[LETTERS to the editor]Save Korean students

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[LETTERS to the editor]Save Korean students

The original purpose of public education is to prepare students to become productive members of society. I believe that this goal is not being fulfilled in Korea. The true purpose is distorted, as Korean public schools function with a single aim: sending as many students as possible to top Korean universities.

I am one of the victims of the Korean educational system; I am a so-called jaesusaeng, the Korean term that refers to those who failed to enter college last year and are therefore preparing for a second shot. Perhaps, some may tell me it is my fault that I failed the College Scholastic Ability Test last year. But is it really? I heard there is no such thing as a jaesusaeng in other countries.

The majority of Koreans would agree that numerous problems exist within the Korean educational system. Yet, we continue on because we believe that nothing much can be done to change it. But I would like to suggest that such a change can be made, by focusing on the Suneung, the Korean Scholastic Ability Test.

First of all, in order to seek change, we must compare ourselves to those who have succeeded. Because one of my friends is attending college in the United States, we were able to contrast the Korean education system to that of the U.S. When I heard her explanation for the first time, I was quite shocked. She told me that the SAT is not the most important factor in determining an American student’s college entrance. According to her, numerous different factors, such as high school GPA, extra curricular activities, sports and college essays, are all used to determine whether or not a student will be accepted to a college.

Have you ever heard of a Korean student who is studying and playing on a sports team at the same time? For Korean students, it is either one way or the other ? if a student wants to be an athlete, he usually gives up on academics. When my friend went on to explain that she danced while she was in high school and was able to put that on her resume, I was more than envious.

I would like to suggest that Korean universities rethink putting too much emphasis on the KSAT. Colleges should encourage student activities, such as sports, clubs and arts and should endow more importance to these factors when they are selecting students. If they do so, students would be able to discover their interests at an earlier age, allowing them to set larger goals other than simply getting into a prestigious college.

Moreover, I also believe that the KSAT should be offered more than once per year, like the SAT. My friend told me that the SATs are offered several times a year; a student may take the exam as many times as he wants, until he is pleased with his score. On the other hand, many Korean students, such as myself, have to wait a whole year to take the KSAT again.

Besides the fact that thousands of youths are wasting away under the dull lights of cram school, the KSAT is also a huge hassle for all Koreans because company start times are delayed along with departure times of airlines. Does the KSAT have to be such a big deal? Frankly, we have been desensitized by the reports about student suicides because we hear them too often, particularly around the time of the Suneung. These suicides tell us that Korean students place desperately too much importance on this exam. Revolutionizing the system that the majority of people are already used to is no simple matter. Nevertheless, as a student, and as a Korean citizen, I know that something must be done to stop the suffering of young Korean students. Kim Min-kyung, Gaepo-dong, Seoul
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