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Merit More Than Academics

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By Dr. Marciene Mattleman,

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - Kim Min-sung is a typical South Korean high school student. He hates school – especially in November on the day that students take exams that determine their futures. Twenty-percent reported feeling tempted by suicide.

The country, regarded as a miracle, leads most nations of the world in student performance. Top achievers of the multiple-choice tests get into prestigious universities guaranteeing jobs for life. “The one-shot society,” an article in The Economist, describes the nation as having “risen from Barefoot to Broadband since 1960.”

But the system is breaking down. Parents spend large amounts of money preparing children for exams, flextime and working at home are frowned upon and the birthrate has fallen from 6 to 1.5 per woman.

The president, seeing the changes, talks of a fairer society, urging firms to consider merit more than academics. As the old rules are being questioned and young people are becoming innovators, the nation is moving toward much needed change.

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