A group of schools in the neighborhood of Harlem, known as an area with a concentration of low-income families, adopted a Korean-style curriculum six years ago, and have since attracted students with their reputation for success. Democracy Prep Public Schools are charter schools — similar to independent private schools in Korea, which have control over their own class hours, subjects on the curriculum, and the number of school days.
Even though there are no Korean students at the schools, all students are required to learn Korean language as a mandatory class, which is evidence that the school was influenced by the Korean way of learning. In the 9th to 11th grades, 185 students are now learning Korean language, most of them Latino or African-American. Students also do club activities related in Korean culture, such as Korean traditional dance and folk songs, or Taekwondo.
This school year, 99 percent of Democracy Prep students passed English exams and 98 percent passed math exams. That means all students other than those with special circumstances passed the exam, which indicates that the school is above average for New York, and attracts outstanding students.
This school has a long day — 50 percent longer than other public schools. The school offers a variety of extracurricular activities to students, so that they often stay at school after classes are finished.
When the school started, students had a hard time adjusting to the Korean-style education, but gradually they came to understand it and accept it.
The reasons that Democracy Prep choose the Korean way of learning can be attributed to founder Seth Andrew’s philosophy. Andrew was impressed by Korean education when he was teaching in Korea, and after he came back home, he decided to establish the schools in Harlem, following a Korean-style curriculum.
“Discipline, respect, enthusiasm, accountability and maturity are our core values,” he said. “I saw these five things in Korean schools, and I wanted to adopt them in American education.”