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What is Your Happiest Memory from School?

"Looking back at when I was in school in the Republic of Korea, I can feel that I could have enjoyed it more. My school offered a good educational environment with modern school facilities and resources, well-trained teachers, and an up-to-date curriculum. In spite of this, however, I felt that something was missing. I did not always understand what I was learning, and what for. At that time, I couldn’t find a true purpose for learning, but rather I focused on memorizing what my teachers told me would be in exams."-- Jin-A Hwang

Overemphasis on examinations has become a critical issue for education systems not only in the Republic of Korea but also in other countries in the Asia-Pacific region. For me, it led to a lack of space to dream of what I could aspire to become in the future. As I reflect back on these years, we were passive in learning and driven towards our exams rather than guided to develop our own thoughts, opinions and ideas. Somehow, we were not sure what we were interested in learning or what jobs we might work in. Can you imagine? It has been ten years since I graduated from high school, but this issue still remains! 

I personally believe that education should allow students to dream by stimulating creativity, love of learning both within and outside of the classroom. With the opportunity to enjoy learning through exploring and experiencing a variety of activities, students will be able to develop their unique strengths. Schools should also provide diverse learning experiences for students to discover their interests and talents through enjoyable learning processes. With countries in the Asia-Pacific region becoming more and more competitive in education by focusing on students’ exam scores, we should consider how to better value student interests.

Beyond my own experience, what are the perspectives of other young people in the region? Let’s hear from some of them about their happiest memories from their school years, and what they would change if they could go back in time.

What is your happiest memory of school?


These views show that extra-curricular activities, as well as teachers and parents, can really motivate students. Activities such as a language contest and debate club, in these cases, provide happy memories of learning out of choice and interest. This also suggests that choosing to participate in something you enjoy can be a hugely rewarding part of education. Working as a team through group learning, with parental support and encouragement, can also stimulate student motivation, as mentioned by Ms. Woo.

If you could, what would you change about your educational experience?

These perspectives show the need for education to include field visits and activities outside of school as well as exposure to relevant and updated knowledge and materials. From Mr. Shamsudin’s statement, we see that such experiences are important to bring the content of textbooks to life. By focusing on daily life issues, education can also be made more relevant to the everyday realities that students can understand. Overall, education needs to expose students to new and fresh ideas and experiences so that they can dare to dream. Perhaps this is the key to a ‘happy’ education!

For more information, please contact Gwang-Chol Chang [gc.chang(at)] the Education Policy and Reform Unit.

Written by  Jin-A Hwang []

Interviewed by Paola González-rubio, Mark Manns and Seungheui Woo