By Hwang Doo-hyong
WASHINGTON, March 14 (Yonhap) -- U.S. President Barack Obama Monday called on the U.S. to take a lesson from South Korea in rebuilding the country through educational reform.
Speaking to a classroom at Kenmore Middle School, in Arlington, Virginia, Obama said, "In South Korea, teachers are known as nation builders. I think it's time we treated our teachers with the same level of respect right here in the United States of America."
It is the second time within a couple of weeks that Obama visited a classroom to promote his plans for legislation to fund programs to help enhance competitiveness of American students and teachers.
Congress reached a two-week budget deal early this month to fund the government, but Congressional Republicans and Democrats need to strike a permanent deal before Friday to avoid a suspension of the government. The sides are still up to US$60 billion apart, with Republicans demanding further cuts in job-training programs, which Obama vehemently opposes.
Obama stressed the role of teachers in educational reform, saying, "We also know that better standards, better assessments and better curriculum won't make a difference without outstanding teachers."
Obama made similar remarks during a classroom visit at Tech Boston Academy in Massachusetts.
"In South Korea, teachers are known as 'nation builders,'" Obama said at the time. "That's how they're described. Here in America, it's time we treated the people who educate our children with the same level of respect. We've got to lift up teachers. We've got to reward good teachers. Also, we also have to stop making excuses for bad teachers."
In his nationally televised State of the Union address in January, Obama cited South Korea in emphasizing the role of parents in education.
"Let's also remember that after parents, the biggest impact on a child's success comes from the man or woman at the front of the classroom," he said.
Since his visit to Seoul in 2009, Obama has often 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.
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.
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