By Hwang Doo-hyong
WASHINGTON, Dec. 2 (Yonhap) -- U.S. President Barack Obama Thursday called for reform in U.S. education to help America effectively compete with South Korea and other ambitious countries.
"We're going to have to have the best-educated workforce in the world, because our children are now not just competing against other children in other states in our union, they're now competing against kids in Beijing and Bangalore and Seoul, South Korea," Obama told a meeting with newly elected governors at the Blair House. "If they don't have what it takes to compete, then America's going to have problems economically over the long term."
Since his visit to Seoul in November last year, Obama has repeatedly talked about the education fervor that contributed to South Korea's rapid economic development in recent decades, and has deplored the underperformance of American students, especially in math and science.
"I just want to mention the importance not only of students but also of parents," Obama said while explaining his conversation with South Korean President Lee Myung-bak in Seoul in November last year. "He said even if somebody is dirt poor, they are insisting that their kids are getting the best education."
Obama quoted Lee as saying at that time, "I've had to import thousands of foreign teachers because they're all insisting that Korean children have to learn English in elementary school. The biggest education challenge that he had was an insistence, a demand from parents for excellence in the schools."
In March last year, Obama 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 survive keen global competition.
"Our children spend over a month less in school than children in South Korea every year," Obama said at the time. "If they can do that in South Korea, we can do it right here in the United States of America."
A couple of months earlier, Obama blasted school authorities in Washington, for shutting down schools for the day due to just a few inches of snow.
He has also lamented a high-school dropout rate that has tripled in the past 30 years and called for Americans to expand effective after-school programs.
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