Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Korean College Entrance Exams

One of the trials high school students face in Korea is their college entrance exams. It has turned into an ordeal because of how important passing the exams has become in the culture. Whether it deserves to be so important is another question, but the extraordinary effort often made to pass the exams makes the life of the students and parents difficult.

The president of a girl's Catholic high school in Seoul writes a letter of encouragement  to those who, in about 100 days, will be taking those dreaded exams. The sister- president begins by mentioning the weather, the damage and even deaths caused  by the rains, and during this time, she feels sure they have been at their desks preparing for the exams.

"All of you in 3rd year high school and those taking the exam again are in my heart," she tells them, "and I want to show you my concern. You have worked hard at your studies and have overcome the temptation to play. You have nurtured your dream and have sweated much. Your parents and teachers have encouraged you, but you have no peace and are fretful."

She continues by telling the students that they will feel unprepared for the exams, that the time is short and that they will be comparing themselves with others and come up short.  That one day of exams, she says, will be a judgement not only on their high school years but on their whole 12 years of schooling. She, as a predecessor and one who spends time with them in school, wants to say something that she hopes will give them some peace.

"First of all, the exam is not determining your individual value or capabilities," she reminds them,  "but your faithfulness to the study program; it will give you a chance to look at your attitude to life and to examine it. Of course, you can see what your objectives were and can determine whether your efforts were satisfying and sufficient. It is the first serious exam you will be taking  but it is not everything." She prays that they do not drink the bitter cup of defeat from the exams.

She goes on to say that she has met many who, by experiencing the anguish of defeat, have grown strong and mature. In life, there are many exams and trials, failing some and succeeding with others, but what is necessary is to do your best and leave the rest up to God.

She wants them to consider, above all else, their health and what would be a fitting way for them to spend this last period of study. 100 days is still a good period of time, but if they face it as in a sprint, the chances are they will tire out quickly. She also hopes they will have the peace of mind to see the other students not only as competitors but as deserving of the same victorious results as they hope for themselves.

She ends her words of encouragement with the following prayer: "Lord, may our students receive the results that their efforts merit. May they have a clear mind enabling them to display what they have learned. And if by chance they don't do well may they not become dejected but give them patience and strength. Amen."

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