[LETTERS to the editor]Stressed by aimless education policy

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[LETTERS to the editor]Stressed by aimless education policy

I’m a second year student in high school, and just like all my peers all my time and effort are devoted to studying to get into a good college. We are the first group to come under the new college entrance system. What really worries us is not the changed college entrance system; it is the uncertainty created by continuously changing education policy.
The changes started when we were in third grade in middle school. To tackle the problem of soaring private education costs, change was introduced to strengthen the public school system. The education ministry announced that it would adopt a relative evaluation system to replace the existing absolute evaluation system for school grades.
Test formats were changed to include writing tests, discarding the old short-answer problems. Upon hearing the news, I was full of hope thinking I could go to any high school if I did well. A lot of my friends who were qualified to enter prestigious foreign language high schools chose instead to attend regular high schools to get good grades. But with continuing changes of policy we grew bewildered. In defiance of governmental measures to equalize high schools, universities responded by including essay writing and speaking skills in their entrance tests.
Moreover, the importance of the Korean SAT in the system kept growing. We found ourselves stuck between the “deadly triangle” of school grades, the Korean SAT and essay writing.
There was more ahead of us. From the moment we entered high school until Seoul National University announced its 2008 guidelines for entrance, we have been like little lambs lost. For example, everybody expected a large number of students would be accepted by early decision in the first semester.
Unexpectedly, however, that option completely disappeared from the system. It is impossible to keep up with the changing policy, and we naturally depend more on private after-school programs, paying 50,000 to 2 million won. Many parents, including mine, complain about the burden imposed on top of what’s already a heavy load. We are left with no choice. Clearly we have been failed by the aimless education policy; innocent students and parents are driven from pillar to post in a game without rules.
Now as my generation of high school students focuses attention on college entrance, we are nervous, not knowing how the education system will change again. We end up having to cut sleeping time to no more than 5 hours a day. I bet this was not what the education ministry had in mind when it first announced changes in the system. The worst aspect of this system is not the massive amount of work we have to do. It is the absence of clear directions for us to follow.

by Lee Hyun-ju
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