A Modest Proposal Regarding Stress, Life, and Homework

South Korea’s education system is hailed as one of best in the world. It boasts a 99.3% literacy rate, and South Korean students continually claim the top scores for international tests. The culture surrounding education in South Korea is generally positive – teachers are respected, parents are knowledgeable about their children’s educations and trust school systems, and schools educate their students for the present as well as the future. However, a deeper glance at South Korea’s education model reveals deeper sacrifices and problems students must go through in order to obtain those high scores.

Starting from middle school and beyond, the pressure for Korean students to outperform their peers dramatically increases. Because Koreans believe in the model that grit and hard work can overcome any and every obstacle one faces, Korean students are not evaluated on talent, but on how hard they work. It is instilled in each of them that if they work hard enough, they will eventually reach the top of the ranks, and there are no excuses to why a student is doing poorly in school.

This model leads to 18-hour days full of classes and no extracurriculars. The typical South Korean high school student starts school at 8 o’clock (with students usually waking up early to study before school) and ends at 4 o’clock like any regular American student. However, the similarities stop here. After school ends, students stay in school for the required study hall hours, not allowed to complete homework that they were assigned that day, but forced to study other subjects. These study hours can extend past 8 o’clock in the evening, with a short break for students to eat dinner. After study hall is over and students are finally allowed to leave school, many of them go to special private cram schools for even more studying. Students can finally go home after they have finished their classes at cram school, but they do not immediately relax. They still have the homework from school that they need to complete, which will take a few more hours to do. By the time students fall asleep, it is already 2 am.

These grueling days of intense learning and little rest cause soaring amounts of stress in South Korean students. In fact, the leading cause of death in South Korean youth is suicide, fueled by the pressure-cooker education system. 

As a possible solution to the problem, I humbly provide the following: given that it is the loads and loads of homework that is weighing students down throughout the day and giving them so much stress, I propose that the school days be extended from 7 hours to 24 hours a day. That way, there would be no work that students need to finish at home.

I have a friend in a distant galaxy, where the education system is based on experiential learning. The students there receive no homework and live 24 hours a day on their school’s campus. He says that every student is happy because they finish all their homework before they go home, and that each one adequately and receives plenty of good life experiences.

In addition to this friend’s testimony, I hereby give 4 reasons for the implementation of this change:

Firstly, no student would have homework-induced stress and sleep-deprivation. This means they would be able to focus better in school and have a happier life overall.

Secondly, if the school day were extended from 7 hours to 24 hours, school rules could be imposed on students for the entire day, meaning that under no circumstances would the students not be under surveillance and security of the school. This would give the school a more active role in the students’ lives: any firewalls active on the school network would prevent students from viewing objectionable content for the entire day. Finally, school-wide internet shut off and bed-times would ensure that students receive enough sleep and do their work without procrastinating.

Thirdly, given that students would be able to focus better in class, they would learn much more. This would mean that every student would be given the tools in life to find a good job, instead of wasting their time on inane problems from the textbook.

Fourthly, as it is said that practice makes perfect and immersion is the best learning experience, a 24-hour schedule of school work and a 24-hour immersion in learning would give the best of both.

So, in light of these solid four reasons, I support my humble proposal to the education system. I can see no opposition to my claim, except those who might say that spending 24 hours at school turns students into heartless creatures without family time. However, it is possible for the school to hire residential counselors, who step in as the students “foster parents”, and who give the students the necessary family time and life lessons they would from their real parents. I have been told that this system works quite well in a distant high-performance STEM academy.

You must trust my word on this, because I cannot benefit from it if the system were to be implemented. I am an old man with children who are all adults, and a wife past child-bearing age, so I could not possibly benefit personally from it.

This article was written as a collaborative effort between Acronym’s finest: Xinyu Guan and Lily Trancat

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