<#309 Student Column>
KAIST Tragedy Is a Preview of Ours
By Lee Han-na, Guest Reporter
We "Korean Twenties" have been in severe unrest. We are entering into an excessive competition system that only a few can survive and are forced to struggle in a game where the result is already determined. Friends are no longer "friends" but rivals or competitors. We live each day in fear of having to drop out and become a loser in society. In such an atmosphere, four students at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) took their own lives this year.
The reason for these tragedies is presumed to be the School President Suh Nam-pyo's education policy, including a relative evaluation, punitive tuition system, classes in English, etc. Many people think the tragedies are not independent of his policy and its problems. However, they hesitate to strongly criticize that he pushed students to study harder than ever and make students with low grades pay punitive tuition even though all KAIST students are offered full scholarships, entirely supported by citizens' tax. We struggle in unfair frames such as freedom vs. responsibility, laziness vs. diligence, or complacency vs. competition.
There is a lot of controversy over when, how, and why these frames had been formed, but the obvious fact is that they are present and exert their influences indiscriminately on various parts of society, even education. President Suh's policies or systems are also the result of the frames. However, is it right to apply these frames to education, putting discussion of other fields aside? To understand this question better, I suggest imagining how the things would turn out under these systems. Student would study harder and raise their scores in nervous tension. They would be busier trying not to lag behind other friends and to stay caught up with their studies. By the way, they would most likely take easy classes rather than hard ones and have no time to enjoy or reflect on their lives. They would become indifferent to social problems but preoccupied by personal ones. Finally, they would be unable to mature autonomously and creatively in various social relations, instead falling slaves to their master's desire.
It is despicable for educators not to make an effort to think how they can educate students well but to drive students to heavy competition with material and mental punishment. It is abandoning their duty as educators and it just serves to control students easily. In the context of limitless competition, all values are standardized through figures and imagination and creativity cannot be generated. For these reasons, such an attitude to teach students mass-produces only drones.
CNU is not untouched by the horrific event although it has not yet happened in CNU. The KAIST tragedy is a preview of ours, and the threat has been made stronger because of the possibility of incorporating the National University. Its hands tighten around our throat by requiring efficiency, speed and results.