November 16, 2023
SEOUL – Forget beauty vloggers and celebrity content — vlogs made by high school dropouts are becoming increasingly popular among teen viewers on YouTube.
Aside from sharing daily life updates after dropping out of school, these teenage YouTubers also create videos where they inform their parents about the decision to drop out, submit withdrawal letters and celebrate a last-day-of-school party with their classmates.
“I decided to vlog about my dropout experiences because I wanted people to have a better understanding of (the process),” said YouTuber Park Jun-a in one of her videos.
Like Park, several high school dropouts have turned to YouTube like Park to share their experiences, with some garnering up to 9 million views.
Comments left below such videos are mostly positive, with one reading: “Dropping out isn’t an easy decision to make and I’m proud of you for making a decision that you are happy with.”
Lee Chae-won, a 16-year-old high school student, told The Korea Herald that she enjoys watching dropout vlogs to see “what life is like outside of school.”
“Studying in school is the only kind of life I know,” said Lee. “I watch the videos not because I also have any intention to drop out but because I’m curious to see how dropout students around my age are living outside of school.”
Unlike Lee, some students also seek advice before making their decision to drop out — and these YouTubers, in return, answer their questions and address their concerns through a Q&A video.
According to data presented by the Ministry of Education and Korean Educational Development Institute, the dropout rate for elementary, middle and high school students in 2022 was 1 percent. This figure represents an increase of 0.2 percentage points from the year before.
In particular, the rate of high school students dropping out also increased steadily for three consecutive years, increasing from 1.1 percent in 2020 to 1.9 percent in 2022.
While experts say the rise in dropout numbers is concerning, they also point toward the limitations of public education that make it difficult to respect the individuality of each student. According to data presented by the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family on dropout students, more than 88 percent of students had said that they would have continued attending the school if they had opportunities to utilize their talents or explore more diverse career paths.
“The public school system must be amended so that the individual characteristics of students can be utilized in a pluralistic society,” said professor Park Joo-ho of Hanyang University’s Department of Education.
“We need to develop the educational system so that the students move away from just learning what’s in the textbook to develop their own critical thinking skills.”