[LETTERS to the editor]Cultivating well-rounded studentsI would like to applaud Seoul National University for changing its admissions policy to reflect more pragmatic values in Korea’s students. As a high school teacher here, and as a graduate of a Canadian university, I can honestly say that this is a great step forward for Korean students. My viewpoint is influenced by my own experience as a student in the West.
Although my grades were not as high as I would have liked, I was still given a fantastic opportunity at a great university because of my strength of character and my involvement in community activities. Toward the end of high school, I was granted a “Gold Citizenship Letter” as a reward for my outstanding involvement in community projects, which helped to balance out my somewhat mediocre grades.
If I’d been forced to participate in the current Korean system, where grades alone count, I most certainly would have been passed over by the university of my choice. I found my calling while completing my degree, and I am now about to undertake my doctorate in the United Kingdom. Undoubtedly, a system that emphasizes potential and strength of character has allowed me to excel where I could not have under a “grades alone” system.
As a high school teacher, I see the pressure my students are under to compete in this system. They come to school every day, go to an academy every night and cringe with jealousy when I tell them about my high school and university experience. Many students sleep only four hours a night, to the point where we have installed special “stand-up” desks for those who fall asleep during lessons.
How different an experience they would have should other universities consider more than grades. It would be great to see students helping out at community events or taking care of the elderly, rather than coming home exhausted from an academy at 2 a.m. on a Sunday morning.
Since my arrival here last year I have seen some inspired changes in the Korean education system. It is indeed a step in the right direction as far as I am concerned. I would like to express my support for the people and institutions that implement policies that allow well-rounded Korean students to excel.
by Daniel Travers, Ganghwa-eup, Incheon
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