Suicides a lesson for education system

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Suicides a lesson for education system


If offered a chance to turn back time, what would you say? I would politely turn it down. In fact, it is dreadful to think about going back to the old days. I have more memories of agony, frustration and chaos than happy moments. I am also not confident I could do any better if I were given another chance; I especially don’t want to go back to my teenage years. I feel fortunate to have been born more than a few decades ago.

If I were a high school student today, I wouldn’t be able to enter into the college of my choice. I would not get into a college in Seoul, much less one of the top three universities. I cannot imagine dealing with the tremendous stress and pressure. It is beyond my capacity to manage transcripts, get community service points, win awards, learn advanced materials and read many books.

Besides, teenagers today have to deal with school violence and bullies. A more critical difference is the involvement of parents. I am thankful to my parents for their hands-off policy, but in fact, my parents did not even know which school I was attending or what major I was studying. “Do as you wish,” they said.

Nowadays, wealthy grandfathers and knowledgeable mothers are not enough. College admissions have gotten so complicated that 203 universities have 3,189 types of admission criteria this year. It is nearly impossible for students and parents - not to mention college advisers - to understand each and every criterion. The diversified admission process was created to select students from various backgrounds, but we wonder who benefits from such an overly complicated admission process.

The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology surveyed 31,364 middle and high school students in July, and 40.3 percent said they have considered dropping out. Of those, more than four in 10 cited their grades. It is quite serious when four out of 10 students admit they have considered leaving school. Korean education is suffering from a severe illness.

A few days ago, a high school senior threw herself from a high-rise in Seoul. In her pocket was a handwritten note saying she could not live up to expectations. The day before her suicide, another high school student killed herself in Daegu. Last year, 150 teenagers committed suicide in Korea. How many more suicides do we have to suffer before changing this horrible education system?

Stanford Prof. Tina Seelig, the author of “What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20: A Crash Course on Making Your Place in the World,” says the experience of failure is more important than academic grades. Failures in youth can become significant assets in life. Those who have experienced failures learn from their defeat and perform better at work. Therefore, she suggests hiring people based not on skill set but on a failure resume. Now that I have grown older, I know for sure she is right.

* The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Bae Myung-bok

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