“I’m a talented individual who is very diligent.”
“From a very young age, I was very interested in cars. I wish to become a car engineer.”
Bluntly praising one’s qualities and telling life experiences that do little to stress one’s abilities or academic prowess are only some of the pitfalls students can fall into while writing self-introductory essays, South Korean education firms that offer lessons on composing essays say.
They offer a service that a growing number of students are turning to in their arduous struggle to enter college, as universities have begun placing more emphasis on test takers’ writing skills.
Education authorities have been moving to highlight nonacademic aspects in the college admissions process as part of their efforts to alleviate the students from the burden of intense test competition.
But a glaring problem with the new approach is that students have been left without any training from their earlier education in how to write such essays, leading to the bitter irony of some students plagiarizing other people’s life stories or getting private tutors to write their personal introductions.
There have been complaints that Korea’s high school curriculum is overly focused on preparing for multiple-choice tests like school exams and the annual college entrance exam known here as the “Suneung.”
In a hasty response to such criticism, the ministry revised the curriculum so that each high school student could select an essay class in school, starting last year.
But with no formal textbooks developed by the government yet, essay-writing education is still predominantly conducted in the private sector.
“Throughout my middle and high school days, I’ve never even learned how to write. Yet I suddenly have to write an essay about my life for college. So, naturally we have no choice but to turn to private education,” said a high school senior at a Seoul-based school.
By Yoon Min-sik