I awoke this morning to an eerie quiet. Normally, there are police and ambulance sirens, children playing, mothers haranguing, cars honking, vendors squawking, and engines revving. Today there was none of that. I didn’t even hear any dogs, cats or birds. It was disturbingly quiet.
Had I awoken the midst of a zombie apocalypse? Had everyone been eaten but me? Thankfully before I ran screaming into the street, I remembered it was High School Test Day.
Every second Thursday in November is high school exam day. The Korean school year starts in March so November is practically the end of the scholastic year. Students who are in their last year of high school will spend today writing a series of tests that will make or break their future.
I cannot imagine the pressure these poor kids are under. Today they will be tested on everything they have ever learned in their lives, and the results of this one day of testing will decide their future. Will they get into a great university? A good university? Or no university at all? No wonder the suicide rate among Korean teens is so high.
According to my co-T, it is the most important day of their lives. And so, Korea being a group society, does all it can to help. The first hour of testing is a listening test. In order to help the students concentrate without the interference of outside noise, schools and businesses open an hour late, ambulances and police turn off their sirens, cars aren’t allowed to honk near high schools, and even airplanes are grounded for that hour.
Imagine not allowing airplanes to fly over your country for an hour so high school students can write a listening test? Amazing. This was part of an article in the newspaper:
“…to help students pay undivided attention during the listening portion of the test, all aircrafts, both civilian and military, will be prohibited from landing or taking off, from 8:35 to 8:58 a.m. and from 1:05 to 1:35 p.m., for a total of 53 minutes.
Planes in flight will have to maintain an altitude of over three kilometers during the designated times, and wait for confirmation from a control tower BEFORE descending.
The requirement, will apply to all planes flying over some 12-hundred test sites nationwide. This means, flight schedules can change as well, so passengers are strongly recommended to confirm their flights with their airlines in advance.”
My co-T also told me that some taxi companies will drive high school students to school for free. The police also help – they can be seen standing guard around high schools, ticketing anyone who honks, and if heaven forbid, a student manages to sleep through their alarm, the police will drive them to school.
The test answers are available after 6pm tonight so assuming the poor kids are still awake, they can see more or less how they did right away.
If a student fails the test, they can re-write it again next November. But failure really isn’t an option in Korea.
If you would like to know more, this article is excellent. http://www.economist.com/node/21541713