Lessons from the Land of the Morning Calm

caps and gowns as far as the eye can see photo

Too many college graduates?
What a terrible problem to have.
(Photo by John Walker)

An omen of what’s to come in the U.S.? The South
Korean government has launched an initiative pushing students away from the
traditional four-year college-degree program: With a 60 percent college
completion rate—Obama’s target college-completion rate for 2020, remember—South
Korea’s economy isn’t able to absorb all degree-bearers into relevant,
educationally appropriate positions. Instead of a utopia of educated people,
the country lists almost 40 percent of its university grads as unemployed. The
government is also rethinking what it would mean to re-up the respect-level of
the high school diploma, a certification that carries little weight in the
country today. And South Korea isn’t alone: Other countries like Japan have
also increased their vocational-school options for students in these tough
economic times, and are seeing higher employment rates and happier employers
for it. Graduates of Japan’s vocational colleges can expect about twenty job
offers each upon graduation, say school officials. These Asian Tigers might be
on to something.

In South Korea, too many college grads, too few jobs,” by
Fred Hiatt, The Washington Post, October 24, 2011.

With workplace training, Japan’s Kosen colleges bridge ‘skills
,” by Blaine Harden, The Hechinger Report, October 16, 2011.