Friday, November 9, 2012

D-Day 2012

I wanted to write about this last spring but thought i'd wait until a more pertinent time.  The clock in our office included a row marked "D-Day" and finally yesterday it reached 0. I'm sure most of you are confused and curious as to what i'm referring to.  Yesterday was THE day, at least for the third grade high school students (seniors), it was the day that would decide their fate.  You think i'm kidding? It may sound a bit extreme but trust me...

Yesterday, 660,000 students sat down to take the 9 hour college entrance exam (think ACT/SAT), hoping their years of arduous study would finally pay off.  The results of the exam significantly impact the students future, commonly used as the determining factor for college admissions, thus affecting their future jobs, it's a big deal.  Don't believe me?
"The most crucial test seen as a deciding factor in an applicant's choice of college and subsequent career"  ~The Korean Herald  ]

 The students are not the only ones stressing about this big day, many parents are worried for their childrens future and do all they can to help. Aside from the encouragement and push for their students education many parents go above and beyond to aide in their students success.
"A Buddhist temple held a four-part seminar for parents of test takers, including a session by a priest who offered tips on concentration. Some temples - and Christian churches - invited parents to daily prayer session beginning in August, 100 days before the test....on a recent chilly Saturday evening, Kim Nam-Seon joined more than 1,000 parents for an intense overnight praying session. Her mission was to bow 3,000 times to bring luck to her son. " ~ The  WSJ
In fact the entire county takes this day pretty seriously:
"The college-entrance exam is a national obsession" ~ The WSJ 
"Military training was suspended, flights rescheduled and emergency calls reserved for latecomers Thursday as hundreds of thousands of South Korean students sat a crucial college entrance examination" ~The Korean Herald
Remember days of rushing to get dressed in the morning and speed off to school, fearing you may be late? Worse yet are the days when you, of course, get stuck at every red light or are behind the grandma driving 20 in a 25. Even these situations have been taken care of:
" The subway ran more frequently in the morning rush hour, and traffic was banned within 200 meters of test centers...Police operated a temporary call center to serve students wishing to ride in a patrol car or on the back of a motorcycle to reach their test centers." ~ The Korean Herald
 Intrigued by all of this I used the topic as a discussion point for my teachers conversational English class.  I was surprised by how lax some of their attitudes were about the exam.  I also found out today that not all students are required to take this exam.  The results are only used by some universities, all two year and some three year facilities don't require the test.  I was also surprised to learn that students are given a coupon on the test day good for 50% discounts at certain places (i'm assuming food, shopping and maybe movie theaters), turns out some students show up to the exam for this coupon alone, thus sleeping throughout most of the test.

After this discussion and reading more about the exam i'm now only more confused. Some students show up only to receive a discount coupon, while others have mothers praying for them. I can only hope those two are not related, for the mothers sake. On an even more serious and unfortunate note, this day is also the cause of many noted suicide attempts.  Clearly not all of the students can handle the stress of the day, weather it's fear of not scoring high enough, disappointing their family, or simply being over-stressed, they decide to end it all.
"In the southeastern city of Daegu, a 21-year-old student feeling the pressure of the looming exam reportedly jumped off an 18-story apartment building to his death on Wednesday. The crushing pressure on teenagers to perform well in exams is blamed for dozens of suicides every year that generally peak around the time of the annual entrance exam. ~ The Korean Herald 
It's shocking to me how casually this article mentions the students death, shouldn't it be considered more of a problem that students are jumping off buildings to their death, all because of the pressure the country has put on them to succeed?  There has been some light shed on the overwhelming pressure and looming problem this exam causes. Some universities are now changing their policy and focusing more on interviews and extracurricular activity.  I really hope this is a new trend that will continue throughout the country.  It's a shame that students, at the ripe age of 18, are deciding weather or not their life will be one worth living, all based solely on the results of one test.

If you want to read more check out some of these articles:

S. Korea falls silent as students sit key exam 

Over 660,000 students take college entrance exam

The college entrance exam  

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