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Tuesday, 17 April 2007

Middle school stress...welcome to Korea!

4, 8, 15, 16, 23, & 42...do these numbers mean anything to you? If you're a fan of the award winning TV drama Lost, they should mean the world to you. On the topic of numbers, I have some more for you to digest. 12, 7, 9, 7, 9, 9, & 8. What the heck do these numbers stand for? They are the number of subjects that my middle schoolers have to study for!

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.

8 comments:

Corey said...

Morals? MORALS? Can you tell us some more about what 35-minute test on morals would include? Is it at least multiple choice?

Anonymous said...

I hope that kid was kidding. 5 minutes is just too cruel.

N said...

That's hilarious and sad.
I wonder why they have to study so much.. I heard from a Korean that university in Korea is a lot easier than in Canada... yet Canadians don't study half as hard as Koreans (to get into university) and they seem to do decently in school...

Remind me to let my kid grow up here.
Natasha

yen nie said...

Gee..this is bad. In Malaysia, high school students take at least 10 subjects 'voluntarily', so that they can win scholarships to study abroad, if they score in all those subjects. The more As you have, the better your chances are. We have even students with 16 As!

lu said...

oh i didn't mention civics and moral education!

lu said...

ooh haha FIVE MINUTES!
interesting post you have there!
koreans have the reputation for having to study very hard! they have the tenacity and willpower; all the way! :)
we in singapore, have more subjects! (for my school)
ENGLISH, MATHEMATICS, SCIENCE, CHINESE, MUSIC, LITERATURE, HISTORY, GEOGRAPHY, COMPUTER STUDIES, PROBLEM BASED LEARNING, HOME ECONOMICS, DESIGN AND TECHNOLOGY, PHYSICAL EDUCATION all crammed in a week. while almost everyone has extra actvities like ballet, piano, tennis etc.! and everyone has tuition for each subject! ( as singaporeans are KIASU!-scared of losing!) HAHA!:P

Gdog said...

corey: Morals...who knows, I'll try to investigate. Some tests are written so it depends on the subject. The first lesson they learn is probably "should we study for our morals class or not?"

anonymous: He was serious. I know this because I asked him three times. Unless he meant to say 50 minutes...but I'm pretty sure it was 5. Another kid commented it takes 5 minutes to load a game!

n: I never studied this hard when I grew up in Canada. Their work ethic puts us all to shame. These kids are always stressed about school. When I tell them how in Canada we just watch TV or play outside until dinner, they get so frustrated and jealous.

yen nie: wow...scholarships would be a definite reward. There is so much competition for university and jobs here that even that small percentile will make a difference. 16 A's...gee, I hope that was your report card ;)

lu: wow, that's a lot of subjects...and it's going to give Korea a run for its money.

kahshan said...

I have indeed heard they studied like hell. When I studied at 연세, my korean classmates were very competetive in most cases and they were all going for A+'s. Only a very small percentage didn't go for it (went for B's I guess).

At least the subjects in Korea are nice to learn (subjects I got in Holland at primary and highschool really sucked big time).

5 minutes of game time...that's too harsh, but I guess they have to, because otherwise their son will lose the fight against the neighbour's...

oh..this blog is really nice.

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