Though I’m not currently an English teacher, as a past teacher of literature I stumbled upon this video of the Korean SAT English Exam and I noticed a few things about the questions and the teachers reactions.

These English teachers anser question from the Korean SAT exam, raising interesting questions about educational quality and university expectations.

Many of them ask “why” have a test like this for a second language? They don’t understand the purpose or why it’s so hard. The students writing the Korean SAT are trying to be admitted to universities. What will they be reading if they study at a higher level? It doesn’t really matter, because the test isn’t judging whether or not they can necessarily speak or read English, but rather if they are able to process and (quite possibly create) information at an academic level.

Regardless of whether or not they study English, the majority of their thesis work or readings will be in academic English and requires a very high level of vocabulary in order to truly understand academic writing. For the majority of people this might considered “academic dribble” or insanely over-complex, long-winded, and abstract.

Culturally speaking this is a difference between university education in the English speaking world vis-á-vis other areas of the world that follow traditional academic models. Many regions of the world continue to see university studies as elite and a smaller section of society. Why permit barely academics to study at higher levels if their language skills (in their native language or otherwise) are not upp to snuff?

In American, Canadian, and some British universities, the concept of academia really has been transferred to higher levels, i.e. masters or doctorate studies. But wait, why is that? It wasn’t so long ago that university wasn’t a rite of passage, or an exclusive opportunity. Over the last hundred or so years, or maybe even in the last fifty years for some, academia has seen a watered down version of undergraduate degrees. It begs the question, how does my Bachelors degree from 2008 compare to that of 1970 or even now in 2019? Have the requirements or expectations shifted? My gut reaction is, yes… dramatically.

Reactions are “when are they ever going to use this real life?” Well therein lies the cultural misunderstanding; the purpose of university education is specialised, theoretical, and research focused. It’s not supposed to be for everyone, despite it being a populous shift. Upper secondary education has been watered down, which then forces undergraduate studies to be watered down and it trickles down all the way. Where does the puck stop, so to speak? Where does education say “thou shallt not pass”? It’s a tricky question, and as an educator myself, it’s a moral dilemma. It comes down to access of knowledge or access to education.

If many of my former students were to take this Korean exam and expect to study at university, their receipt of a good result would tantamount to them being cleared for study in any area. Without this kind of fluency or at least vocabulary, they would be setting themselves up for either failure at their uni programme, or an immense pressure to increase fluency in a very short period, which all language teachers roll their eyes at, because learning a language takes time.

Going back to what the teachers asked, why would someone need to know this? Well that’s exactly the point! What is the purpose of a university education? Is it to gain knowledge, or to prepare oneself for work? I think I’m opening up a can of worms here, but I think you can surmise the answer.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to be elitist, but sorry-not-sorry. I can only reflect on my own education, my own experience, and what I experienced at university (in different countries by the way). I tend to be against standardised tests at a lower level of education, but for university studies I’m all for it. Not only does it create a realistic expectation for what is required to study and be successful (not an economic machine of the university, by the way), but also filters out people that might be better suited to study other areas, at least temporarily or until they change their mind and commit themselves in a different way.

It’s easy for me to pass judgement on these people in retrospect, but would I have passed an exam at age 17 like this? I can only speculate, and despite being more than ten years older, I wrote a past exam for fun, and I received a high score. That makes sense, since I was a good student, have taught English at an upper secondary level (both for natives and ELL students), I already studied at university and at higher levels, but I also think I would have been able to pass back then. It might have been hard, but it would have been a real eye-opener for me to see if university really was for me. A good measure of if my language ability is suited to academic reading and more in depth study potential.

Is university a protected places of thinkers, philosophers, researchers, or a rite of passage for a particular culture. What do you think?


Face à face tendu entre étudiants et forces de l’ordre devant l’université de Caen
Desfoux, Jean-Yves, L’Ouest France, 06/05/2009

Des centaines de manifestants d’un côté et les forces de l’ordre de l’autre se font face devant l’université de Caen, au campus 1. Après avoir placé des amas de détritus sur la chaussée, les étudiants ont été chassés par les forces de l’ordre, qui ont tiré des grenades lacrymogènes pour les faire reculer. Les services de la voirie dégagent en ce moment la rue, sous protection policière.

And so the violence begins and continues. I seem to be completly unaware of this, seeing that I live in the quiet district, but the police have been involved for the last month, and this week it’s gotten violent. I don’t blame them either, the students that want to go back to classes haven’t had classes since November, and they are all being held off by hooligans that want to sleep in and can’t even bother to make it to the strike marches! Shameful, the caennais!

Let’s review my lovely reality, as it’s been in the last few weeks, without leaving any ambiguities.

I have 20 hours of courses this semester, broken down as follows:

Mon.: 5hrs
Tues.: 5hrs
Wedn.: 5hrs
Thurs.: 3hrs
Fri.: 2hrs
Total: 20hrs

According to our lovely Academic Calendar, at least three hours should be consecrated to doing work for every one hour in class. Let’s do the maths.

20hrs x 3hrs = 60hrs/week

Let’s not look at how many hours there are in a week:

24hrs x 7days = 168hrs/week

Now let’s look at some hypothetical sleep patterns:

a)  8hrs/night x 7days = 56hrs/week
b) 4hrs/night x 7days = 28hrs/week

Now let’s look at the daily break-down of hours, not including shower, food preperation, eating, and sleep:

Mon.: 5hrs, thus 15hrs work = 20 / 24hrs
Tues.: 5hrs, thus 15hrs work = 20 / 24hrs
Wedn.: 5hrs, thus 15hrs work = 20 / 24hrs
Thurs.: 3hrs, thus 9hrs work = 12 / 24hrs
Fri.: 2hrs, thus 6hrs work = 8 / 24hrs

Logically this means that for 3 out of the 5 school days there are not sufficient hours in the day to do everything and sleep at a minimally-recommended length of time. Now let’s look at the required 8hrs of sleep that I need to function correctly:

Mon.: 5hrs, thus 15hrs work + 8hrs sleep = 28 / 24hrs: fail
Tues.: 5hrs, thus 15hrs work + 8hrs sleep = 28 / 24hrs: fail
Wedn.: 5hrs, thus 15hrs work + 8hrs sleep = 28 / 24hrs: fail
Thurs. 3hrs, thus 9hrs work + 8hrs sleep = 20 / 24hrs: pass
Fri.: 2hrs, thus 6hrs work + 8hrs sleep = 16 / 24hrs: pass

After intrepreting these results I feel as though it’s impossible to complete things, while still leaving room to breath, relax, eat, or anything else for that matter. And this is why I’m uncontactable during the beginning of the week, my friends. If I were in contact with a sharp object other than my nail-file, then I’d be impaling myself with it as we speak.

Simply speaking: It’s impossible for me to do well, or to complete that which is expected of me. What the heck am I supposed to do?

And now for the grand finalé as to why I’m not impressed at this very moment…

  1. My housemate has pink-eye and refuses to do anything about it; therefore making others suseptable to her illness
  2. I don’t have time or patience to be sick at this point
  3. I have too much to do tonight.
  4. My day:
    1. 08.00 -> Wake-up
    2. 08.30 – 12.30 -> Studying for quiz
    3. 12.30 – 13.30 -> Semi-lunch-bitchout in Conserv
    4. 13.30 – 14.30 -> Quiz and boring lecture
    5. 14.30 – 15.45 -> RCMP Background Check being delayed
    6. 16.00 – 17.10 -> Free time
    7. 17.30 – 18.30 -> Aerobics class
    8. 19.00 – 20.30 -> SAN Meeting
    9. 21.30 – God knows when: French circle meeting
  5. Someone’s using the washing machine on my fucking day.

Okay people; let’s get real for a minute. The only day and time that I have available to do my laundry is a 2 hour window today and when I come home it’s in use. I know it’s a girl, with lots of pink stuff, so that narrows it down; but seriously I don’t have any time. I have a meeting tomorrow all day, and tennis tournament all Sunday.

Like it or not, you don’t get your shit your day, cause I’m taking it. Don’t like it, lump it, cause I’m not a fucking pushover.

In other news, my Revolutionary Literature professor, is a stylish person. She had the nicest shoes on today; and it was casual Friday. What’s up with that?

Guillotine me!

What idiots, my stupid internet service provider. They disconnect our second phone line, and don’t switch the high speed internet to the other one! You would think that it would make sense for them to do that but noooo.. They are stupidheads!

Anyways, I am on Dial-up *gag me now* and realized that I can’t do half the stuff I want to do because everything is soooo slow! I just want to barf and then drown in it.. ANYWAYS

Everyone is going back to school now and this makes me sad, since I’m not! lol The long weekend approaches and I am debating whether to Montréal as a spontaneous trip for a few days, we shall see. As for other developments, Jeroen my Dutch friend arrived in Canada at my university for his exchange. He decided to go there since I convinced him, but sadly he went the same year that I am going abroad, sooo… Perdiciament, yes! From what I hear, he has heard very much about my ‘famous’-ness and everyone there knows me so he feels special, but he’s also sick of people telling him he’s hot.

Sigh to the people who are good looking, like it makes no sense.. You guys bitch about getting hit on, an the rest of us pathetic souls bitch about not getting hit on. A viscious cycle of visciousness it seems. Sad, but true. Oh well I told him to just don’t get invoved, since he’s only there for 3 months, and he’s shy, and he speaks good English, and the university is 80% female. I never realized it until I looked at my Facebook and most of the people there are females, and I was shocked. But when I think about it now, everyone you see on campus is girls, even in administration. Weird, oh well!

I’m glad I’m not there for a year, I can get away from all the girly-drama that they pull you into. THEY ARE VISCIOUS I TELL YOU >> VISCIOUS! BE VERY AFRAID!