Thursday, November 17, 2011

College Entrance in Korea

The exams for college entrance have been taken, and everything should return to normal, but it hasn't.  There are many articles that tell us about the after-effects of the exams.
The Catholic Times' editorial applauds the parents of the students for their concern and effort to take care of the material and spiritual needs of the students during this stressful time. But whether they did well or not there is a feeling of emptiness now that the study and exams are over. Many students, the editorial notes, develop headaches, insomnia, irritability, indigestion, which of course also worries the parents.

Though the stress for the exams disappears, lethargy tends to set in; the routine has given way to another rhythm, with which they are not familiar. There is a void and a temporary depression. When the student worries about the results of the exam, the problems tend to multiply.

This is the big story each year at this time. The Korean college entrance exams are the biggest moment in the life of students. In the thinking of most students, it will determine their life. Depending on the scores they receive, the exams will decide which school they will attend. The prestigious schools are Seoul National University, Korea University and Yonsei University. All are familiar with the acronym SKY. To graduate from one of these schools means the student will have a good-paying job and be part of the elite in society. Many of the most successful people in society are graduates of these schools.
The exams have changed over the years for the better. There is less emphasis, in the English exam, on the grammar and the finer points, more on comprehension, less on memorization. Thanks to the Confucian cultural background, study is important, and the exam system continues to be used in selecting qualified persons at all levels of the business world, but there is  a  negative side.  

Preparing for exams means that ones normal daily routine has to change. Everything is devoted to doing well in the exams. A necessity understood by all, which makes it more stressful than it has to be. All of society takes note of the day; even the airlines make adjustments, rerouting flights to reduce noise. 

The editorial recommends that parents, and students take a few days off to make a retreat. There are all kinds of retreats that will fit the expectations of all, even family retreats.
The stress and fatigue experienced, though, will tempt many to  rest, but it is not the wise thing to do, says the editorial. Often, the end of the exams is also the end of the faith life for students. Part of the reason is the emphasis on the intellectual and neglecting our spiritual and emotional makeup. This obviously will cause harm to growth in maturity. How many will take the advice to make a retreat is unknown, but efforts to inform students that life has much more to offer than what exam scores show is worth the concentrated effort of all sectors of society.

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