Four times a year these students have major exams for all subjects in their schools. I cannot even imagine how it must feel to have to study for so many subjects. So around exam time the stress levels increase for these students. Can you imagine studying for 12 subjects, along with doing school homework, attending academies after school, and completing academy homework? It's absolutely insane, but these kids have to work their brains into overtime to accomplish it.
Seriously, with all that on your plate, when do you have time to play? That's right--YOU DON'T! My students tell me about their non-existent weekends spent "studying". They are usually woken up early by their moms to study on the weekends. Oh, I forgot to mention these students have school on Saturdays too. You can feel the tension from these kids when we have to do quizzes in class or assign essays. Immediately they start the "NOOOOOOOOO teacher!!!" whine and plead their case. It's a hard one to ignore but I explain to them all that matters is that they try their best--it's the only thing they can do.
The complaints about homework don't stop there. I have elementary students in grade five that stay up past midnight completing their homework (middle school students stay up late too). Try to think back to when you were eleven years old. What time did you go to bed? 9pm? 10pm? Some of my students stay up to 2am and 3am completing homework! What's even funnier is they have to wake up at 6am or 7am to get ready for school. The study and work habits of these kids put university students to shame.
Here's a picture of all the subjects that one of my students has to study for...all freaking TWELVE!
Tests are on average 25 multiple choice (or multiple guess) questions with five choices each. Each test lasts around 35-50 minutes. That may seem like a short test, but try cramming information for twelve subjects, including languages!
On the lighter side of things, last week I came back to my class after the break and I found this written on my board:
You read that right, it says "Killer. Cut to the neck." Umm...right, thanks for the message. Korean students are obsessed with video games and first person shooters, especially the homegrown Sudden Attack. On the topic of computer games, I had an elementary student proudly inform me that he scored 100% on a science test (way to go!). His reward from his mom? Five minutes to play computer games. Gee, thanks mom.