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S Koreans sit for key exam as flights halted to limit distraction

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I have given university entrance exams of 9 hours but staggered over 2 days.

Competitive entrance exams preparation burns out many students who are just teenagers, so much so that many of them don't really work as hard when they finally make it to the top ranking universities of their choice. Thus defeating the very purpose of competitive entrance exams.

8 ( +11 / -3 )

These kind of extraordinary measures are just exacerbating the huge problem these examinations represent, it is not socially healthy for people to have their future decided in such an arbitrary way so the Korean society should be looking at ways to move away from it instead of perpetuating the idea of everything depending on how well a student does for it.

8 ( +11 / -3 )

The last test I ever took was the 日本語能力試験 some 20 years ago. I told myself, "This is the last test that you will ever take." Fortunately for my physical and mental health, that has been the case.

11 ( +12 / -1 )

Better hope you don’t get sick or have diarrhea on that particular day. A very outdated system to allocate university slots but not my concern.

4 ( +8 / -4 )

@Shunryū Suzuki

Why is testing still so popular in South Korea and Japan but almost extinct in many Western nations?

Because they don't have affirmative actions and legacy admissions; all admissions are decided strictly by test scores, the only absolutely fair way to do it.

And it works; in Korea, the lawyer's child and the street cleaner's child has the least score differences in the world, and only 5% of law school students' parents or grandparents were lawyers or judges.

@EvilBuddha

so much so that many of them don't really work as hard when they finally make it to the top ranking universities of their choice.

Not at all in Korea, because they still have to compete for positions with big corporations post graduation, unlike in Japan where pretty much all college graduates get multiple job offers before graduation.

Due to Korea's labor law, those who make it to big corporations are set for life, like $150K/year salary, full suite of benefits package(Housing subsidy and full scholarship for children, even if it's US Ivy League schools), a retirement payment of $500K ~ 1 million USD.

The result is that the most qualified new hire at Sony isn't qualified to apply at Samsung, and you see the result; Sony can't compete against Samsung.

So Korea's infamous extreme education works well for Korea's big corporations in producing world class workers and why there is no call for a change.

-17 ( +5 / -22 )

Why is testing still so popular in South Korea and Japan but almost extinct in many Western nations?

Someone has never heard of the SAT, ACT, or GMAT.

19 ( +21 / -2 )

Kinda looks like they have their phones on the table and bags etc. Surely can't be a real photo of the exam room.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Shunryu Suzuki: "Why is testing still so popular in South Korea and Japan but almost extinct in many Western nations?"

Popular in China, too. As to why? They still believe rote memory testing is the best way to somehow prove ability in any and all fields.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

all admissions are decided strictly by test scores, the only absolutely fair way to do it.

Number of reasons why this argument holds no water.

A teenager of 18 years age is in no position to make up his mind as to what field he wants to get into.

Mostly it's peer pressure and parental pressure that makes teenagers compete for such entrance exams, but what an individual wants to do in life or which career one is really interested in is often clearer to a person much later in life.

There is no way to determine that someone will excel in a particular field based on university entrance scores, since the university entrance tests are quite generic in the first place. (Even if it's a STEM course, can you really tell if someone will become a better aerospace engineer compared to another based on a difference of few marks in a high school physics exam? )

There are often cases of hard working teenagers who get into top universities in courses of their choice but end up working in totally different careers because of reasons of higher pay, better job satisfaction, interest among others. That means what they studied in university is of no relevance to what they currently do.

On the other hand there are also umpteen examples of people going to lower ranked universities but then becoming excellent in their chosen fields.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

The poor students can only hope for a missile launched from North Korea, flying over the sea of Japan to generate sirens, that will stop their nine hour test!

-14 ( +2 / -16 )

Too many want to go to university and get useless or hard to apply degrees. Get a history degree. Well, you can be teacher, work in a museum, or be some kind analyst but those jobs are few and far between. Still better than a degree in English or French literature. Students are being duped into getting a university degree as well as going into debt to pay tuition. The only degrees that actually have real value are ones like science, engineering, or IT.

There is a myth that blue collar jobs are low class and undesirable yet they provide essential services that people need: plumber, electrician, construction worker, etc. Going to a trade school instead of university should be just as desirable. Many teach technical skills too like graphic design, CAD, interior design, etc. They're not all blue collar jobs. Yes some blue collar jobs require physical labour that you can't do forever but the point is by that point, you could own and be manage your own business.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Worked with a person at SONY who had a Southeastern Asia Cultures degree. Her job was doing data entry. Her parents were famous, running a well-known, Japanese company. I never understood why people would get a "soft" degree like that, one with very little direct use in getting a job or work near their desired place to live.

OTOH, I got an engineering degree. There was never any question that I'd be employable across many fields. I've been practical much of my life. I've always had multiple job offers when I wanted to leave a position. Very little stress over finding work.

I suppose the world needs people who study extremely specialized areas, but they need to expect their first 10-20 yrs post-university to be hard until they figure out how to either get the skills that are desired by corporations or create their own niche.

As I get older, I see the way that people who started out seeking non-practical degrees help the world as much as many engineers and IT people do. Their different views (at least different from mine) can be a great reflection.

If everyone got only STEM degrees, the world would become pretty boring.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

It is madness to abuse children like this and should be criminal.

-4 ( +2 / -6 )

This is very brutal and suicidal, I watched on television where one poor kid was stressing out to perform well, when he didn't his dad was very angry that his son didn't get the score he needed. The poor kid thought not only did he fail himself and his parents but had become useless in a society that basis success on a test score.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

a) the test is how long?!?!

b) is this test really worth grinding everything to a halt? Seems a bit dramatic and honestly abusive, given how it's linked with teenage depression and suicide in South Korea.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Success the OLD FASHION WAY. It is traditional hierarchical classes or separation between elite and ordinary. Limit opportunities for success, self esteem, hope&dream for those may not afford EDU to prepare for the not so meaningful exam, and worse yet, persons livelihoods may be decided by a few hours of pressured/constrained time to show what a person is capable of. Outdated and need to be re examed for good of society. Also, this stupid exam caused suicide and severe depression from failures for life.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

quote: A teenager of 18 years age is in no position to make up his mind as to what field he wants to get into.

By 18 you know what you are good at and what you are rubbish at. I pushed the envelope by starting A' levels at 16 with primarily science subjects and switching after the first term to primarily humanities. Very few students switch later than that. University in the UK starts at 18.

Exams are used because students can get 'help' for the rest of their coursework, but are on their own in their exams. UK exams were in the summer at peak hayfever season, and I suffer from very bad hayfever. I did all my exams including my uni finals before any decent medication was out and it was grim. I think they should hold exams in winter.

quote: what they studied in university is of no relevance to what they currently do.

That has always been the case. Much employment didn't match any degree subjects. Degrees are not just about content, but about logical thinking, project planning, critical understanding etc.

There are now specific courses for many jobs - degrees in tourism or rock music etc. These are often sold as 'best practice' apprenticeships with the added kudos of a degree. In many cases, students may be better off learning on the job and working their way up.

quote: can you really tell if someone will become a better aerospace engineer ... based on a difference of few marks in a high school physics exam?

No. Whenever you move up a level in education, the previous qualifications you had are ignored. In the UK, if you have a degree, nobody cares what you did for A Level and what your scores were. If you have a PhD, nobody cares about your first degree.

In general, it's just about getting the certificate to move up a level or qualify for a job. The 'better/best university' is largely snobbery. It seems to matter much more in Asian countries where it appears to be baked into the culture. In SK, that includes the year of entry, placement in year etc. In the UK, in most areas, and in most jobs, nobody is too fussed about your score or what you studied.

Some universities do have better reputations for specific subjects. Kids know this and tend to aim for them. Some employers will focus on them and in some subjects, it allows you to network with classmates and staff. But if you are good enough, you should be fine. Good employers focus on the individual, and you don't want to work for a bad employer.

Education is formalised in SK for cultural reasons as much as for skills and ability. If you up the stakes, people behave more, focus on it (rather than politics), and it gives you a hierarchy. There is a cost to this in lost childhood, cram classes, stress and teenage suicide. It also wastes a lot of talent - kids that are not good at exams or who develop later. SK's conscription also exists for such cultural reasons, rather than to produce soldiers.

quote: The only degrees that actually have real value are ones like science, engineering, or IT.

Untrue. You get stacks out of humanities and social science degrees, partly content for various careers, partly developing your skill set regardless of the job you do. And don't forget teaching degrees.

quote: There is a myth that blue collar jobs are low class and undesirable.

Blue collar jobs are key to our society, but the work is often low paid. It is possible to make a good living though, particularly if you work for yourself. Being a plumber or electrician is generally a secure and profitable occupation. It is also a very good side hustle, as training and certification isn't too expensive, and people are always going to need toilets. There is no shame in earning your corn, partly or wholly with physical labour.

quote: If everyone got only STEM degrees, the world would become pretty boring.

Agreed 100%. And right now, large numbers are being laid off from tech companies.

Is the exam really 9 hours or is it split with food and pee breaks? I did way more than 9 hours of exams in total at 16, at 18 and again at university.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Criticize the South Korean and Japanese tests all you want, but these students have to study for this test. So it's not the way other countries do it, so what. In the US students score low on grammar, math, higher math, literature, science, and history. The education situation there is bad and some things are not even taught anymore. At least these Asian kids know that stuff. No system is perfect but this one is actually superior to the US system. One day the lack of knowledge the US students show will work against them in society and it will work against society as well.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

So it's not the way other countries do it, so what

The argument is not that other countries are doing something different, the argument is that from a social health point of view this is negative and should be avoided. Choosing a terribly bad example you can find to say this is better is not exactly a good argument either, SK university admission scandals are not exactly something unheard of and prove this approach is not enough to correct the problem, and instead create others that are as serious.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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