[LETTERS to the editor]More to success than right collegeIn Korea, obsessive studying to enter top-ranked prestigious colleges is almost a fashion. This phenomenon can be seen in the myriad signboards that cover the streets, bearing the names of various learning institutes, or in foreign newspaper headlines that report the rampant academic frenzy in this country. People are so focused on sprinting to college, but many find themselves lost even after passing the finish line. All of this obsessiveness is, ultimately, for the purpose of acquiring a job that would be deemed successful, high-paying or prestigious. I believe that even for one who gets accepted by an excellent college, this goal cannot be attained without a blueprint to guide him to the future.
Some regard being admitted to a reputable college as the end of the hard years of rigorous study, and that thereafter it’s a comfortable life through four years of college and beyond. However, it is increasingly common to encounter cases that refute this notion. Seoul National University, which most people consider the top college in Korea, is usually thought of as producing the future leaders of Korean society. However, instead of becoming the future leaders as we imagine, many of the graduates end up as learning institute instructors, private tutors or simply unemployed, working random part-time jobs to make a living. Of course, these are respectable jobs; after all, they educate young people and hence contribute to society. However, these underemployed graduates hardly have a choice.
There are people I personally know who prove that a good college is not necessarily the path to a successful career. The father of a close friend who graduated from a university with no claim to fame achieved his longed-for aspiration to establish a venture business through strenuous exertion. His considerable success he attributes to hard effort even after college, and following his dream from an early age. Students today have even more opportunities to make similar achievements.
Korea is in a state where many of the most academically qualified young people find themselves jobless. Statistics from 2003 show that more than three out of 10 graduates of Seoul National University could not get hired, and more than four out of 10 graduates from four-year colleges are unemployed. Although there are many economic and social factors behind this, it can also be ascribed to the fact that not many Korean students enter college with specific future plans. Forming a cohesive plan for the future can not only make it easier to actually land desired jobs, but also contribute to a well-running society.
The full encouragement of parents, teachers and society can help students to develop their dreams. I believe the main reason that especially impedes Korean students in building a dream for their future is that the social and institutional atmosphere discourages them. Currently, vocational and aptitude tests are regularly given in schools, and there are sessions when students can talk to their teachers about their prospects. These help lead in the right direction, but they seem to be little more than procedural acts. The ever-changing educational system makes it necessary for teachers, parents and students to be wary of sticking to only one dream, and causing them to play it safe by first pursuing a good college that would ensure that they land any kind of job after graduation. This path may seem a good one at first, but studying only for college is proving to be less effective, and additionally taints students’ sense of values. Letting students freely aspire to what they want will make Korea a happier nation in the long run.
More active measures should be taken to broaden the views of people so that they can look on their lives in the long term. Students should be encouraged to genuinely construct their future, and must realize that college is merely one stage in life, not a determinant of success.
by Jung Eun