South Korea and the United States agreed on Thursday to launch a project for the exchange of math and science teachers with the aim of enhancing their public education systems in primary and secondary schools, the South Korean Education Ministry said.
The agreement was made between South Korean Education Minister Lee Joo-ho and Subra Suresh, director of the U.S.''s National Science Foundation, an independent federal agency promoting science, health and welfare, Lee''s office said in a statement relayed by Yonhap news agency Friday.
The agreement comes as U.S. President Barack Obama has frequently lauded South Korean students for outperforming their American counterparts thanks to the nation''s heavy investment in education, especially in math and science.
"South Korean children are outpacing our kids in math and science," Obama said in a speech at George Washington University in February.
"They''re scrambling to figure out how they put more money into education." Since his first visit to Seoul in 2009, Obama has often talked about the education fervor that has contributed to South Korea''s rapid economic development in recent decades, and has deplored the underperformance of American students, especially in math and science.
Lee is currently visiting Washington to meet with his counterparts on bilateral cooperation in education, science and technologies.
Lee visited Suresh''s office earlier in the day to propose the exchange of teachers and the latter responded by saying the U.S. has much to learn from South Korea, which has many able teachers, a spokesman for Lee said. Working-level officials from both sides will determine the exact timing and the number of teachers selected for the exchange program after further consultations, the spokesman said.
The South Korean Education Ministry has pursued an ambitious plan to dispatch more than 10,000 teachers abroad for the coming five years to help them learn advanced teaching methods and reduce the number of surplus teachers.
Obama has also called for the U.S. to look to South Korea in adopting longer school days and after-school programs for American children to help them compete globally, while he has lamented a high school dropout rate that has tripled in the past 30 years