[EDITORIALS]Rallies won’t end test anxietyIt seems we will witness the unprecedented scene of a public demonstration by high school freshmen. They oppose a new university admissions system, scheduled to take effect in 2008, that puts more emphasis on grade transcripts than on the standardized scholastic ability test. Messages calling for students to join candlelight rallies, in Seoul’s Gwanghwamun area and elsewhere, are spreading nationwide via text messaging and the Internet. Provincial and metropolitan education offices plan to stop students from participating and punish those who do.
The possibility of teachers clashing with students on the streets is a worrisome one. Students shouldn’t be dragged into demonstrations, but educational authorities should limit themselves to guiding students. Persuading them not to participate in a rally is the role of the parents.
No one organization is initiating the demonstrations, but a variety of rallies over education will be held in Gwanghwamun today. The group “21st Century Youth Community Hope” plans a vigil to cherish and comfort the souls of students who committed suicide because of academic pressure. A rightist civic group, “Freedom Youth Solidarity,” is planning its own candlelight prayer meeting, for the cause of reviving public education. Both organizations say they want the Education Ministry to ease the burden that college entrance exams place on students. But considering the nature of their rallies, it is likely that they will fan the emotions of the students. What’s more, the leader of “21st Century Community Hope” was once a member of the Korean Teachers and Educational Workers Union, and is currently the chairman of the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions. He will be suspected of using students for political purposes. Both groups must cancel these rallies, which could provoke the student demonstrators.
Rallies can’t solve the problems surrounding university entrance exams. Tests are needed to gauge students’ ability, and competition is unavoidable in society. Those who talk as though changes to the system can result in a world without tests are misleading young children. If students have the time to protest, they should be using that time to study. The new admissions system includes a variety of criteria, including career assessments, consideration of special talents, essays and interviews. The students must be told this. And universities must announce their own enrollment plans soon, to spare students anxiety and uncertainty.