Around the World: How Education and Cultural Norms Differ


Olivia Abeyta

Gen Z is known for being open to the diversity of all kinds, but it is rarely seen how their opinions differ from one another. It is easy to forget that a generation does not think as one hivemind, as shown in today’s millennials and Gen Xers. 

The biggest influence on a generation is their upbringing and how they are educated, and such things vary around the world. Demon Tattler spoke with four international teachers at Santa Fe High and asked them to reflect on the differences between youth culture and the education systems of the United States and their home countries. 

“Youth here are strong and have much higher self-esteem compared to my home country,” says Ms. Moser, a math teacher from South Korea. She says students here take more risks in the classroom, such as raising their hands to try to answer a question.

“My country’s youth have a better understanding of how they have to build up discipline to achieve a goal, but have lower self-esteem,” Ms. Moser says, explaining that this is the case because, in South Korea, everyone must meet extremely high expectations.  

“Everyone’s working hard, everyone’s so good in school, and so students compare themselves to the high achievers and are so highly motivated to do so well.” She tells how most students spend 14 to 17 hours a day at school and also some weekends. Also, core classes are taught in multiple periods, such as two to three periods a day per class.  

“Kids in South Korea have to be good from the beginning — there are no second chances, and here we give second chances,” Ms. Moser says, adding, “There are much higher expectations for students in Korea.”

However, Ms. Jové, who is from Catalonia, Spain, says the youth of her home country and the U.S. are not too different in terms of behavior. 

Ms. Gil Bueno, another Spanish teacher, agrees, stating that youth have the “same enthusiasm” as they have in Madrid.

Similar to the U.S., the education system in Spain is different all over the country.  

Ms. Jové explains that in Catalonia, most schools teach three languages: Catalan, Spanish, and English. The exams for these languages are taken in those languages, contrasting with the U.S. approach to teaching a language, where usually only one foreign language is required and the exams are taken in English. 

Ms. Gil Bueno adds that in Madrid, a student must study a foreign language for a total of six years. She also says that within the first two years of secondary school, meaning by the equivalent of seventh grade, students must decide which field they want to study in college; these fields range from the humanities to science and technology.

Academics is not the only difference between the two systems. While extracurriculars are important in the college application process in the U.S., they are of little importance in South Korea. “Here, there are more options for after school programs, and it lets students focus on what they love more,” Ms. Moser explains. “The last focus in South Korea is to do other things.”

Ms. Jové states, “Sports are more valued here.”

As for the differences in the classroom, teachers in South Korea generally have much more respect in society, from parents and students alike. 

“The community gives as much support to teachers as possible,” Ms. Moser states. “They invest in teacher support.”

Ms. Moser describes that students are well supported by the system itself to help them focus on schoolwork since academics are the “center of everything.” For example, to reduce distractions, instead of having students move from one classroom to the next, the teachers switch rooms instead. 

Spain adopts the teacher rotation system as well. Along with this, there are no bells, and discipline is taken more seriously. 

“All discipline is taken straight to administration and parents so that the class is not interrupted,” says Mr. Piorno, a math teacher who is from Zamora, Spain. “The first action is taken to the administration right away.”

Mr. Piorno explains that this is to prevent bad behavior from becoming a cycle, something he believes the public school system here could improve on. Ms. Gil Bueno adds to this by explaining that rules are more consistently enforced in Spain.  

The Spanish youth culture differs from American youth culture in terms of legal age and driving. Ms. Gil Bueno describes how there is more distance between places in the U.S than in Spain, meaning that teens there walk from place to place rather than drive. The legal age of various activities in Spain is 18. 

“At 18, you can drive, vote, and drink,” Ms. Gil Bueno states. 

With these cultural and educational differences, it’ll be interesting to see how Gen-Z will come together. Mahatma Gandhi said the ability to teach unity in diversity will be the perfect test of civilization.