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[Susan notes: I'm always glad to see Kristof's shallow pronouncements about education rebutted. When I visited middle schools in Seoul four years ago, I saw study carrels for students so they could continue their test cramming after dinner (which they ate at school) until 10 or 11 p.m.]

Submitted to New York Times but not published

To the editor

Nicholas Kristof ("When school comes first," Views, Nov. 11) is right when he says Americans should care more about education, like people do in Asia. However, the key to building human capital is not "reverence for education" per se but the content of education.

In South Korea, 9 out of 10 elementary school students receive private tutoring after school, and 80 percent of high school graduates go to college. But the zeal for education has failed to promote students’ creativity or critical thinking skills.

Americans should not mistake “strengthening the education system” for “raising test scores.” Excessive emphasis on academics has already been proven detrimental in Asia.

The attention should be directed toward finding what kind of education works best, while remembering that competitiveness of a nation’s education and “fun of learning” are not mutually exclusive.

The writer is at Hankuk Academy of Foreign Studies, Yongin, South Korea

Ji Won Lee

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