Nowhere to Run
``Look, if you had, one shot, one opportunity, to seize everything you ever wanted, one moment, would you capture? Or just let it slip?"
Korean students get only one shot to show their capabilities of being university students. Technically speaking, it's only one exam a year, but the study load causes them tremendous pressure. You get 12 years of education, but are only given a few hours to determine your future. How cruel is that?
Over-emphasis on college degrees makes those without them unprepared for social competition in Korea. Unlike in many other countries, university education is considered very common. Almost every Korean has at least one degree, meaning if a student wants to get a decent job, he has to get into prestigious universities. This requires that he be in the top one percent in all eight subjects of the assessment tests: Korean language, English, math, four social or science courses and another foreign language. Why do we need a Renaissance man? One needs knowledge in only a few subjects to excel in one's field. More subjects lead to a greater workload and more stress.
Most high school students, as well as graduates, probably have their parents saying, ``Devote yourself to your studies and nothing else for just three years, and a bright future will await you.'' However, it's questionable if the parents would stand by their ideas after looking at the data.
According to statistics from 2007 established by the Korean Center for Disease Control, every year 45.5 percent of high school students had suffered from serious depression for more than two weeks in the past year due to stress from their studies, while 23.8 percent seriously considered committing suicide, with 5.3 percent saying they had tried. Such outrageous figures are unheard of anywhere else in the world.
A student who plans to study at American universities can take as many SATs as he or she wishes from his or her freshman year. However, those planning to study in Korea get only one chance a year and are not allowed to do so before their senior year.
Good scores depend on many conditions other than one's readiness, such as health, the environment and luck. It would be too unfair to let a potential student waste another year of his life just because he was not in his best condition on the day. My homeroom teacher once told me that a girl who aced every practice test could not stabilize her mind due to the pressure and did not do her best.
If the government wants to evaluate students more accurately, it will have to allow them more frequent tests, which would surely diminish the stress and motivate them to do their best.
Some adults might ask why to even care. Education problems affect all of us. If they're not fixed, our descendents will suffer from them. For the sake of the country's future, fewer subjects ought to be tested more frequently.
Lee Jae-hyun is a third grade student at Gyeonggi Academy of Foreign Languages in Uiwang, Gyeonggi Province.