Educators Flunk Their ExaminationAs the results of the College Scholastic Ability Test, the general test for college applicants, are released, students and teachers all over the country have been baffled by the "grade inflation" caused by the simplicity of the test, which comes close to making it irrelevent. Some students who are supposed to be busy preparing for further tests and interviews took to the streets to protest.
The test results, released yesterday, showed a distribution of grades that was devastating to many students at the highest level and disconcerting to students at all levels. With 66 students recording a perfect score and thousands of others who made only one mistake, the test failed to distinguish between applicants effectively. The average mark rose by 27.6 points, or nearly 9 percent, from that of last year.
This phenomenal rise makes it impossible for students to compare their performance to the scores that previously would have guaranteed admission to the institutions they are considering. Everyone knew the test was easier this year and expected average marks to rise, but this is simply too much.
It is against the most basic principles of test management to allow the average mark to rise by 9 percent in one leap. According to a college entrance specialist, a student will need a score of more than 91 percent to enter any department of any institution in the Seoul area. It will prove frustrating for many students in Seoul who, with a scores around 90 percent, have to find an institution in another city. And at prestigious institutions, admission is likely to be denied to students who have made only one or two more mistakes than usual.
Luck will play far too large a role in such a situation and the test of writing ability is also expected to become disproportionately important.
Unlike the Scholastic Aptitude Test of the United States, the Korean CSAT is a competitive test, not a qualifying exam. It has to differentiate between students. In a situation in which expensive out-of-school tutoring is rampant and schools are in disorder, the failure of the CSAT to effectively differentiate between students is a disaster for high school education.
The claims made by certain education policymakers that an easier CSAT will help to restore the health of the school education system by discouraging out-of-school tutoring has been proven to be false in practice. Still, the Ministry of Education made this year''s test extremely easy, and to make things even worse, it allocated more marks to easier questions than to relatively hard questions.
On the day of the test, education ministry officials responding to general criticism of its easiness offered a strange forecast, saying that average marks would fall by one percent or so. And now that the forecast has turned out to be a truly strange one, the same officials are busy looking for excuses for their wildly inaccurate prediction. We hope they will now take responsibility for this fiasco in a more practical fashion.
If the CSAT fails to meet the needs of institutions to differentiate between applicants, the institutions should be allowed to find other ways of judging them. Yet the education ministry has revised the enforcement ordinance of the Education Law to ban individual institutions from holding entrance examinations. We urge the government to change the ordinance and allow institutions to hold such examinations. This would also be in line with the current trend toward increased autonomy for educational institutions.
by Byun Sang-keun