Lessons to be learned from the SAT fiasco

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Lessons to be learned from the SAT fiasco

I took the SATs, or college admissions test, two years ago. I had my test schedule all planned out, with the May SAT being my final shot before applying to college early decision and the June SAT reserved for the rest of my SAT subject tests. Convinced that this exam will have a weighty impact on the future of my career, I devoted numerous hours of intense concentration and tons of papers filled with dense scribbling to obtain the dream score of 2,400.

I ended up not getting the magic score - or one that comes close to it for that matter - but my score, although I like to believe it fails to perfectly display my academic potential, bore a personal significance in that it is nevertheless the fruit of my efforts.

Many students share my experience. Unfortunately, this year in Korea, some of them were not even offered the chance to perform what took them months, if not years, to prepare.

To be more exact, these students were the victims of the illegal and unethical demeanor of a small group. With the suspicion that some private tutoring companies had leaked the SAT test material prior to the exam, the U.S. College Board canceled the May 2013 SAT exam in Korea a few days before its date. The company considered it the only way to maintain the integrity of the test administration process. For some, this exam might have been their last opportunity before applying to college.

The immoral decision of this minority substantially taints the reputation of the nation at large. In the eyes of foreigners, Korea is no longer just the country thriving with delicious spicy food or with hilarious horse riding dances of Psy. It is also the first country whose cheating attempts made the U.S college admission test to be revoked nationwide.

This is not the first time that such kind of disaster involving dishonest test took place. Perhaps, and unfortunately so, this will not be the last either.

It is a sad fact that unchecked desire to succeed consumes the mentality of teenage students, however few. It is an even uglier truth that those behind such mindset are the adults, parents and teachers, who are expected to instill positive influence by setting an example to follow. Instead, they are eager to see the score - the result.

What they fail to perceive is the value of education and its implication at large. From when was education a shortcut? What is the point of getting into prestigious universities, if they are undeserved and way out of scope? What, or more relevantly, who will they come to become through such means? These kinds of scandals will continue and the purpose of education will still be prone to perversion without the proper answers to such fundamental questions.

My younger sister, who is in her junior year of high school, is worried about her impending SAT. While I hope she does not feel that her score defines her, she wants her 2,400 as a reward that reflects her huge amount of effort as a non-native English speaker. But hey, 2,100 or a 2,000 is good, too.

*Lee Kyoung-won, First year student at Columbia University
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