Better Believe It......Because They Actually Happen(ed) Collection 1

Juku: an unnecessary evil or vital steppingstone to success?

By Louise George Kittaka

For the past year, Tokyo sixth-grader Manami has had dinner at home an average of four times a week. The rest of the time she has had to make do with a juku-ben, a boxed dinner prepared by her mother and consumed between classes at juku, or cram school.

With a view to entering a private junior high school, Manami has been attending juku since the end of third grade, building up to three weekday evenings and most of Saturday from sixth grade. Three years of late nights, limited free time and piles of homework culminated in a round of entrance exams last month. Manami passed the test to attend her school of choice and can now finally relax and enjoy the remaining few weeks of elementary school with her friends.

The very mention of juku or its English equivalent, cram school, conjures up images of young heads being literally stuffed with facts and tired bodies hunched over desks, leaving many foreign parents shaking their heads and wondering why school isn’t enough.

Full story at The Japan Times (March 2013)

7 Spectacularly Crazy Lessons Taught by Real Teachers

By Chris Fox, Anthony Dannar, A.C.Grimes

We get it: Teachers have a tough job. We don't want to be too hard on these poor bastards; children are objectively terrible. But still, when you're entrusting a professional with the fragile minds of the nation's future citizens, you kind of hope they're not, you know, frothingly insane. But the following teachers were either completely nuts or just having really off days on the job ...

Teacher Orders 6-Year-Olds to Beat Up Another Student

It must be a challenging and delicate task to deal with the problem of bullying among kids. If one of the kids in your class is being a little shit to everyone, how do you nip it in the bud without making it worse? Well, Texas teacher Cynthia Ambrose knew there was only one way: assemble the rest of the students into a tiny little lynch mob to dispense toddler justice.

Full story at Cracked (April 2014)

Rich and Famous: Why Hong Kong’s Private Tutors Are Millionaire Idols

By Dan Kedmey

Kelly Mok first saw Hong Kong’s celebrity tutors blown-up on billboards above the highway and plastered alongside buses. “Are they tutors?” she wondered. They looked more like South Korean pop stars, with their hair cut at a half-dozen lengths and brushed in a half-dozen directions. But the ads clearly labeled them as tutors, albeit “tutor kings” and “queens,” and she wanted to be one.

A few years and several thousand students later, Mok, 27, worked her way up to the title of “tutor queen” at King’s Glory Education Centre. Now it was her face plastered on the sides of buses. “Dad, look,” she said as one whizzed past the passenger-side window of her car. “That’s me!”

To thrive in Hong Kong’s exam-based school system, students must master the art of cramming. The city thus has an overwhelming demand for tutors who can do an end run around the curriculum. Some 85% of Hong Kong’s senior secondary-school students seek out some form of private tutoring, a $255 million industry, according to the Asian Development Bank. “We need some strategies,” explains Martin Hui, a 17-year-old student at King’s Glory, “some tactics that we can use in this war,” emphasizing the last word with a pound of his fist on his notepad.

Full story at Time Online (December 2013)

South Korean students' 'year of hell' culminates with exams day

By Jiyeon Lee

Seoul-Most South Korean students consider their final year in high school "the year of hell." It is when all students are put to the ultimate test.

About 700,000 test applicants sat down in classrooms across the country Thursday to take their college entrance exams -- also known as the College Scholastic Ability Test (CSAT).

The stock markets opened an hour late, buses and subway services were increased and police cars offered rides for students, all to ensure they made it on time.

Younger students gathered in large groups outside school gates, some having arrived at 4a.m. to mind a good spot, waiting to support their school seniors. Cheers exploded throughout the school grounds as test applicants arrived, most being guided by their anxious parents.

"I'm just praying for her. It's the same for all the mothers out here. They're just praying for the best," a mother said, as she stood across from the school long after her daughter had entered.

"I want to give her a hug when it's over and tell her she did a great job up until now," she added.

For many, this one test -- which lasts a good eight hours -- will determine which university they enter. It is considered the chance to make or break one's future.

Full story at CNN (November 2011)