Noonsong has had a dream to become a reporter, so she is an enrollee in Myeongoenjae, a class offered at Sookmyung Women's University to help students prepare for examinations. Noonsong was looking forward to the programs in Myeongeonjae. Because she felt it might be beneficial to prepare for her examinations with tips and advice learned from experts, so she enrolled in the class. However, the content of the class was very different from her expectations. There was a lack of communications with the guidance professor, a lack of exchanges with classmates, and a lack of scholarship. Then, is Noonsong’s decide to enroll the class wrong?
Examination preparation at Sookmyung
Sookmyung provides students with programs such as Employment support programs and overseas programs for their careers. There are also classes for Sookmyungians who want to go to law schools or become diplomats, journalists and civil servants. To help students succeed better in the examinations, Sookmyung established special lectures and classes which help test-takers to be prepared with needed supplies which enables them to focus on the preparation for exams. By offering these programs and materials, students would be able to gain more information and increase their motivation. Also, with such opportunities, it is expected to increase pass rate of students, which would lead to better image of Sookmyung, creating a positive synergy effect. Many Sookmyungians have called for more active examination preparation classes because they believe it will help them fully concentrate on the exams. Currently, Sookmyung Women's University offers five exam preparation classes. The "Law School Preparation Class" helps students prepare to enter law school, "Sookjeongwon" helps students prepare for a diplomat candidate certificate and the 5th-grade international trade examination, "Myeonghwarang" helps students with preparation for the 5th-grade administrative and technical certificate, "Sookjiwon" assists with preparation for the certified public accountant exam, and "Myeongeonjae" helps students prepare to enter a media company. Sookmyung Women's University established an integrated examination preparation class support center in 2013 in the Myungshin Building addition. The university promised to use the new center to share information and data related to certificate examinations as well as to be more active in helping students study for the exams.
The most representative way Sookmyung Women's University assists test-takers in the examination preparation class is through the provision of scholarships. If students, who enter the dormitory upon a recommendation from their professor, pass the first round of the judicial exam, the public servant 5th-grade (administrative, technical, foreign affairs) exam, and the certified public accountant, they can receive up to an equivalent of one year’s dormitory cost. In addition, students who pass the first round of the judicial certificate, the 5th-grade of the public recruitment exam, the certified public accountant, and patent attorney exam receive full two-semester tuition coverage. Students who pass the second round receive full tuition scholarships after passing it. Special lectures, distribution of mock tests, and classrooms where students can study are provided, but many students have said they are not very helpful. One student said, "The Examination preparation class center moved from Myungshin Building to Guguk Hall. This made the space to become narrower, and the environment for studying has become uncomfortable. Also, the number of students per class was capped to 18 per classroom." Another student said more information is needed and should be shared because there is a lack of communication with students who have previously taken the exams. It would be beneficial to actively promote exam information exchanges. Like these concerns, many voices at Sookmyung have called for more various support with more and improved examination preparation classes and information sharing.
No support, No students
In response to these concerns, SMT asked students their opinions on the examination preparation classes. According to the SMT survey, 121 of the 134 (about 90%) respondents said they thought support for the class isn't enough.1) Various answers were given as reasons. First, 98 of the 121 (about 82%) respondents who said it lacked support wanted more learning program support. One Sookmyungian said, "The universities who have many qualified accountants can offer additional tuition fee discounts in cooperation with academies preparing for accountants, but Sookmyung doesn’t. I would like to see they start supporting students with similar benefits." Besides her wants, students wanted financial support for learning programs such as invited special lecturers and more diverse teaching materials. Next, 65 of the 134 (about 54%) complained about the class size. Sookmyung Women's University selects the preparation class enrollees after they take a selection examination. Because the number of students admitted to the class is limited, not all students who wish to join the examination preparation class are allowed to participate. The students who fail to get admitted have to study for the exams on their own, which might result in fewer students passing the exam as they are not supported by the school. Then, since there will be few successful test-takers, it would be difficult for current test-takers to get advice on how to pass the examinations. As a result, It leads to a vicious cycle of dropping the acceptance rate. Another concern was the absence of various examination preparation teams (23.3%). At present, there are five examination classes at Sookmyung Women's University. There are no patent attorney classes nor 7th or 9th grade public servant preparation classes. According to the questionnaire, however, these were the classes most sought by students. Even the 16% of the respondents who said that they are not in the exam preparation class, said the class was not what they expected or wanted. Because classes are not meeting the needs of students, problems have developed.
These problems are evident at Sookjiwon. Students at Sookjiwon expressed dissatisfaction not only with the above discussed concerns, but also with the dormitory system provided by Sookmyung. Unlike other classes, Sookjiwon students who were recommended by their professors are given the opportunity to enter the dormitory even before passing the first round of an exam. However, unlike at other universities, such as Hanyang University and Dankook University, that offer dormitory rooms to test-takers as they prepare for exams and are partially exempt from full boarding fees, Sookmyung Women's University is all about qualifying for the dormitory. Qualifications for the dormitory application also are ranked, so some students are eliminated based on qualification; their basic rights are not guaranteed. Under these circumstances, one former Sookjiwon student said, "The school's support is insufficient. In particular, the school's financial support is insufficient, so I received financial support from my professor for the exam. Also, because of COVID-19, students cannot enter classrooms. Most schools in Seoul are open, but Sookmyung has yet to open classes, so Sookmyungians are at a disadvantage. I want schools to clarify how to deal with COVID-19." As this student states, the real problem is a lack of school’s support.
What we want
Sookmyungians would like a fast solution to these situations. First, many have stressed the need to set up more various examination preparation classes. The patent attorney examination classes and 7th and 9th grade public servant preparation classes are in high demand according to survey results, so Sookmyung needs to start discussion on their possible opening. Next, students would like more assistance and learning programs. Of the 121 respondents who wanted more learning support, 110 respondents hoped for more financial support such as teaching materials and lecture reductions. 99 respondents said they hoped for more frequent mock tests, and 96 hoped for vitalization of information sharing within classes. 86 respondents would like more learning spaces, and 63 respondents would like to see opportunities for consulting with professors. Overall, students generally indicated an urgent need for more learning support. Students who mentioned financial assistance hoped for fee reductions and increased scholarships. In addition to wanting more sharing of information within class, students said they would like upper year classmates who passed the exams to be available via SNS to pass on advice or respond to questions. Also, because the current examination preparation class is limited to a certain number of enrollees and the physical space has been reduced, it has become difficult to study. Students want this to be resolved. Those who said they would like more consultations with professors hoped their professors would show more interest in the class and actively support students’ learning. Responding to such a request, SMT tried to hear the position of the school, but it was unable to contact the school.
Ewha Womans University and Chung-Ang University are typical schools that provide such assistance. At Ewha Womans University, professors in administrative science, political diplomacy, and law are in charge of setting up timetables for mock tests and providing correcting answers to the tests in examination preparation classes. Besides national examination preparation class, Ewha offers special lectures for each different certificate exam. These implementations such as correction and guidance would benefit students at Sookmyung Women's University. Sookmyung also has experts in relevant fields who are capable of creating and marking mock tests, and in some classes, professors are doing this on their own with students at a student’s request. With financial support, the lack of interest among professors, one concern among students, would be solved. Chung-Ang University also operates classes that meet the needs of students. CAU established examination preparation classes within each of its colleges to increase students' access to the classes. For example, within the School of Economics, CAU offers a financial examination preparation class, and within the Department of Early Childhood Education, the school offers a teacher certification preparation class. In addition, CAU provides up to 400,000 won (about 340 dollars) in tuition reductions and book cost coverage per semester to ease the financial burden on students. Such policies would take time if Sookmyung Women's University were to implement them because class establishment and financial support is not determined by student demand, but by financial budgeting. However, if Sookmyung were to conduct an investigation into existing examination preparation classes, it would discover the weaknesses and learn of students’ wants, which would better the classes and increase the preparation effectiveness. That is, while the amount of support students receive from Sookmyung depends on the school budget, administrators must acknowledge that the examination preparation class is essential for many students and to the development of Sookmyung Women's University.
Sookmyung’s given role
Sookmyung Women's University currently operates a law school preparation class and four examination preparation classes. It is the school's role to encourage those interested in passing public servant exams and other certifications, and to work together with students to ensure success. It is necessary for the school to listen to the voices of students dreaming of passing those exams and take appropriate measures such as establishing a study environment in which students are able to fully concentrate on examination preparation. Also, many are expecting for the establishment of programs that help students.
1) The total number of students enrolled is 12,391, with a survey participation rate of about 1.1%.
Na Cho Seongah / Reporter
Sang Lim Hyeji / Reporter