First round of admissions results for my high school came out today. 285 middle schoolers applied for 96 spots, and today 50% of them got cut. My host mother has told me that the announcement page has racked up nearly 6,500 views in the two hours since it's been posted...It's safe to say that the competition for admission into the high school where I teach is fierce. It is one of only two science high schools in this entire province (although are more in the Busan metropolitan area, which is technically not part of the province). It just so happens that the other science high school, located in Jinju, is the most respected science high school in the country, while mine is one of the newest and doesn't really have a reputation yet. A fellow Fulbright teacher, Ryan, teaches at the science high school in Jinju. I like how that makes us rivals!
Anyway, as I mentioned in the previous post, the admission interviews for the middle school students who want a spot in the incoming freshman class took place yesterday and the day before. It was two grueling days of interviews: the first was an oral exam to test their math and science know-how, and the second was an interview geared toward their character. Of the 130 students who were selected for interviews, exactly 80 will be offered admission (28% of applicants).
Having come from the public school system, I knew I'd be in for a few surprises as I got to know the system. It seems so similar to the hyper-competitive college admissions process. Everything is highly confidential; my co-teacher couldn't tell me what the questions of her interview were until they were all over. Even so, I do recall the teachers who were in charge of creating the questions on the math and science portion of the interview holding an urgent meeting on Monday to finalize (or come up with?) the exam content.
What surprised me the most was the helicopter parenting. Obviously, the middle school student applicants' parents were very keen on having their child do as well as possible on the interviews. How that translated to the parents' intent to hang around campus literally all day as they waited for their brainiac child, I don't know. I saw parents napping in idling cars (so wasteful!) and others standing in small groups by the school's entrance gates, just looking intently at the building. I really couldn't fathom why they didn't just go to work. My co-teacher said that it was a similar situation to the day of the 수능, when some parents hold onto the bars of a school's gate and pray for the entire nine-hour duration of the exam.
Nevertheless, I'm kind of second-handedly excited about the exams, because in about a week, I will know the exact makeup of the new first-year class that I will teach next semester! I'm sure they'll be bright, although I know now what to expect of their actual English levels. My co-teacher also says that due to the fact that middle school students can only apply to one specialized high school, the best of the best of the best all take their chances with the science high school in Jinju, and our school attracts what you might call the second tier. Well, to that I say: no big deal! I'm already looking forward to it.