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South Korean students' 'year of hell' culminates with exams day - CNN.com - 0 views

  • Seoul (CNN) -- Most South Korean students consider their final year in high school "the year of hell." It is when all students are put to the ultimate test.

    About 700,000 test applicants sat down in classrooms across the country Thursday to take their college entrance exams -- also known as the College Scholastic Ability Test (CSAT).

  • For many, this one test -- which lasts a good eight hours -- will determine which university they enter. It is considered the chance to make or break one's future.

    In a country where more than 80% of high school students move on to higher-level education, getting into a prestigious school is all the more competitive. The final year leading up to the test is one of most intense periods students will ever experience.

  • Many test-takers will give up sleep, living sometimes on only five hours of rest a day throughout the year. Family members live nervously in fear that they will disrupt the mood of their high-school child.
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  • South Korea's obsession with education and academic success is rooted in Confucianism. The long practice of equating social status with academic achievement has left behind a tradition of pouring everything into studying.
  • From elementary school ages, South Koreans will spend many hours in cram schools after their regular classes. Almost 75% of the student population last year took up private education, according to the Ministry of Education.
  • For a senior high school student, a study routine will include self-study sessions at school, cram school classes and more self-studying hours late into the night at private cubicles. This is all on top of their regular class hours.
  • The psychological burden is such that South Korea suffers from high student suicide rates. More than 200 students committed suicide in 2009 and about 150 the following year, according to Ahn's Presidential Advisory Council on Education, Science and Technology.
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