Recently, the ratings of Sky City, a popular TV series on education in South Korea, have soared, breaking the record of JTBC. It is a black comedy about Elite parents fighting for their childrens education.
Perhaps it has poked up a lot of pain points in South Koreas middle class, so that there has been heated debate on the Internet. The vast majority of Tucao is centered around the college entrance examination.
Every November, thousands of South Korean high school graduates will enter the college entrance examination, which determines their fate. On that day, all over the country, South Korea will be surrounded by candidates.
Some parents kneel in temples to pray for God and worship Buddha. Airplanes are suspended during English listening tests. Businesses postpone working hours to ensure smooth traffic. Late students can also be escorted all the way to the examination hall by police cars.
Public education relies heavily on personal expenditure
In Korea, many students have been crowded with blood to enter first-class universities since kindergarten. After 12 years of weird upgrades, they have to approach the Ivy League universities in Korea, namely Seoul National University, Koryo University and Yonsei University. Students who fail or are dissatisfied with the results can re-take the exams within one year.
According to the BBC, only 2% of the hundreds of thousands of people taking the college entrance examination have access to such universities. According to the New York Times, a Korean student preparing for an exam usually does this one day:
School 10 hours, eat a dinner in a hurry, study by oneself at 10 oclock in the evening, go back home to study or go to soulless study room, cram school.
Due to the huge market demand, the Korean cram school business is becoming more and more prosperous. According to the Wall Street Journal, a makeup English teacher named Kim Ki-hoon earns $4 million a year, most of which comes from students who listen to him online for college entrance exams.
A 2014 government survey showed that among the 30 countries surveyed, Korean children were the most unhappy, and the most direct reason was academic pressure.
In 2014, South Koreans spent $18 billion on private education to improve their childrens chances of being named on the Golden List. According to the Han Nationality Daily, this figure is evidence that public education in the country is heavily dependent on personal expenditure.
According to Foreign Policy, cruel free-market education provides more chances for children from wealthy families to succeed, but it also creates a gap in the quality of teaching. The remedial schools for the children of the rich and the poor differ greatly in the quality of education.
A society obsessed with examinations
According to ThisWeekin Asia, white-collar workers in any industry and popular positions in big companies such as Samsung and Hyundai require passing various examinations and obtaining a series of qualifications. Even after finding a job, almost all forms of promotion in the professional field require examinations.
About two-thirds of South Koreans aged 25 to 34 have university degrees. In order to get a decent job, many people choose to put their social life, dating and marriage on hold.
Most people in their 20s or 30s come to the library every day like me to study for similar exams to become government officials, police officers and firefighters, said a South Korean man who has repeatedly failed in civil service exams. I think about 80% of people are in the same situation.
Shin Gi-wood, director of South Korea Program at Stanford University, said that Korean society is also very age-sensitive. Most companies set age caps for candidates. Those in their 20s or 30s who fail to prove their worth in the job market will find it harder to do so later.
In a society with insufficient mobility, Koreans seem to be able to prove their worth only through constant learning and examinations, but some people say that the more they learn, the greater the pressure.
Education was not a privilege
According to Atlantic Monthly, Koreas examination system has developed for centuries. The origin of college entrance examination can be traced back to the science examination system of Korean civil servants in the 10th century, which is the only way for ordinary people to enter official positions and a means to safeguard moral authority. It was not abolished until the end of the 19th century.
During the colonial period of Japan, Korean peoples access to education at or above the primary level was limited. During World War II, illiteracy prevailed in the country, with only 5% of adults receiving primary education. At that time, the only university in Korea mainly enrolled Japanese students.
In the 1950s, the modern form of college entrance examination gradually formed. Although Korea has experienced war, political and economic chaos, it has made some progress in universal education, which is no longer the privilege of certain strata.
In the half century after the end of the Korean Empire, there were more than 180 universities in Korea. Among the college-age population, the proportion of men and women who passed the examination for higher education was higher than that in most European countries.
However, in the 60 years since the modern college entrance examination gradually matured, its nature and proportion in the admission criteria of universities have been controversial. More and more scholars are calling for a more diversified university admission system.
Some analysts say that this obsession with exams helps South Korea maintain a good place in the global school rankings. In 2015, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) ranked the second highest in mathematics and science among students in the world, after Singapore. The organization also found that in South Korea, more than 70% of high school graduates enter four-year universities.
However, both students and parents pay a little more for it.
Source: Foreign Affairs Author: Editor-in-Charge of Fang Chen: Li Hang_BJS4645