S. Korea’s high school seniors under more stress ahead of key exam

SEOUL: From avoiding family members to skipping extra study at "cram schools", the coronavirus has forced nearly half a million South Korean test takers and proctors to rethink their strategies ahead of a hyper-competitive university entrance exam this week.

The gruelling, almost eight-hour test today is seen as a life-defining event for high school seniors. A degree from a prestigious university is seen as a minimum requirement for securing one of the coveted but limited corporate jobs in Asia's fourth largest economy.

This year teachers, proctors and students drastically changed their study and teaching practices to try to ensure those taking the test do not ruin their chances by getting sick.

"We take caution not just in classes but also during lunch, sitting facing the walls, eating alone and not talking at all," said one teacher who will also serve as a proctor, speaking on condition of anonymity as she was not authorised to talkk to the media.

After delaying the exam by two weeks, the authorities have prepared 31,291 test venues nationwide for this year's exam, nearly double the number from last year to allow more social distancing.


Some venues are specialised to accommodate at least 37 students with confirmed infections, and another 430 in quarantine, Deputy Education Minister Park Baeg-beom said yesterday.

All students must wear masks and will be separated by plastic screens.

For students who are suspected to be infected, proctors must wear protective equipment and collect exam papers in plastic bags and wipe them before handing over to the staff outside.

South Korea reported 511 new cases as of Tuesday, bringing the country's total to 35,163 with 526 deaths. - REUTERS