November—we call it the “stress month”—is one month before the first-ever high school transcript is recorded for the freshies. It is the first permanent record that will go on one’s college application and is one of the factors in determining the university that he or she will be attending. Through a survey of fourteen freshmen, it has proven that approximately 64% of the students felt a relatively high amount of pressure. Students seem to be having a hard time with managing their grades,homework load, and busy schedules after school, having extracurricular activities that take up a lot of time. It is distressing to see how much stress and pressure the freshmen class undergo at such a young age, when students should be savoring their lives.
The pressure to maintain good grades, which amounts particularly from parents and fellow peers, builds up to become a leading cause of stress in this month. When such a drastic change in the grading system occurs in the transition from middle school to high school, it becomes a nearly impossible task for students to adjust and adapt to the new system. Susan Cho stated that “trying to maintain good grades puts a lot of pressure on [her], therefore stressing [her] out constantly.” She is not the only one who feels this way; a handful of other students have critiqued upon the amount of pressure they receive from such a harsh grading system. Duke Moon commented upon the fact that he had never “received an A- for PE before,” and how “keeping [a] high GPA” became so much more difficult.
Although the purpose of homework and assignments is to probe and expand students’ learning, freshmen find a direct correlation between their stress levels and the amount of workload assigned. With the amplifying content materials in multiple courses, more than half of the students that were surveyed claimed that they found “too much homework from all subjects”—particularly Math, English, and World Language. These students, similarly, surpassed the projected time frames, casting further doubts on whether homework is truly an effective tool or rather a distressing method to augment the stress degree of students.
If only one out of fourteen students claimed that Biology class assigned the most homework, why is an overwhelming 43.6% of the students most stressed out by Biology? The reason seems to directly correlate with the first cause: the pressure to maintain good grades. The results of the first Biology test distressed everyone in the grade; the majority of the students received a B or lower. Due to this one test, many students’ grades dropped radically. A plethora of students allege that multiple tests from most departments were graded harshly, particularly Biology, English, World Language (Chinese), and PE. More than ever, students have been filing complaints about the harsh grading of select teachers not only to the teachers themselves, but also to the school office.
As soon as students wake up, they are forced to go straight to school, where they take three classes minimum and come back exhausted. Then, they may go to several cram schools that take up another three to four hours of their day. When they come back home, it is around 7PM at night; the time they finally start doing their school homework, which takes approximately two hours, and perhaps up to four if there is a project to complete or test to study for. On top of their normal school homework, however, there is an extraneous work load, with tasks from clubs or other extracurricular activities—two additional hours. Let us sum this up—eight hours at school; approximately an hour wasted on going from home to school, school to hagwon, and hagwon to back home; four hours at hagwons; two hours for school homework, and an additional two hours to study for tests. Can they manage these tasks without any break? Most of the time—no. With all this workload–and most of the time, even more than what has been mentioned–students are not able to get just an hour of rest.
In order to abate this stress and pressure, various solutions were suggested by both the KIS faculty and the students themselves. Many students admitted to not having been spending time wisely, and thus wanted to focus on managing their time more carefully. Other students claimed that their hobbies, including playing sports, eating, and doing other activities that are distinct from school work or any academic work in general would decrease their stress levels. Namun Ganbold, another freshman student, proposed a unique solution: “Have less students in each class so teachers can easily do one on one with the students; it is easier to learn that way.”
– Ariel Hyunseo Kim (’19) and Sarah Oh (’19)