The South Korean city of Daegu is coming under fire from parents and education activists for another teen suicide in the area this year. Eleven children in Daegu have taken their lives in the last ten months. The problem, activists contend, is the culture of university admissions. Young students are forced to study day and night, while school and extracurricular activities constantly emphasize the importance of “getting into the best university.” Students decry their “hopeless existence” in school when examinations and academic performance take over their life.
The Leader of the Korean Teachers and Education Workers Union’s Daegu Chapter explains, “The high number of recent suicides has been linked to grade-related problems and school violence. The problem is intensifying and it’s very frustrating that they keep just suggesting more regulatory measures.”
Students have no place to seek help in an educational system obsessed with national examinations and university admissions. Daegu’s Superintendent of Education attempted to prevent the problem of suicide by installing metal screens on school windows. Locks were also installed to limit roof access. Wedges were built on windows to prevent them from being opened further than 20 cm. Parents and activists contend that is not a real solution.
Teachers are also burdened with performance measures and have little time to build closer relationships with their students. Academic ability is the most important measure. The Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology evaluates each school’s test results after the national aptitude test each year, which amplifies the worries of teachers and principals. Thus, students are pushed to work harder and harder, as test scores determine both their personal and career prospects.
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