The Lockup – Continued


*You can read about what encouraged me to write this particular post here*

 

A test is an objective means of analysing who is the best at something in particular. A test is a way to see who is best suited for a particular job, course, or future, so it is the best way to choose applicants, or at least make the decision a lot better, right? Well, no it isn’t. Tests have as many disadvantages as they do advantages for both those giving the test and those taking the test, which I’m sure most of you are aware of.

I couldn’t feasibly or reasonably accuse every test in the world of falling into this category, and I am not going to point the finger at anyone who does or gives tests regularly. What I want to do here is to use Korea as an example of how testing effects not only the people taking the test, but also the rest of the country.

*

 

Korea is a country that, one could say, loves a good test. Tests are used to decide practically everything in terms of a person’s career. There is a phenomenon here that exemplifies this; the country starts work an hour later on the day the national exam for entry into university, called 수능 (Korean SAT), takes place. This so that the students taking the exam won’t get stuck in traffic and be late for the rest of their lives – of course it can always be done next year but when you are under so much pressure to perform and then you have to delay it another year, why would you want to?

It’s a massive national effort to make sure every eighteen year-old has as much a chance as everyone else to do the test. So much rests on this test that people all over the country get behind the students in a peculiar.

The test puts so much pressure on students that many lose all impetus to study hard when they get into an actual university. In fact the competitive and progressive learning atmosphere that you would usually attach to university is removed. This is because once they are in the university they essentially are prepped for their next examination, which is usually for a professional qualification. Students are frequently given high grades because it is recognised that employers look at grades before ability. Students don’t really learn, they just get the qualification without actually being qualified.

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The Lockup


On January 5 of this year I went into the main campus of the university where I teach in Korea. I had been nominated or selected/chosen/drafted in to help with the writing of what is notorious here in the land of the morning calm, that what is, is the pyeon-ib (편입).

The pyeon-ib is a test for students who are already in a university who want to enter another university, usually one that is better. To get in they have to take two tests, one of which is an English exam of 60 questions. Myself and three other English faculty members were here with a few others from scientific, mathematic, and other humanities based subjects to shape upwards of 8000 hopefuls vying for only a few hundred spaces.

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Letter from Korea, Christmas 2010


Somewhere in Gyeonggi-do,
South Korea
9/1/2011

Dear Ireland

Christmas! Yes, Christmas. It was an interesting one to say the least. It was a busy Christmas too, but not in the usual sense because of the news delivered to me on Christmas Eve that I would be spending a week literally in lock up. I had been nominated by the powers that be to be one of the writers for a kind of mid-way entry exam to the university I work at. That’s why my Chirstmas post is coming well into 2011, and not while the tinsel still holds some facet of festive cheer. More about this later. As I said, Christmas came and went, abruptly, but not without character.

Since 2005, when I first came here, Christmas in Korea has been gradually gaining in significance. I am not really sure why to be honest though. Maybe it’s because the kids have eventually turned around and said, well it’s all well and good being sent to an English school and being filled to the brim full of Santa and Rudolph stories, but enough is enough, it’s time Santa made a stopover in Korea; how he gets down the chimney in the Remian and Lotte Castle twenty-five storey apartment buildings is a mystery beyond my powers of comprehension.

Official NORAD (whatever the jaysus that means) Santa Tracker! Truly magical!

Incidentally whilst on the subject of Santa, and completely off the point of my Christmas in Korea, on Christmas Eve I came across a website that provided a Santa tracker, which I thought was incredible but not many shared the same enthusiasm for it. When I first checked it, Old Saint Nick had had his wicked way with South Korea and was in Pyongyang. I wonder how Santa got along there and whether or not it was a busy stopover. Did Santa have to clear his identity and purpose of visit with whichever department is responsible for foreign visits in North Korea. Where did he apply for initial visa? Perhaps there is a consulate of the DPRK in the North Pole. The South Korean government can’t have been too happy with him crossing the DMZ without permission, or did he come from Japan? This can’t have curried too much favour with overly nationalist elements in either North or South Korea. I also wonder what the kids asked for; probably eternal happiness, a bunch of strippers and a container full of Crystal Champagne for Kim Jung-un.

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