[REPORTER'S DIARY]Not Making the Grade

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[REPORTER'S DIARY]Not Making the Grade

"We were human lab mice for the Korea Institute of Curriculum and Evaluation. They probably thought, 'Hmmm...it was too difficult this time. Maybe we'll make it easier next year,' and then watched how shocked we were."

"We are mocked as the 12th graders with the lowest academic achievement record in history. Do you think we want to be remembered that way? It was you who have told us that we could go to college only if we excel at one thing. I would rather go abroad to study, especially when I learn how often Korea's college entrance system changes whenever there is reshuffling of education ministers."

"I studied to death so as not to be defeated by those who failed the exam last year and prepared for the exam once more this year. But all was to no avail, because of your wicked trick of enhancing discrimination of the test. I cried with my friend as we made up our minds to take it one more year. I feared going whenever I thought about my parents, who already have enough burdens in life."

Those are a few of the angry notes put on the Web site bulletin board maintained by the Ministry of Education and Human Resources. Soon after the College Scholastic Ability Test on Wednesday, complaints by test takers and their parents bombarded the Web site and actually clogged it down. This year's examinees of the CSAT are called the first generation of Lee Hai-chan, a former education minister, and have been repeatedly told that they can go to college only if they excel in one area. But after taking the CSAT, they were put in a horrible psychological panic. Teachers, who at this time are supposed to advise students in choosing schools and majors based on the test scores, instead are putting their energy into consoling the students.

Why on earth frustrate students who are about to make a critical decision in their lives? The outline of the 2002 college entrance system, promoted by the government, was to shift the weight in the student selection from the CSAT to an interview and the students' grades in high schools, and then select successful applicants based on their special talents and aptitudes. Because the CSAT questions were too difficult this year, that made the test more important than other things in evaluating students.

"The government encouraged high schools to abolish extracurricular study hours and to take less mock-tests," a teacher at a high school in Seoul said. "Students were disarmed. They thought the written test would indeed be less important than before. Now they are screwed." The teacher was furious because the unpredictable test had put him at a loss as to how to advise students when choosing a college.

Last year's CSAT was too easy to distinguish students' scholastic abilities. This year's test was too difficult, adding to the confusion. I hope the authorities in charge of making test questions stop using excuses such as, "Even a ghost cannot predict the difficulties of the test." The government needs to review the current system of sequestering question contributors for one month and to manage the test more systematically so that the test can live up to its educational policies.

The writer is a reporter of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Jung Hyun-mok

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