November 21st, 2011
06:30 PM ET

Zakaria: Why all of South Korea went silent

By Fareed Zakaria, CNN

Those of you who watched our recent education special saw the exhausting study habits of South Korean students. The culmination of that pressure was last week when almost 700,000 South Korean high school students took the test they had spent all those hours working toward.

It was a wild scene outside test centers as younger kids cheered on the heroic test-takers as they arrived. Police motorcycles even whisked the late ones to school.

But when it came time for the high schoolers to begin the grueling nine-hour exam, silence was the order. Planes were grounded, honking was banned and teachers refrained from wearing squeaky shoes for fear of distracting the students. Relatives prayed outside the school gates for good results.

Why all the fuss? Well, it's widely believed in South Korea that this test determines which college a student will go to, which company they will then work at, the size of their eventual paycheck and even whom they will marry. That's pretty intense pressure.

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Topics: Education

soundoff (298 Responses)
  1. too school for cool

    fan death (wikipedia it)

    December 13, 2011 at 1:09 pm | Reply
  2. from south korean student

    i'm in south korean high school now, preparing final exam.
    the south korean high school starts at 8:00 a.m and finishes at 10:30 p.m. or more in the case of other school.
    u guys wil never understand...haha
    so much pressure that many students sucide.
    b-cuz the final exam decides ALL thr rest of our life..
    we place high value on the education.
    society don't accept poor scored student..we have to SURVIVE.
    it sounds like joke i know.. BUT lt is real for us in korea.
    hope it would be an useful imformation for those who are curious about south korean education.

    September 17, 2012 at 11:22 am | Reply
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    November 16, 2012 at 7:02 pm | Reply
  4. Chinmoy

    Wow!! Finally found someone with all of my bkcngrouads! 😀 I agree the stares can be intimidating at first, but once things settle, you really come to love being mixed!

    July 5, 2014 at 10:01 pm | Reply
  5. Cemre

    My experience comes from wonrikg in television/advertising. We see tons of people who purposely try and skew the data in order to make more money by making it into the smaller, physical focus group tests that take place after we do the large, dial group tests as they watch either the TV programs or groups of commercial advertisements we are testing in theater-like settings (sometimes even actual theaters in smaller cities). Obviously, we can't take the bottom 10% (haters) or the top 20% (lovers) as their comments won't help improve the product (and there is also the fine balance of not driving away the core audience with what we are being told are improvements by these surveys). And, after being in the biz as long as I have, I've become so cynical and jaded that I fill out all surveys as a 95-100 year-old, rap-listening, reality TV-watching, female, especially since it seems once can't escape all those annoying pop-up ones all over the Web.

    July 21, 2014 at 11:37 am | Reply
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