I randomly picked this up to watch because I wanted something short and cute. Personally, I find school-themed teen dramas to be a bit cheesy and at times cringe-worthy. However, School 2017 kind of surprised me when it came to the romantic relationship between the two main characters, Ra Eun-ho (Kim Se-jeong) and Hyun Tae-woon (Kim Jung-hyun)—they were more cute than cringeworthy.
School 2017 is set in a high school where the privileged students and their parents call the shots. Students’ ranks on standardized tests allow them certain privileges and teachers favor the smart students over the rest of the student body. The main protagonist, Ra Eun-ho is a cheerful 18-year-old who dreams of becoming a webtoon artist but has poor grades and gets into trouble even though she is just at the wrong place at the wrong time. She encounters the mysterious school rebel, “X” who is causing a ruckus in the school. Ra Eun-ho gets accused of being “X” and now her dreams of going to a university are in jeopardy because she faces the possibility of expulsion.
School 2017 addresses difficult issues students experience while in high school, such as bullying and academic pressure. Yet, I do feel that rather than diving into the deep end with these issues, they try to make it light-hearted where most issues get resolved at the end in a positive manner. The one particular character storyline that I enjoyed the most is Song Dae-hwi (Jang Dong-yoon), who is the overachieving class president. Although he is a smart and brilliant student, he isn’t born with a silver spoon in his mouth. He comes from a poor family due to his mother’s debt. Also, even though he’s smarter than most students, Dae-hwi is unable to receive opportunities, such as private tutoring and university consulting like the other rich smart students. Thus, Dae-hwi has to make most of the opportunities he has even if it’s bowing down to the privileged class. I think Song Dae-hwi’s story presents an issue that viewers might tend to ignore which is education is a privilege at times. We make the assumption that everyone is educated or that everyone has the same opportunities as everyone else, but that’s not necessarily true. One example of this is how privately funded schools offer after-school tutoring and extracurricular activities as opposed to public schools which are funded by the government. These government funds go to other “important” expenses which leads to schools being underfunded. In fact, extracurricular activities and programs are cut and some teachers have to buy school supplies for their students. (You would assume that every student can afford paper and pencils or at least, the schools provide teachers with free supplies but that isn’t true. Some students are too poor to afford school supplies.) The desire for an education starts at home and if you don’t have a solid foundation—a family that supports your educational endeavors—you will have a difficult time in succeeding and Dae-hwi exposes this truth. And if you didn’t think this actually happens at public schools in America, it actually does and so it put things into perspective.
As for the romantic storyline between Ra Eun-ho and Hyun Tae-woon, it’s completely adorable. Their chemistry was real and although there wasn’t a lot of skinship between the two, you can feel the sparks between them. I think there wasn’t a need for a kiss between the two at the end of the series despite some complaints by viewers. In fact, I think that sort of act kind of ruins the adorable and cutesy vibe they have crafted together.
Now, I haven’t watched any of the other School series but I am interested in them. School 2017 was an enjoyable and a great chill, school life drama.