsh and Korean school for your child?

0:45:410:45:44

Which one would you choose?

0:45:440:45:47

Welshman Aled Powell met his Korean wife

0:45:470:45:51

whilst teaching in a Korean hagwon.

0:45:510:45:54

They've now left Korea and live in North Wales.

0:45:540:45:57

A tough decision, but one they made

0:45:570:45:59

to keep their daughter Arwen out of the Korean system.

0:45:590:46:03

When I worked in hagwon, I hated it

0:46:030:46:05

because I could feel the students are suffering.

0:46:050:46:08

They don't like it.

0:46:080:46:09

-I wouldn't like to send Arwen to those hagwons.

-No?

0:46:090:46:13

ARWEN YELLS

0:46:130:46:15

Oh, I think Arwen is saying she doesn't want to go either.

0:46:150:46:17

So, you wouldn't really want Arwen going into

0:46:170:46:19

a secondary school in Korea, then? A high school?

0:46:190:46:22

No, I think the pressures are too high.

0:46:220:46:25

They've got a wide range of choice of subjects in Wales as well,

0:46:250:46:30

so whatever her interests are,

0:46:300:46:32

I think the Welsh system is quite good at catering for that.

0:46:320:46:36

It seems these parents have set a course for their daughter

0:46:360:46:38

in the Welsh school system.

0:46:380:46:41

Or have they?

0:46:410:46:42

I think Mum still needs to be convinced.

0:46:420:46:45

I think it's just ideal living there

0:46:450:46:48

but when she's, like, in secondary school,

0:46:480:46:50

I'm not very sure about it

0:46:500:46:52

because I don't feel they're encouraged to study hard.

0:46:520:46:55

It's good they have choices for their lives

0:46:550:46:59

but, especially academically, I don't feel very encouraged.

0:46:590:47:03

Here, it's more than encouragement. Here it's pushing.

0:47:030:47:07

And it has affects not just on the children,

0:47:070:47:09

but on the whole family unit.

0:47:090:47:11

There's a few years yet until Arwen starts school,

0:47:120:47:15

so plenty of time to decide which country offers the best education.

0:47:150:47:20

But our time in Korea is fast running out.

0:47:200:47:24

After spending three days in a Korean school,

0:47:240:47:26

the Welsh students prepare for their last day.

0:47:260:47:30

And for Tommy, he gets a taste of the cleaning duties

0:47:300:47:33

dished out as punishment for Korean kids.

0:47:330:47:36

Yeah, I know, I was a bit disappointed.

0:47:360:47:38

I thought it'd be a grand finale, but no, I'll do cleaning.

0:47:380:47:42

On their final day, I've arranged a surprise for the Welsh students.

0:47:440:47:49

Their headteacher, David Haynes, has flown out

0:47:510:47:54

from Ysgol Dewi Sant in Pembrokeshire to see them.

0:47:540:47:58

The students have no idea he is here.

0:47:580:48:01

Oh, no! Oh, no!

0:48:050:48:08

-Hello...

-Oh, no!

0:48:080:48:10

-How are you, boys?

-It's my headteacher.

0:48:100:48:13

Bore da pawb.

0:48:150:48:17

Good morning.

0:48:170:48:18

Nice to see you, sir.

0:48:190:48:20

-Good to see you, sir.

-You all right?

0:48:200:48:22

-Si-yeon.

-Hello, Si-yeon.

-Or April.

-Or April.

0:48:220:48:24

-This is Mr Haynes.

-Nice to meet you.

0:48:240:48:26

How are you, all right? How are you?

0:48:260:48:29

How's Sarah's Korean coming along? Is it good?

0:48:290:48:33

-Have you learnt any words?

-No.

0:48:330:48:36

I would be useless on my own.

0:48:360:48:38

It's very different in some ways, similar in other ways?

0:48:380:48:40

-Longer days.

-Longer days.

-Much longer days.

0:48:400:48:43

Cos you may only have three lessons one day.

0:48:430:48:46

They've got it easy, haven't they, these guys, yeah?

0:48:460:48:49

-How are you?

-How are you?

-Nice to see you.

0:48:500:48:53

-Thank you for having the boys.

-Welcome to my school.

-Awesome.

0:48:530:48:56

How many children would you have, entry, in a year?

0:48:580:49:00

How many children in one year group?

0:49:000:49:02

-About...500.

-500 in one year? That's as big as my school.

0:49:020:49:07

-Really?

-Yeah!

-The whole...?

-Whole school.

-OK!

0:49:070:49:10

And that's 11 to 19.

0:49:100:49:12

So we have about 80 children a year.

0:49:120:49:15

I envy your school.

0:49:150:49:17

Sometimes this place reminds me, like, a boot camp.

0:49:170:49:21

Too many kids here!

0:49:210:49:23

After spending the day at both schools,

0:49:250:49:27

I want to find out from the Welsh headmaster what lessons

0:49:270:49:30

he thinks can be learned from our Korean counterparts.

0:49:300:49:34

I think that the work ethic is first class.

0:49:350:49:38

Children are dedicated, they work long hours.

0:49:380:49:41

This school stays open till 12 at night for students

0:49:410:49:44

to stay behind after school, which is remarkable, really,

0:49:440:49:47

something we don't see back in Wales.

0:49:470:49:50

Would you like to see schools staying open later in Wales?

0:49:500:49:53

Maybe till seven or eight o'clock?

0:49:530:49:55

It's certainly something to think about.

0:49:550:49:56

I'm not saying we should be open till 12 o'clock

0:49:560:49:58

by any stretch of the imagination.

0:49:580:50:00

But certainly something that we need to look at.

0:50:000:50:02

I think our children do work hard within the current framework.

0:50:020:50:07

But they don't work as hard as the kids in South Korea?

0:50:070:50:10

They don't work as long, I don't think,

0:50:100:50:12

in terms of the amount of hours they spend in school.

0:50:120:50:14

And they don't get quite the same level of grades

0:50:140:50:16

in their exam results.

0:50:160:50:18

They don't achieve the same levels within the PISA test, no.

0:50:180:50:21

-However...

-So there are lessons to be learned, David.

0:50:210:50:24

I said yes. Yes, I agree.

0:50:240:50:26

But speaking to the principal here, he's very interested in what we do

0:50:260:50:30

with regards to deeper thinking and being creative.

0:50:300:50:34

I think there are lessons to be learned from Korea visiting us,

0:50:340:50:38

but there's certainly lessons to be learned

0:50:380:50:40

by visiting South Korea as well.

0:50:400:50:41

From David Haynes' experience,

0:50:430:50:45

there's a shortage of top maths teachers in Wales,

0:50:450:50:48

so he'd like to bring over maths teachers from South Korea

0:50:480:50:51

to solve the problem.

0:50:510:50:52

In the health service,

0:50:520:50:54

we bring across doctors from other parts of the world

0:50:540:50:56

and they contribute greatly to our society

0:50:560:50:58

and the provision that we receive.

0:50:580:51:00

I don't see it being a problem at all,

0:51:000:51:02

that specialists and highly trained professionals coming from

0:51:020:51:05

other parts of the world, like South Korea,

0:51:050:51:07

could contribute greatly, I think, to our education system.

0:51:070:51:10

In three days,

0:51:110:51:13

our Welsh students have clocked up more than 100 hours of study.

0:51:130:51:17

Double the time compared to back home.

0:51:170:51:19

But now, it's all come to an end.

0:51:190:51:22

It's time to say goodbye to their Korean classmates.

0:51:220:51:27

I feel like I've actually made some good relations here,

0:51:270:51:30

and it just feels like they're actually my class,

0:51:300:51:34

and I've got used to being in that class.

0:51:340:51:36

And it's been fun, and I've been part of the learning experience,

0:51:360:51:38

and it's been really good.

0:51:380:51:39

So I'm kind of sad, in a way, that it's my last day.

0:51:390:51:42

CHEERING AND APPLAUSE

0:51:460:51:48

'Obviously I've enjoyed the whole experience

0:51:480:51:50

'and having that opportunity to witness this school.'

0:51:500:51:55

But I'm definitely, definitely going to be happy

0:51:550:51:58

to get out of this uniform.

0:51:580:51:59

Obviously, thank you for making everything so comfortable for me

0:51:590:52:04

and really welcoming me.

0:52:040:52:06

When we first came here, we felt really alien because

0:52:060:52:09

we didn't know anyone and everybody was giving us weird looks, sort of.

0:52:090:52:13

Since we've been here, it's only been three days,

0:52:130:52:16

and I feel like part of the class, and it's really cool.

0:52:160:52:19

It's been a really good few days. It's been very funny, as well.

0:52:190:52:22

You've all got really good personalities.

0:52:220:52:25

So, yeah, thank you very much,

0:52:250:52:26

and I hope you do well in your exams.

0:52:260:52:29

Only feels like yesterday I arrived, and I was going to go to school,

0:52:580:53:01

but it's all coming to an end.

0:53:010:53:03

You know, it's been a really good experience, though.

0:53:030:53:06

Certainly I'll remember it for a long time.

0:53:060:53:08

Before they leave their Korean host families,

0:53:100:53:12

I'm catching up with Tommy, Ewan and Sarah for their final impressions.

0:53:120:53:17

I feel like it would benefit the younger years

0:53:170:53:22

where education is still compulsory,

0:53:220:53:25

to bring in some of the same rules, if you'd say,

0:53:250:53:29

as the South Koreans do,

0:53:290:53:31

just to kind of improve the work ethic.

0:53:310:53:35

I think if there were stronger after-school classes

0:53:350:53:38

to help people with problems they might be having a school,

0:53:380:53:42

like, if there was a hagwon-based thing,

0:53:420:53:44

that would be really good.

0:53:440:53:45

-Just not finishing as late.

-Yeah.

0:53:450:53:47

So more after-school clubs in St Davids

0:53:470:53:50

and some more rules, yeah?

0:53:500:53:52

Oh, no, cos we sound so bad now!

0:53:520:53:55

-We're a bit too soft on the kids at home.

-Yeah.

0:53:550:53:58

Here, they don't mess around. They give you a punishment.

0:53:580:54:00

You get cleaning duty, or you stay after school.

0:54:000:54:03

-And you think that's good? It's consistent?

-Well, it works.

0:54:030:54:06

-People are going to hate us.

-It's consistent.

0:54:060:54:08

-But I mean...

-It's true, though.

-..is it what you want?

0:54:080:54:11

So, if they were competing against Korean students

0:54:110:54:14

for a university place, who would win?

0:54:140:54:17

How does a Welsh A-level compare to the Korean CSAT?

0:54:170:54:21

At the end of the day, they're studying so hard for that CSAT

0:54:210:54:24

that they don't actually get extracurricular options.

0:54:240:54:27

So even if they smash those exams,

0:54:270:54:30

if we smash ours as well, we win, just simply by circumstance.

0:54:300:54:36

Before they head off back to school in Wales,

0:54:370:54:40

there's a few more goodbyes to say.

0:54:400:54:42

Right, this is farewell.

0:54:430:54:45

Oh, my God...

0:54:470:54:49

It was a pleasure to have you here.

0:54:490:54:51

You guys are going to have to come and stay with me.

0:54:510:54:54

I'll be sure to visit your place.

0:54:540:54:56

Thank you, cheers. Come here.

0:54:560:54:58

We don't do handshakes. Hugs. Thank you.

0:54:580:55:00

-Thanks very much.

-I was very happy to have you stay.

0:55:000:55:04

Thank you for feeding me so much!

0:55:040:55:07

The food's been incredible. I'm coming back like...pfff.

0:55:070:55:11

You're my son.

0:55:110:55:13

-I'm very happy.

-I have a nice friend, too.

0:55:130:55:15

-Have a nice trip.

-It's been good to meet you, man.

0:55:150:55:17

-Bye.

-Thank you.

-Bye.

0:55:170:55:20

See you soon, bye.

0:55:200:55:22

Thank you! Bye!

0:55:220:55:24

-See you, guys.

-See you later.

-Thank you.

-Bye.

0:55:270:55:29

Salute.

0:55:320:55:33

What we've learned is South Korea's schools are changing.

0:55:360:55:40

They're cutting back on the testing.

0:55:400:55:42

They're taking the best of our system,

0:55:420:55:44

more sports, more creative activities,

0:55:440:55:46

and they're applying them here.

0:55:460:55:49

But what we're not doing is

0:55:490:55:50

we're not taking what they already have here,

0:55:500:55:53

which is the foundation of knowledge, which is a work ethic,

0:55:530:55:57

which is ambition and aspiration for every child.

0:55:570:56:00

And my real fear is these countries

0:56:000:56:02

are going to be accelerating away from us

0:56:020:56:04

at an even faster rate than they already are.

0:56:040:56:07

It's time to head home, and there is one thing I'm keen to do.

0:56:070:56:11

Education is a devolved area.

0:56:110:56:14

That means the system in Wales is run by the Welsh Government

0:56:140:56:17

in the Senedd in Cardiff Bay.

0:56:170:56:19

In the days before

0:56:190:56:21

the latest education rankings are announced,

0:56:210:56:23

I meet with Education Minister Kirsty Williams.

0:56:230:56:27

I want to see what she thinks about our Korean experience

0:56:270:56:31

and find out how she plans to improve Wales' standing

0:56:310:56:35

in the international rankings.

0:56:350:56:37

Did you think Wales did OK last time round?

0:56:370:56:39

No, absolutely not.

0:56:390:56:41

I was very clear outside of government,

0:56:410:56:43

and I'm very clear now that I'm in the government

0:56:430:56:46

that Wales' previous performance in PISA has not been good enough,

0:56:460:56:49

and it's not what I wanted to see.

0:56:490:56:51

We need to make improvements.

0:56:510:56:53

And do you want Wales to be in the top 10, the top 20 in PISA?

0:56:530:56:57

I want Wales to improve its scores.

0:56:570:56:59

I'm not going to sit here, like other politicians in the past

0:56:590:57:02

have made wild predictions about where we will sit.

0:57:020:57:05

What's important is the individual scores

0:57:050:57:07

that our children can achieve, and we need to make progress.

0:57:070:57:10

I want Welsh parents to be engaged, to go into parents' evening,

0:57:100:57:14

to take up the opportunities that the school afford

0:57:140:57:16

to talk about what they can do to support their children's education.

0:57:160:57:20

Take up a place on a school governing body,

0:57:200:57:23

let me know about how they perceive Welsh policy is developing.

0:57:230:57:28

I'm clear that we are making the changes

0:57:280:57:32

that will make a difference to PISA results in the future.

0:57:320:57:35

We're not where we should be, we're not where I want to be,

0:57:350:57:38

but we are moving forward.

0:57:380:57:40

Since filming, Ysgol Dewi Sant has introduced

0:57:420:57:45

Korean-style changes to its school.

0:57:450:57:48

They're going to ban mobile phones for GCSE pupils

0:57:490:57:52

and will make the school day longer

0:57:520:57:55

with timetabled study sessions in the evenings.

0:57:550:57:58

Though, they still believe that there's more to life

0:57:590:58:02

than very long hours looking at a blackboard.

0:58:020:58:04

And, coming from Pembrokeshire,

0:58:070:58:09

I wouldn't entirely disagree with that.

0:58:090:58:12

Of course it's about getting the balance right,

0:58:120:58:14

but I'm convinced that, looking at Korea,

0:58:140:58:17

there is still a lot for us right across the UK to learn.

0:58:170:58:22

# Everybody is kung fu fighting

0:58:260:58:29

# Kung fu fighting

0:58:290:58:30

# Your mind becomes fast as lightning

0:58:300:58:33

# Although the future is a little bit frightening

0:58:340:58:38

# It's the book of your life that you're writing... #

0:58:390:58:42

Three British teenagers swap their teachers and parents for school life in South Korea, a country boasting one of the top education systems in the world - but also one of the toughest. Can they hack it?