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Over the past few decades, South Korea, as a rapidly transforming society, has witnessed a massive drive for educational credentials. Some scholars suggest that South Korea has been gripped by an education fever that is leading to huge investments of economic and social capital to further young people’s educational interests. This article refers to a study of three high-achieving South Korean schools. Through the conducting of a survey among 206 school students, 71 teachers and 254 parents, the study aimed to identify the key factors deemed to be responsible for high educational achievement in the schools. Social capital and its physical, relational, structural, and cognitive dimensions presented the conceptual and analytical tools of the study. The findings suggest, after all dimensions are considered, that familial social capital and the nature of parental involvement are most definitive for students’ success. In this sense there is correspondence with James Coleman’s views on the importance of family background as significant in determining how students ultimately perform. However, there is also an indication that mothers and fathers involve themselves differently – and that boarding school students benefit from retaining some distance away from family. The article concludes by offering a set of general recommendations useful for policy-makers in any society seeking to enhance students’ educational achievements.
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