[EDITORIAL] School Testing Policy Flip-Flops

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[EDITORIAL] School Testing Policy Flip-Flops

The Korea Institute of Curriculum and Evaluation announced that the 2002 College Scholastic Ability Test would be more difficult. A difficult test is a good idea in that it reflects the institute's humble attitude over last year's mistake: The test's discriminatory ability was lost when 66 perfect scorers were produced nationwide. Yet, we are surprised by the cavalier attitude in switching college admission policies at this late stage without any apologies or explanations. Until very recently, the institute insisted on an easy CSAT test, putting forth such reasons as the normalization of school education and the reduction of tutoring fees. Then are parents expected not to worry about tutoring fees now? And what happened to the new college admission policy in which the weighting of the CSAT was to be dramatically lowered? When the government offers no explanations, how can the public have confidence in government policies?

We have reiterated that the discriminatory ability of the CSAT should be enhanced. Since the repeal of admission tests administered by each university, universities must select their students on the strength of the CSAT and school grades. Because grade inflation has gone beyond an acceptable level at most high schools, the CSAT is the only objective yardstick to determine students' academic performance. Furthermore, irrespective of the degree of difficulty in the CSAT, private tutoring fever has not abated and the phenomenon of collapsing classrooms has not been improved.

The institute is justified in explaining that it would make next year's CSAT at the 2000 level of difficulty. The 2001 test badly overshot the institute's goal of making the test only slightly easier. The problem is that the institute went back on its word that it would keep an easy CSAT test policy. Students have prepared according to the institute's announcement last year that the 2002 test would be easy. In particular, students are nervous because one study said high school seniors lag behind last year's class in academic performance. Why did a change of the institute's director lead to a switch in the direction of the CSAT, the guideline for students' college preparations? The CSAT schedule should have been announced earlier, to avoid confusing students.

Another problem is a lack of consistency in policies. In October 1998, the Ministry of Education announced a plan to improve the college admission system; the weight of the CSAT would be drastically lowered starting in 2002 college admissions, and the school records would be a key factor to college admissions. However, college admissions still depend on the CSAT scores. The announcement implanted a fantasy in the hearts of the current seniors, who were in grade 9 at that time, that they could go to college as long as they were good at one thing. Government officials have yet to offer explanations as to why there is such a gap between the announced policy and today's reality. The government's earlier measure only provided a fantasy for students and contributed to their lower academic performance.

It won't do if a crucial education policy oscillates this way. The ministry failed to look three years down the road, and the old expression, "The education is a plan for the next 100 years," is put to shame. Why do some people say that education reform would be possible only when the Ministry of Education is abolished? Instead of regulating the tiniest details in the admission system, the government would do well to return admission rights to universities. Confusion would diminish a great deal if the government just occupied itself with supervisory activities.
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