Korean exams, and mark fixing…

On Wednesday something happened at school that made me just about as mad as I have ever been.

Korean students study hard. I mean really hard. They have so much pressure on them. Parents pushing them to succeed. Mid terms, end of term tests, university entrance tests. Literally all the time. I feel really sorry for the kids, and they get themselves so worked up into a panic everytime they hear the word ‘test’.

So here is my point. This week my school ran some tests. The reward for the top 5 students was a trip to New Zealand. This is paid for half by the school and half by the kids family. To a load of Korean kids that have probably never been out of the country before, let alone on an aeroplane, this was a huge deal and a fantastic opportunity for them. They took two tests. I have no idea what the first one was as I was not asked to be involved. The second however I marked personally, as it was a speaking test.

Come Wednesday and the scores from the two tests were counted. Two students in 5th and 6th place both had exactly the same overall score. I then spent the next hour trying to be persuaded by one of my teachers to just add an extra mark in to one of the students so that this would not be a problem anymore. I refused. I did so for two reasons. Number one they had both worked really hard and did not deserve to be cheated out of a place on the trip. I remember when I was in school and at 11 years old I was banned from going on the school trip to France for being a ‘maverick renegade’ or ‘general pain in the arse’, however you want to look at it. The point is I was totally gutted, and that was all my own fault! Imagine what it is like for these kids to miss out. The second reason was because the kid that they wanted me to ‘bump’ up the score for was, in my opinion, the worse student. He got 90/105 on my test whereas the other student got 97/105. She also applies herself a lot more in class and has a stronger desire to speak English. The argument in the boys favour was that he “had a headache on test day”.

I did the only fair thing and offered to give them both a shot and did a retest with a bonus question. She won again by a clear margin, and thus this settled it fairly and she got the bonus point. I teach both of these kids, and testing aside which I know can be difficult and stressful, she is much better at English. That was the criteria.

So I chose her. It went down on the marksheet and was thus official. Later that day I was told that they had given the place on the trip to the boy and had already phoned the girls parents to let them know of the change. Basically they gave it to her, and then they took it away again! Angrily I enquired why. I was told that the other student’s sister had been given a place on the same trip two years ago and therefore it would be ‘unfair’ to give the place to the same family. I was so mad. After attempting to reason with them, and argue that she had won the place on her own merit and worked hard to earn it, it became apparent my arguments were falling upon deaf ears.They kept using the word ‘fair’. “It is only fair that it goes to another family”. Ridiculous. I told them that I abhorred this decision and completely refused to condone it. I think they were pretty stunned and just assumed I would agree. It also made me realise that this was the reason they had been trying to persuade me to give the bonus point to the other kid in the first place. Imagine if you worked really hard for something, only for it to be taken away because your sister had got there first. I would be so mad…


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