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[Opinion] Blank Answer Sheet

Posted October. 20, 2008 08:44,   


Cheating on tests is apparently a universal phenomenon that has been committed throughout time. History has it that certain students in the Joseon Dynasty resorted to unscrupulous methods to get ahead. They hid pieces of paper with answers in their nostrils or brushes, and secretly conferred with others while taking exams. Others swapped answer sheets or copied answers off someone else. While others used conventional cheating methods, the brilliant literary figure “Yeonam” Park Ji-won did something out of the blue with his answer sheet. He either left it blank or drew pictures on it instead of writing an essay.

Boasting a distinguished pedigree, Park took national exams for a position in the royal court because of his family’s high expectations. He seemed, however, to have no intention of doing well on them. According to Roh Dae-hwan, author of “Joseon Outsider with Deadly Conviction,” Park decided on a different career path after one of his best friends was executed for supposedly owning a subversive book. Perhaps Park left his answer sheet blank in defiance of a dynasty that took his friend’s life for an unacceptable reason.

Fast forward to today. A nationwide exam to test the scholastic abilities of ninth and 10th graders was given Tuesday last week. The exam day ended without much disruption except at one school. Certain students at Sehwa Girls’ Middle School in Seoul either submitted blank answer sheets or wrote the same answer for all questions. What was interesting about this was that it took place in the Gangnam area of Seoul, a hotbed of education fervor. Though Gangnam is not one of the Korean Teachers and Educational Workers Union’s strongholds, the students seem to have been affected by the union’s rejection of the exam.

Education authorities are probing into whether the union’s members encouraged students to boycott the exam. The union blasted the test, saying, “The exam enslaves children to competition and performance, and discriminates against schools with inferior performance.” Students already face high competition, however, and as many teachers know all too well, not taking the exam will not protect them from the competitive environment. If the teachers urged a boycott of the exam, this can be considered their attempt to live in a competition-free environment where they are not subject to evaluation. Parents should ask these teachers if they would want their children to be taught by teachers like themselves.

Editorial Writer Chung Sung-hee (shchung@donga.com)