More than half a million students in South Korea last week took a nine-hour examination that is crucial not only for securing spots in top universities, but is also considered key for elevated social status, lucrative careers and even marriage prospects. The enormous pressure on students in South Korea's ultra-competitive education system has been blamed for teenage depression and suicide rates that are among the highest in the world. The government delayed many office openings to make sure students could get to testing sites. Later, aircraft landings and takeoffs were stopped during an English listening portion of the test.
Class discussion: Are you ever anxious when preparing for a big exam? Can you imagine the anxiety of students facing a nine-hour exam that could determine the course of their life? Do you ever feel great pressure to perform well in school? Are standardized tests a fair way to measure achievement or your ability to succeed in life? Has the growing emphasis on testing led schools to “teach to the test” instead of teaching students how to learn? Finland uses no compulsory standardized testing, but its students regularly outperform the rest of the world. Does cramming for a multitude of exams keep students from simply enjoying learning something new?