February 17, 2019

Talmud Becomes Trendy in South Korea

“In 2014, Kim Hye-kyung found herself staring into an educational abyss.

The mother of two lives in study-mad South Korea, a nation where parents fork over a combined $17 billion on private tutoring every year. Children start early — 83 percent of 5-year-olds receive private education — and the pace keeps intensifying until, at age 18, students take the dreaded eight-hour suneung university entrance exam. Flunk the suneung and your job prospects could nosedive. Pass with flying colors and you may land a coveted spot at a top-ranked university.

“I hated the idea of sending my children to private academies, where teachers cram information into young heads with no thought for nurturing creativity,” Kim Hye-kyung said. “When my kids were younger, I read them books or took them out instead of sending them to academies. But as they grew older, I started worrying that their school results would suffer as a result of my decisions.”

Kim Hye-kyung was in this quandary when, by chance, she came across a book by a Korean author about what for her was a novel study method. It was chavruta, a method used by Talmud scholars in which pairs of students debate and ask one another questions based on ancient rabbinic texts.”

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