He was playing a legal video game when they called from the Carlos III University, where he had taken the EVAU (Evaluation for University Access) exam. It was 10 in the morning this Thursday and her mother took the call: “They have told her that I am the first in the Community of Madrid. My mother does not understand Spanish well. She has passed me the phone. I have told him the news. We both looked at each other and we couldn’t believe it”, laughs this young woman who has achieved a 10 in the EVAU. The only one of 38,000 applicants from all over Madrid. This is Hai Park from the public high school. Jaime Ferrán, in Collado Villalba, a population of 63,000 inhabitants. “I’ve been running around the house with happiness,” says the 18-year-old. “I want to study a double degree in Law and International Studies. I am Korean and I came to Spain as a child, I have experienced the two different cultures. I would like to be the link between the two countries, create ties, ”she says excitedly. She only 10 years ago she did not speak Spanish.
The next thing Park did, after calling her father, a tour guide, was to get dressed and ready to go to school, where the media were already waiting to interview her. She moved to Spain at the age of eight because of her father’s studies and she has clear goals: “I want to be a prosecutor or a lawyer. Help people and fight injustices and bad guys,” she says. Her choice of her university career is vocational: “I am very interested in justice reaching all people, that there be equality.”
Schoolchildren of Asian origin grow up in Spanish classrooms: in 2014 there were 65,000 and 89,000 last year. Of these, 17,000 enroll in Madrid. Foreign students drop out twice as often as those who were born and raised in Spain, according to data from the Ministry of Universities, so Park’s achievement has a special value. When Park, her only daughter, arrived, she did not know “not a word of Spanish” and her parents enrolled her in a class at the El Enebral de Collado public school. “She did not know how to speak, not even the alphabet in Spanish,” she says.
The Asian community attaches great importance to education – families in Japan, China or South Korea invest enormous amounts in their children’s private classes – and this culture of academic effort explains why they do not leave the classrooms soon. The repetition rate of foreigners in Spain (50%) is more than double that of Spaniards (22%).
Different national and international studies show that women drop out less often and get better grades than men, but when it comes to facing a situation of great pressure, they perform worse. It occurs in Selectividad and in the MIR (Resident Internal Physician) exams. Park acknowledges that when she came out of the exam she was very uneasy. The night before she had not been able to sleep well: “EVAU seemed difficult to me. Everyone was saying that it had gone badly for them and I said: it must have gone badly for me too ”. But when she was faced with the exam, she only focused on answering the questions and not thinking about anything else. The young woman says that the subjects that took her the longest were Language and History: “I used all the time. Mathematics has been quite easy, I finished it fast. The nerves never went away,” she laughs.
Pedro Escobar Soto, director of the Jaime Ferrán public institute, highlights the effort of Park, who has completed ESO and high school at the institute. Behind the 10 there is a hard work that he began in high school, which also ended with a 10. “He has achieved 17 subjects with 10, he is exceptional. What he sets out to do, he will achieve ”, he highlights.
“Public education seems fundamental to me, it is a merit because we serve all the students. When you have highly selected students, it’s easy to be successful. The students that enter the public are the universe and we make an effort for everyone”, notes Vicente Sobrino Fernández, deputy head of studies at the institute. The director claims his work: “Any public institute can achieve excellence and produce these things. A student, however bright he may be, if he does not receive all the knowledge and support from the teachers, he may not succeed, ”says the director.
A full month, from May to June, Park spent preparing for EVAU. “I got up at seven, had breakfast, studied, ate, studied, had a snack, studied and slept,” recalls his routine. “I took exams every day, then I went to high school and reviewed them with the teachers.” After the corrections, she would look at the observations that were given to her and, in the next exam, she would try to focus on doing better and not making the same mistakes.
Hai Park highlights that it has been a team effort, adding their dedication and the support of their teachers. “The support of the teachers encouraged me a lot. They told me that I didn’t have to worry and trust me”. Park stresses the importance of public education: “The teachers are very good, they have a lot of experience and there is always diversity in the institute. Public education helps you and prepares you for society.”
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