Personally, it's plainly obvious to Ian and I that kids are happier here in China than the kids were in South Korea. Our students there were miserable there (which made us miserable). It was deflating to be a part of a system that was so detrimental. My students in Korea were always exhausted and starving. They spent the entirety of each school day on their own; we basically never saw parents pick their kids up or drop them off.
Here, on the other hand, parents are incredibly involved. They pick their kids up and drop them off. In fact, if they're not busy (I guess) they stick around the school for the several hours that their kiddo is in classes. That's a little strange, but it's better than the alternative (I think). Kids here get spending cash for snacks or their parent's bring them lunch or dinner. The only time that kids tell me they're hungry is occasionally right before lunch break.
The main difference seems to be that kids here have a support system (regardless of whether or not they're being pushed too hard). Their interests in the arts are encouraged (to a point, of course, though there are parents who don't limit their child's career options to: A) doctor B) lawyer C) engineer.
For me, what's most disappointing about this graph is that when I come back to the states and begin teaching students there, I will be working with kids who are both less satisfied in their academic lives and less prepared for their examinations. The US is behind China in both. Granted, it's important to note that China only releases a certain percentage of it's test scores. None of the "official" information that comes out of the country escapes a retouch.
I hope, though the problems are less obvious (or less emphasized) at early elementary level, that I can be a part of a solution to the US' academic problems. I know that's painfully idealistic. 50% of American teachers quit after just five years in the classroom and I'd venture to guess that it's largely because the realities of teaching don't match the fresh faced, hopeful (read: naive) vision that young teachers have.
I hope, for my career's sake, that my determination is just that, and not optimism fueled by distance. I can't know what the political world of the school system is actually like until I'm knee deep in it, but, with any luck at all, my cranky, pragmatic nature will actually serve me in the field.