Exam Day – Heaven or Hell?

Every few weeks, a member of the Xi Xi Chapter of Theta Nu Xi Multicultural Sorority, Inc. tackles a diversity-related topic that interests her and posts her thoughts for the intellectual benefit of all.

Members of the Xi Xi Chapter represent a variety of races, cultures, religions, backgrounds, and lifestyles.  Each woman’s unique voice and perspective push the entire chapter out of its comfort zone and into real understanding of the world around us.  It is only when we recognize and appreciate difference that we gain the ability to critically engage our own worldviews.

Exam Day – Heaven or Hell – D. Monasch

If you thought that the SATs were bad, living in Korea and experiencing their exam season would probably give you an anxiety attack. During the month of November this year, approximately 700,000 high school seniors sat for the College Scholastic Ability Test (CSAT).

“Korean Students” – Courtesy of edition.cnn.com

Unlike in the US, every student in Korea takes this exam on the same day, and in many areas regular life shuts down – stock markets open late, businesses close; however public transportation schedules are increased to accommodate the students and even city officials, such as police, offer students rides to their testing locations.

It is said that in South Korea, students live for this day. So much so that after spending almost 8 hours each day in traditional school, 75% of South Korean students attend private education or cram school courses after their required classes conclude for the day.

Students and parents are so pressured that in order to reduce both emotional and financial burdens, the Ministry of Education has placed a ban on offering private classes after 10pm. Government officials must actually be on the lookout for underground courses and break up illegal instances.

Pressure is high from all angles when preparing for the CSAT. Students are so anxious that in 2009 over 200 students preparing for the exam committed suicide, and in 2010 so did approximately 150 more.

This exam is serious. It is the culmination of everything they have worked for since their childhood and it determines their future. That’s correct – a single eight hour exam determines their future. But is it that serious?

It appears to that the increased focus on collegiate education as an indicator of intelligence and success in life is much greater in South Korea than in the US. The concept that a single exam on a single day can properly represent a lifetime of learning has always been a question in many minds, and in this case that is no exception. The pressure that these students are put under is inexplicable.

One has to wonder – will there ever be a better way?

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