When the second semester started off, many students left behind their beautiful summer vacation with an unwilling farewell. Winter vacation was far and distant, waving its hand at the other end of the semester. Yet, students were not intimidated by the impending semester. The holidays were the reason, welcoming them from the very beginning of the semester. After they returned from this dreamy break, however, what was waiting for them was not a comfortable school life; a formidable amount of workload piled up during holidays, welcomed them instead.
Holiday = Blessing?
Blessed are the official holidays in the first half of the second semester.Chuseok, which ranged from Wednesday to Friday, harbingered the series of joyful holidays. Following this five-day-long holidays, came the National Foundation Day and Hangul’s Day in the first and second week of October, respectively. That sounds like long enough vacation for students who would otherwise have no chance to kick back during the semester. Yet, there came one more surprise gift in November.Korea University (KU) took one and a half days off for the college entrance essay test. Throughout second semester, KU students took almost a week off, leaving their class workload snowballing during holidays.
The manners in which make-up classes were done, albeit varied in detail, all led to the same conclusion; they chafed against students. Shortly after the holiday, a problem slowly took shape as professors announced make-up classes, most of which were informed just a day before. As a response to these unscheduled make-up classes, complaints finally erupted on students’ side. Though both professors and students agreed on the necessity of make-up class, they differed in a way of carrying it out. In most cases, the professor made an arbitrary decision on when to open a make-up class, leaving students with no other option but to acquiesce.
▲ Cancelled class will come back later. Photographed by Kim Na Young.
Some professors in the science department even stepped further by speeding up. “As holidays approached, professors delivered the lecture in a great rush. I think it was at least twice as fast as he normally did. And students, you know what would happen, were totally lost. Of course I understand he meant to make up for lost class hours in holiday, but it was gone too far,” cried Kim Rak Joon (’13 Environmental Science and Ecological Engineering), in an accusing tone.
Complaints kept going on. Kim Min Ji (’13 Foreign Languages and Literature) pointed out the inconvenience caused by the make-up class that fell on Saturday, saying “he did not notify us of when the make-up class will take place. Then it suddenly fell on Saturday morning, which bothered me a bit.” Yet, not all students staged complaints.
Some students rather rebuked the complaining students. Oh Ji Yoon (’13 Foreign Language and Literature) cast back a quizzical glance and added “it was an official holiday, when professors, as well as students, deserve to take a rest. It sounds a bit absurd to see students fault professors for make-up classes, which they rather should accept with gratitude.”
Among varied opinions on this issue, professors came up with rather different viewpoint. Professor Shin Young Ja (Chinese Language and Literature) pointed out the inefficiency of make-up classes by saying, “students were basically unprepared, and most markedly, the attendance rate was strikingly low.” As her account went, another dilemma of make-up classes appeared. Professors themselves already acknowledged the inefficient nature of make-up class either on a weekend or at late night. Yet, they cannot forgo a make-up class as they bear obligation to meet the minimum required teaching hours. Such entrenched red-tape in the school system is what lurks in the center of this problem.
School System Is To Blame
In KU, professors set the date of the make-up class. Therefore, they have long been the target of students’ whining and criticism. That somehow paints professors as the most blamable group in this matter. The truth uncovered, on the contrary, identifies the school system as the perpetrator. “I personally hope the school will set an official make-up week before the final exam, and I think it will partly give professors a chance to make up for lost class hours. If the required class hours are already met, then this make-up week could be used as a last brush-up on the topics they covered before,” said Professor Jeong Ji Su (Chinese Language and Literature).
The rigid school system does not work in accordance with this viewpoint, however. It rather hands responsibilities over to professors, without providing clear guidelines on the make-up class issue. This blurred, unclear system has ballooned the problem up to this point, finally sparking a large-scale student complaint across the campus. “I think we should take a different approach to this problem. Instead of summoning students at an unwanted time period, we can extend each class time by five minutes to make up for lost hours, or we can simply assign more homework to catch up with the growing workload. Though these ideas are not refined enough to materialize, I think there must be a better alternative that can replace this rigid system,” said Shin.
So minor yet so intrusive a topic, it is an issue on make-up classes. Though no measure has been officially taken by the school, one thing is evident: A class without a well-structured plan, that can deal with unexpected class cancellation, will not be as small a problem as commonly perceived.