Why KAIST students choose suicide
Very early in the morning on April 17, a senior KAIST student committed suicide. Off campus, it perhaps registered in the minds of the general public as just another statistic because last year, four students and a professor committed suicide here.
But it sent a shockwave through the KAIST community because it happened after the implementation of a so-called suicide mitigation plan. KAIST is a university that is fully funded by the government. Students receive free tuition and have their living costs paid for too, but this was previously conditional to them maintaining a certain level of study performance. If an examination grade was lower than the desired level, students were penalized by having to pay an enrollment pay, and their own tuition fees. If this was imposed it was considered as a problem related to the suicides.
The suicide mitigation plan was put in place with the aim the softening the severity of this level-based system in order to prevent students developing serious depression during their studies. This was implemented from the start of the fall semester last year. I wondered then how yet another suicide could be explained after the plan was put into action and I concluded that KAIST itself pushes students to jump off the top of their dormitories.
KAIST is an engineering-oriented university and its aspirations are represented in the slogan, ''The delivery school of Nobel Prize winners.” More than 40 percent of students are promoted onto masters programs and doctorate degrees. KAIST focuses students on a select choice of career paths and lines up students for these. Moreover, the concept of ‘Nobel Prize winners’ results in less successful students being branded ``loser’’.
All KAIST students might devote themselves to study during their middle and high school years in order to enter KAIST, and becoming a failure or loser is not an option. The conflict between the elitist aspirations of KAIST and any sudden experience of failure can cause some students to commit suicide.
The solution is to mitigate or remove completely such conflict and this can only come from policy changes at KAIST. First of all, KAIST should show promote a wider choice of career paths other than winning a Nobel Prize. Second, students should accept that there is endless competition in the world. Students have to get used to failure because they cannot always be victorious against competition.
Finally, even though I could not recognize the importance of it before finishing my mandatory military service, students need to learn how to manage their lives. KAIST should help students find happiness, satisfaction and success in their own ways. Then suicide, which is defined as the failure of life management, could surely be removed from KAIST.
Student of mathematic sciences at KAIST