Many flock to sign up for the mock CSAT test ― for the vaccine
Koreans are allegedly registering for the mock college entrance exam in September in order to get the Covid vaccine, as the government plans to give test takers the Pfizer jab in August.
According to Jongro Academy, one of the biggest franchises for college entrance exam hagwon (cram schools) in Korea, applications to take the September mock exam at their academy closed only a minute after it opened at 10 a.m. on Tuesday. In some branches, more than 10 times the quota flocked online to sign up for the exam.
The data revealed by Jongro Academy showed that nearly half of the total applicants, or 49.7 percent, were people aged 25 or older. The rate for the age group more than doubled, as last year’s percentage stood at only 22.6 percent.
“We expected the number of employee applicants to increase a bit as colleges of pharmacy expanded its enrollment this year, but the surge seems to be due to vaccines,” said Lim Sung-ho, chief executive of Jongro Academy. “It's unusual for nearly half of the applicants to be 25 years old or older.”
In efforts to protect high school seniors and others who are preparing for the all-important College Scholastic Ability Test (CSAT), the Ministry of Education decided to vaccinate them ahead of the test held in November. As a way to distinguish the test takers from the non-test takers, the ministry determined that those taking the last mock exam in September will likely take the CSAT.
Wanting to join in on the vaccine handout, however, it is believed that a new group of “students” signed up for September’s mock test, not because they want to apply to a university, but to get the Pfizer vaccine — which is considered by many to be safer than the AstraZeneca or Janssen vaccines due to reports of rare blood clots.
The government previously announced the public aged between 18 to 49 won't be eligible for vaccines until August at the earliest, and on a first-come, first-served basis. Which vaccine will be administered is yet to be decided.
Due to the high competition, some genuine test takers failed to nab a spot for the mock test as many hagwon closed the registration earlier than expected.
One user, who identified themselves as a high school graduate retaking the CSAT, wrote, “I clicked the application button as fast as I could but couldn’t register at a single test site,” adding, “It’s the most important test, and I feel like crying.”
"I went to a hagwon to apply for the mock test in September, but half of the applicants for the test were in their 40s," another user wrote. "I couldn't even apply because it was filled up so quickly."
Despite some critics saying the government underestimated the impact of the vaccine incentives, the government said they must give the same chance to everyone.
“We cannot exclude older applicants due to the principle of equality,” Shin Moon-kyu, a spokesperson for the Education Ministry said.
The ministry added it will expand the number of applicants by using available facilities such as schools and education offices at most.
“We asked for cooperation [from related institutions] to allow all of those who wish to apply,” Cho Hoon-hee, director of the college entrance policy division at the ministry, said. “We still have plenty of aid from hagwon, schools and education offices.”
BY SEO JI-EUN, NAMGUNG MIN [email@example.com]