Overzealous Korean parents are driving their children insane by forcing English down their throats, Chosun Ilbo reports. While this craze is not new, there is now a medical term associated with the nervous breakdown the kids suffer as a result.
English Fatigue Syndrome! Yes, really. And this starts at a very early age. And the parents are to blame.
The Korean education system and parents have two goals: 1) getting into a top university; and 2) showing off.
Even middle school students would start their day at 6:00 a.m., come home around 4:00 p.m., and then hit the library or private tutoring classes until late in the evening. Then come homework and studying until exhaustion overtakes concentration.
To get into either the Seoul National University, Korea University or Yonsei University (collectively known as SKY), Korean teenagers start studying in middle school to get into a reputable high school, which they hope will give them a better shot at the dreaded College Scholastic Ability Test [CSAT].
The importance of English, the world’s de facto official tongue, is stressed on these kids starting in elementary school, if not earlier. Most parents would do almost anything to give their children an edge in English. Some pay for expensive tutors and classes. Scolding their kids to be more like their friends who are better at English comes naturally.
The sometimes violent explosion as a response to the pressure to learn English is called “English Fatigue Syndrome,” Chosun Ilbo said. And a growing number children are boycotting English, screaming “I want to kill English!”
The English education business is a US$10 billion industry, according to Chosun. It would be hard to escape or avoid such a big phenomenon. What, isn’t your child taking extra English classes?
All this stress and pressure lead to frequent suicides. South Korea is already well known for its high suicide rates. One survey showed that about 63 percent of students have thought about suicides. Why? It’s because they are drilled to believe they are a failure unless they get into a top university to make the family proud. Granted, there are far fewer alternatives in Korea than in the U.S., for example, for those who do not make it to college.
The Korea Times talked about a government program to curb suicides in both adults and children, but it failed to mention poor grades and pressure to get into the top schools as common reasons. There are no immediate signs that suicide rates among teenagers are dropping.
As this 2004 Education Ministry chart shows, there are only about half as many seats available in regular universities as there are students taking the CSAT. The enormous emphasis placed on this one exam, has led to an annual anti-CSAT festival.
Then again, school pressure is not the only reason Korean students commit suicide.