College Entrance System in Korea
Arirang TV's new news debate show "Foreign Correspondents", which discusses diverse issues in Korea and abroad with foreign journalists, held a debate on college entrance in Korea and the college entrance exam or college scholastic ability test (CSAT), comparing it with other countries' systems.
This year, the CSAT in Korea was held on November 17. It is an important event for Korean students who want to pursue a higher education. On this day, high school students must show what they have learned over the past 12 years in elementary, middle and high school.
Every year, the CSAT day is a special occasion in Korea: public transit is increased during the time slot when test takers head to their test venues, while public agencies and some private companies start their workday later than usual to avoid congestion. When the English listening comprehension test is held from 1:10 to 1:35 p.m., airplanes are banned from landing and taking off in Korea to minimize noise. Such unusual scenes, which can only be seen on the CSAT day, draw the attention of foreign media every year. Headlines reading, "Korea Comes to a Stop on Decisive College Exam Day" or "The Whole Nation Holds Its Breath on CSAT Day," can be seen in foreign newspapers.
The day when the CSAT is held is a big deal in Korea because, for many years, Korean society has believed that one can live a successful life only be getting into a good college. Frank Smith, a journalist from Iran's "Press TV," said that the CSAT reveals many problems in Korean society: meritocracy, a highly competitive society, conglomerates' economic dominance, and even the plunging birthrates. He harshly criticized problems caused by the excessive dependency on college entrance exams. Another journalist, Markus Bernsen from the Danish weekly "Weekendavisen," said that the bigger problem lies in excessive competition for private tutoring.
Eva John from the French daily "Libération" said the CSAT must not consist of multiple-choice questions and must not be a decisive factor in determining whether students are qualified to attend college or not. Frank Smith from Iran's "Press TV" added that the fundamental problem lies in cramming education methods and the Korean education system itself which undermines the value of the efforts public schools make.
(Link to Video)