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A cram school is a school that teaches a highly accelerated curriculum, with the goal of preparing students to take examinations. Typically, these schools are designed to provide supplementary education, with students attending regular school during the day and going to the accelerated classes after school or on the weekends. People may also hear this type of school referred to as a grind school, test preparation center, learning center, or tutoring center.
There are cram schools all over the world, but they are especially common in Asia, where attendance has become commonplace for students. Usually, the goal of the school is to prepare people for examinations through the use of a curriculum that promotes memorization and recitation of information. Test-taking skills are also often taught, and students are given many opportunities to take practice tests.
A variety of students take accelerated courses, ranging from elementary and middle school students preparing for school admissions tests to college graduates who want to ensure that they pass the examinations required for admission to professional schools. Cram schools are especially common for high school students who wish to prepare for college, especially in countries where exhausting entrance and proficiency exams are a critical part of college admission.
Going to a cram school is usually quite physically and intellectually demanding. Students must cope with the regular curriculum from their day school on top of the accelerated material, and in some nations, there is a lot of pressure for a student to perform well. Failure to do well on examinations can result in censure from parents and teachers, and a remedial course in a specialized school that caters to students who have taken and failed exams.
Cram school culture has been criticized by some educators. The concern is that the focus on memorization does not promote critical thinking and an in-depth examination of knowledge. While these schools may teach students to perform well on tests, the students may struggle with real-life tests of their ability to process and analyze information. Teacher quality is also quite variable, as local laws about training for teachers are often relaxed. The heavy load of cram school can also become problematic, with some students taking uppers and other drugs to push themselves to the limit in order to succeed.