It’s that time of the semester again!
So now, Korean middle and high school students are preparing for their mid-term exams. Their exams cover the subject areas of math, science, English, history, Korean, PE, home-economics, ethics, and Hanja (Chinese characters). Testing usually spans one week, with one to two weeks in preparation beforehand. During this time, many students spend countless hours studying. There is enormous pressure from the students’ parents to perform well on their exams, and to out-do their classmates. Students who attend hakwons (specialized academies) for English, math, science, etc. will spend most of their class time with their Korean home room teacher. If there is a foreign teacher (like at an English academy where I work at), the foreign teacher may or may not have middle/high school classes. If they do have classes, it may be just to supervise the students as they continue to prepare for their school exams. Here‘s an interesting article detailing some problems of the testing in Korea.
I feel really bad for the students as they prepare. With all the pressure from their parents, and countless hours studying, student stress levels skyrocket! I don’t understand it? Here‘s a short read that encapsulates the frustration of the Korean education system for students and teachers. There is not motivation, no incentive for the students to invest in their own education. It’s all rote-based learning and zero focus on creativity. Many of the students are unable to ask (or even answer) relevant questions to their teachers. The tests are multiple choice and rarely focus on real-world application. Also, these tests (especially the final exams) can determine what kind of university a student can attend. If a student does poorly and is able to only attend a low-level vocational school, his/her parents may not like it. Fears of failure and rejection can have devastating effects on the student’s psyche, and can cause students to slip into a deep depression and in some cases, commit suicide.
Something needs to change. So, what about you? Do you have a story to share about teaching in Korea during exam time? What is your opinion on the education system in Korea?