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Cram schools are specialized schools that train their students to meet particular goals, most commonly to pass the entrance examinations of high schools or universities. The English name is derived from the slang term "cramming", meaning to study hard or to study a large amount of material in a short period of time.
Cram schools often specialize in a particular subject or subjects. Cram schools that prepare students for high school and university entrance examinations are also frequently specialized to particular schools, and the staff may, like those in other schools, have access to previous years' examination papers. Special cram schools that prepare students who have failed their entrance examinations (known as rōnin in colloquial Japanese) to take them the following year are also common. In extreme cases, such students may spend up to eighteen hours a day studying to retake their tests. Students who attend regular after-school cram schools may study four hours or more.
As the name suggests, the aim of a cram school is generally to impart as much information to its students as possible in the shortest period of time. The goal is to enable the students to pass, or obtain a required grade in, particular examinations. In some cases this may require them to "parrot", that is, to unthinkingly repeat, information that is necessary for that examination. Cram schools are sometimes criticized, along with the countries in which they are prevalent, for a lack of training in critical thinking and analysis. However, some believe that in some cases they are necessary to compensate for the formal education system's inability or unwillingness to address particular needs.
Cram schools are referred to largely as "coaching colleges", they are used primarily to achieve the necessary results for the entrance exam for selective schools in New South Wales. They are also used extensively in mathematics courses for the Higher School Certificate and other high school leavers exams.
Cram schools are called "Cursinhos" (lit. Little Courses) in Brazil and are attended by students who will be taking a vestibular exam.
Cram schools are popular in China due to the importance of standardized exams, such as:
- High school entrance exam (after junior high, at 9th year of school).
- The National College Entrance Examination, mandatory for college admission.
- English language exams. Passing the College English Test (CET) band 4 and 6 is sometimes a prerequisite for bachelor's degree, and the certificates are often important to finding employment. The TOEFL and GRE tests from ETS are required for studying abroad in English-speaking countries.
- Entrance exams to domestic graduate program. Over recent years the competition has intensified, partially because many new college graduates fail to find satisfactory jobs and seek post-graduate education instead.
Mainland China has a test-driven system. Education departments give entrance examinations to sort students into schools of different levels. Examinations like the National Higher Education Entrance Examination (gaokao) are vital. They decide the academic future of the participants. This education system cultivated the cramming style of teaching. Schools and teachers regard grades to be the primary goal. Teachers impart exam skills instead of knowledge and inspiration. But as the population of students decreases each year and admission to domestic universities expands, the pressure of the Entrance Exam has been reducing.
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5% of the French students go into classe préparatoire aux grandes écoles (prep school) for two years which prepare to the entrance exams of prestigious schools, like École Normale Supérieure, HEC Paris, ESSEC, École polytechnique, Télécom ParisTech, École des ponts, Supélec, École des Mines or Centrale Graduate School. Graduates from these prestigious schools represent France's elite. The French prep schools have one of the highest workloads in the world, if not the highest, and have traditionally produced most of France's scientists, intellectuals, and executives. Students in Classe Préparatoire aux Grandes Ecoles have 40 hours of class a week, and an average of 5 hours every evening after school, as wells as 15 hours in the weekend. In other words, these students struggle trough thirty two weeks of eighty studying hours. Specifically in the mathematics and physics branch, these students are nicknamed the "taupins" meaning "mole" in French because they rarely see the sun.
Cram schools in Hong Kong are called tutorial schools. These cram schools put focus on the major public examinations in Hong Kong, namely HKDSE, and teach students on techniques on answering questions in the examinations. They also provide students tips on which topics may appear on the coming examination (called "question tipping"), and provide students some sample questions that are similar to those that appear in the examinations. Some cram school teachers in Hong Kong have become idolised and attract many students to take their lessons. These teachers are called "King of tutors (補習天王)".
Cram schools in Hong Kong are famous because of the stresses from Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education (HKDSE). These cram school teaching includes practicing exam questions and grammar drills. Moreover, they provide model essays for English language exam. However, some schools are not licensed, and few educators have teaching qualifications. Their education is fun to appeal to the students but little useful for these students.
Numerous cram schools—referred to as coaching centers or tutorials in India—have sprung up all over the nation. Like in other countries, these tutorials have become a parallel education system with the aim of getting their clients through various competitive exams to enter prestigious institutions such as the Indian Institute of Technology. These exams are necessary to get into fields like engineering, medicine, law and into India's civil services.
"Grind schools", as they are known in the Republic of Ireland, prepare students for the Leaving Certificate examination. Competition for university places (the "points race") has intensified with recent years: students wishing to study medicine, law or veterinary science in particular must achieve five or six "A" grades to be accepted. Some grind schools, such as The Institute of Education, Ashfield College and Bruce College, teach full-time. Many others offer weekend or night-time classes for students in subjects in which they struggle.
It is common for Korean school-children to attend one or more institutes after their elementary school-day is finished. Some types of institutes include math, science, art, and English. English-language institutes are particularly popular.
Usually, in Korea, the education system method is memorization. In Korean school, students stay in one classroom, and teachers go to the classrooms. Korean students learn Korean history, world history, Korean language, math, science, and foreign languages. Korean students only have midterms and finals. They just have written tests with those subjects. Distinct feature of cramming teaching method in Korea is extra curriculum for tests. After school, generally, most of the students go to extra tutors which are call as “Hakwon” in Korean. Teachers just provide knowledge to students and students memorize for tests and go to “Hakwon” for good grades.
In Malaysia, it is considered a norm for parents, especially those from the middle and upper class, to send schoolchildren for private tuition. Such services are often provided by tuition centers and/or private tutors. These tutors may be full-time tutors, schoolteachers, retirees, or even senior students. Many concerned parents choose to send their children to different tuition classes or schedules based on the child's entrance examination subjects. Some students may go to tuition for their weaker subjects, while many schoolchildren are increasingly known to attend at least 10 hours of private tuition every week. Correspondingly, the reputation and business of a tuition center often depends on venue, schedule, number of top-scoring clients, and advertising by word of mouth. It is not uncommon for private tutors to offer exclusive pre-examination seminars, to the extent where some tutors entice schoolchildren to attend such seminars with the promise of examination tips, or even supposedly leaked examination questions.
In Peru, cram schools, known as "Academias", are institutions which intensively prepare, in about a year, high school graduates to gain admission to either University ("Academia Pre Universitaria"), or Military Schools ("Academia Pre-Militar"). Cram Schools in Peru are not an admission requirement to enter to any Tertiary Institution; however, due to fierce competition, preparation in a cram school allows the candidate to achieve the highest mark possible in the entry exam and so gain entry to their desired Tertiary Institution. Cram Schools are independent of universities, however, of recent a post-high-school, pre-university school has started at some public and private universities in Peru. Under the name of CEntro PREuniversitario (name or acronym of university, for instance CEPREUNI or CEPREPUCP, after Universidad Nacional de Ingenieria or Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Peru, commonly referred to as "the CEPRE" or "the PRE"). Some of these CEPREs offer automatic admission to their university to their students who reach a set level of achievement
Cram schools in Taiwan are called buxiban (補習班 literally "supplementary learning class") and are not necessarily cram schools in the traditional sense. Almost any kind of extracurricular academic lesson could be termed buxiban, such as music, art, math, and science, even if students do not attend these classes specifically in order to pass an examination. It's a traditional belief that parents should send their children to all kinds of cram schools in order to compete against other talented children. Therefore, most children in Taiwan have a schedule packed with all sorts of cram school lessons. But when they study English, often with a "Native Speaker Teacher", they are actually studying at a private language school. Furthermore, since this study is ongoing, they are not "cramming" in the traditional sense of the word, and therefore, these language schools are not cram schools by strict definition.
Cram schools in Taiwan also focus on motivating students to study harder. They prepare many hand-made posters and print motivational messages on study notes.
Taiwan is well known for its cram school. Nearly all students have some kinds of cram school to improve their skills. The meritocratic culture, which requires some skills testing for passports to college, graduate school, and even government service, is dominant on Taiwan’s policy.
Cram schooling in Thailand has become almost mandatory to succeed in high school or in the entrance examinations of universities. Cram schools in Thailand, which are called tutoring institutes, tutoring schools, special tutoring, or special classes for example, are widespread throughout the country. Some of them do not have instructors in class rooms in a traditional sense; students receive their tuition via television network, which can either relay a live session from another branch or replaying a pre-recorded session. Parents generally encourage their children to attend these schools and they sometimes can be perceived as pushy. The system of cram school is currently blamed for discouraging pupils from independent studies.
The most reason given by attending students is to increase understanding in their lessons. The secondary reason of junior high school students is to want to know faster techniques whereas the reason of senior ones is to prepare for exam. The most attended subjects are mathematics for juniors and English language for seniors. Average expense per course is about 2,001–3,000 baht. 
The "dershane" system is the Turkish counterpart of cram schools. Students, typically in week-ends (in many instances, also after the school hours, especially in the last year), are drilled on various aspects of YGS, "Transition to Higher Education Examination" and LYS, "Undergraduate Placement Examination".
Crammers first appeared in Britain after 1855 when the Civil Service Commission created the Administrative class of government employees, selected by examination and interview rather than patronage. Crammers offered to prepare men of 18 to 25 years old, for these examinations, mainly in classics, economics and foreign languages, which would provide entry to civil service or diplomatic careers. Terence Rattigan's 1936 play French Without Tears is set in a language crammer typical of the period. These civil service crammers did not survive the Second World War.
Crammers in England and Wales today are almost entirely concerned with preparing teenagers for A-level, GCSE and similar exams, to improve their examination results and obtain admission to university. Some are residential; few if any have sports facilities. All are expensive, some compared even to prestigious public schools such as Winchester and Eton, which also provide many extra-curricular activities.
The phrase "cram school" is considered pejorative in the United States, so similar businesses are called "tutoring services" or "test preparation centers." Some well-known businesses of this type are Kaplan and Sylvan Learning. Such supplementary instruction is used in the United States as a way to assist students who have learning disabilities or are struggling academically in a particular subject. They are also used by some GED candidates and by upperclassmen in high schools to prepare for the SAT, ACT, and/or Advanced Placement exams. Unlike their Asian counterparts, however, these schools tend to stray from rote memorization and more towards vocabulary drills, practicing essay composition, and learning effective test-taking strategies. College graduates and undergraduates near graduation will sometimes attend such classes to prepare for entrance exams necessary for graduate level education (i.e. LSAT, MCAT, GRE).
Review courses for the CPA examination (e.g., Becker Conviser, part of DeVry University) and the bar examination (e.g., BarBri) are often taken by undergraduate and graduate students in accountancy and law.
- "Academias pre universitarias - UniversidadPeru.com".
- Napompech, Kulkanya (2011), "What Factors Influence High School Students in Choosing Cram School in Thailand", 2011 International Conference on Business and Economics Research (IACSIT Press, Singapore: IPEDR) 16: 90–95, doi:10.7763/IPEDR, ISSN 2010-4626
- * ACT, Inc. - publisher of the ACT (test)