UPDATE : 2020.6.15 Mon 08:55
The Joseon Dynasty’s scholastic ability test: past system

Surpass our History of 4300 years, would the national test like scholastic ability test exist? The Joseon Dynasty had a test similar to today’s scholastic ability test. The origin of the test and our country’s first national test is a historical system. The first introduction of the system was during the reign of King of Goryeo Ghang Jong in 958, to strengthen royal authority. Therefore, Goryeo had the opportunity to realign bureaucracy and establish the foundation of the state. The importance of the past system was getting bigger and bigger, so test rules also became more complicated. Entering the Joseon Dynasty, the past system began in earnest based of the metaphysics government official. Nowadays, there are so many ways to succeed with not only scholastic ability but also lots of other ways. However, at that time, to succeed, it was the only way to become a public officer. Joseon Dynasty people could earn a lot of money with business, but they had to lay their face and head down to the ground in the presence of noblemen because of a caste system. Becoming a nobleman through the past system was the only successful way to reconstruct the family for Joseon Dynasty people. In the past system, considering all social positions, the poor were excluded and only nobleman's children could receive education because of caste system.

Then for the past system, what did they study? When 7~8 nobleman’s children attended the village school they learned “chun ja moon”, “myong sim bo gam”, and “sa su sam gyong”. They could graduate from the village school after completion of this course. After graduating from the village school, local students went to “hanggyo”, and Seoul students went to “sabu” school. “Hanggyo” was established in the province, and can be compared to modern middle school. Likewise “sabu” was ‘middle school’ in Seoul. Other points of “hanggyo” and “sabu” were that sabu’s students took a test every month for 5 days and the point was grades for a year that reported to the king.

The historical scholastic system consisted of five levels. People who passed the first and second step, “sogha” tests then they could get into the best educational institution, sungkyunkawn. Usually about 60,000 people took this test, but only 200 passed the examination. Sungkyunkawn was the place that the most talented people gathered. They didn’t tuition or dormitory fees also there was no vacation like college nowadays. Instead of vacation, every month on the 8th and 23rd, they could return home and wash their clothes. While in sungkyunkwan life they took “wonjeom” that a circle must be overcome for 300 points then take the 3,4,5 step of “daegwa” test. “Daegwa” had three tests, and every three years 200 people selected from sungkyunkwan students and among them, 33 people were selected for final selection. In front of the king, the selected people which wrote their answers on sheets were usually far more than 10m. Then finally the king, in front of 33 people graded and ranked and then accepted the top grade called “jang-wongeubje.” For comparison, “jang-wonqeubje” is like entering the School of Medicine in Seoul National University. I think that today, entering the School of Medicine in Seoul National University is easier than “jang-wongeubje” of the Joseon Dynasty. Even just thinking about how terrible it sounds, I thank my parents because I was not born earlier.

By Seo Seong-il, cub-reporter

Seo Seong-il  -

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