[Letters] Ending the survival game

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[Letters] Ending the survival game

Having finished one-third of what seems like a three-year-long ride of no fun, no freedom and no rest, I finally understand why many call these three years of high school “admissions hell.”

I want to believe that our education system is doing a good job in giving all students equal opportunities to become leaders in different fields. However, It seems that the current system overemphasizes educating smart potential leaders, and that usually top grades and high test scores are still the biggest factors that decide college admissions. The current system puts way too much pressure on students and their parents as college admissions has become somewhat of a competition for survival.

Probably the most imperative steps our education system must adopt are as follows:

First, in order to change our admissions from a competition-based system, we must follow Finland’s example and cut competition. On a personal blog, an entry titled “Finland Education System Rocks! Why?” says “Finland doesn’t rank students or schools, and it doesn’t emphasize standardized nationwide examinations that drive students, teachers and parents nuts.” That’s right. The ranking of schools and students based on test scores simply drive people crazy. When these are significant parts of college admissions, this puts way too much pressure on students. This explains the numerous suicides committed by students every year, especially the ones by those with even the most outstanding of grades. This system is not efficient and even if it was efficient, the fact that students continue to commit suicide because of it, means it isn’t right. And wrong systems have to be changed.

Secondly, in order to raise well-educated future “citizens” not just “leaders,” we must follow Finland’s example of education that promotes equal opportunities. Finland’s education is free, which means travel expenses, welfare services, accommodation, books and other school materials are already paid for. Also, a teacher must have a master’s degree to teach in Finland, which means quality doesn’t vary according to the level of a school. This is all to make sure that everyone gets equal opportunities in learning. Of course, schools are not subsidized differently like they are in Korea. The Korean practice of universities giving preference to students from better high schools does not promote equal opportunities for all.

In Finland, there is no competition between peers. Rather, students compete against themselves as they challenge themselves to do better. The efficient education system makes this possible. Moreover, Finland provides a lot to students and expects the students to attend classes, obey discipline and complete their courses and programs. Only these three things are required of the students. This is the ideal. All students should be encouraged to focus on their studies without pressure and to improve themselves while taking themselves as their sole rival.

Research shows that the academic level of high school students in South Korea and Finland are at a similar level. However, the academic level of university students in Finland are reported to have been far higher compared to that of Korean students. What does this tell us? Too much pressure about grades and college admissions naturally leads students to become machines that study for hours to get into the college of their choice. Consequently, many Korean students, even if they get into the universities of their choice, are not fully equipped with the skills necessary to not to fall behind once they’re in those universities.

Cooperation is what makes all students improve together. It seems only reasonable that we cut competition and promote cooperation in classrooms. Simultaneously, the nation should give equal opportunities to all students, whichever school they attend. In order to make these changes, college admissions must change.

If we don’t make a change in our education system soon, we will regret it when we start falling behind as a nation. In this global age, having creative leaders and well-educated followers is the only way South Korea can maintain its status in the international community. That is why enhancing the education system should be the first priority of this nation. Finland is our role model.

The government must not forget the words of Nelson Mandela when thinking about the next generation that will lead our country: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

Woo Hyo-eun, a student

at Seoul Global High School
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