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More high school grads choose civil service exam

Students are skipping college for a shot at a stable civil service job

Jan 16,2016
More than 100 students preparing to take the civil service examination listen to a lecture at a private academy in Noryangjin, Dongjak District, southern Seoul. Among them, 25 are high school students or high school graduates. [KANG JI-MIN]
On Monday morning in a private academy in Noryangjin, Dongjak District, southern Seoul, 150 students gathered in a classroom to study for the civil service examination.

The group of aspiring civil servants was diverse and included a range of ages. But among them, 25 are still in high school or new graduates.

“I saw that studying in college is a waste of time,” said Ahn Ji-hye, 20. “Instead, I decided to spend time studying for the exam as early as possible.”

Most high school students prefer university diplomas to a certificate for an entry-level civil service position.

However, the ones who don’t are known as gongding, which alludes to goding (high school students) preparing for the civil service examination. Gong refers to public or civil, and ding refers to a group of people.

For the young people in a generation staring at a stagnant economy, fierce competition in higher education and a saturated job market, the decision to prepare for the test seems obvious enough - even if it does mean skipping out on the college experience.

“Simply going to college doesn’t guarantee employment, so I decided to move on to prepare for the civil service exam,” said Han A-young, 19, who took the College Scholastic Ability Test (CSAT) last year. “From 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., I study for the exam, just like my senior year in the high school.”

According to Eduwill, an online and offline academy for various educational certificates, the percentage of online test-takers in their teens showed a drastic increase to 25.3 percent in 2015, from 5.3 percent in 2014.

At one of the academies in Noryangjin, 267 students out of the total 991, or 26.9 percent, are high school seniors or high school graduates.

At the academy, 99 students attending standard high schools make up 10 percent of the class.

That figure excludes students attending specialized high schools, who prepare for the civil service exam for technical posts.

“Recently, the number of high school students or high school graduates who have come for advice has increased,” an academy official said. “There are special classes … that are popular among students.”

The classes also received some students who were formerly enrolled in universities but later changed their minds to study for the test. And as the job market tightens, more students majoring in subjects not favored in the current landscape are dropping out.

Some high school students also opt out of taking the CSAT, the national college entrance exam, to study for and take the civil service test.

“I’m jealous of my peers for getting to enjoy college life, but I would rather choose a stable future,” said Park Ji-yeon, 18.

For that reason, the number of young people preparing for the exam is only expected to increase, said Kim Seok-ho, a professor in the department of sociology at Seoul National University.

“The employment market has been stagnant for such a long time, and even worse, in some corporations, new employees run the risk of voluntarily resigning,” he said. “So the number of young people preparing for the exam is expected to rise, especially because it is seen as a more practical option.”

BY SON GOOK-HEE AND KANG JI-MIN [kim.hyangmin@joongang.co.kr]


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