[EDITORIALS]Reading, writing, wranglingControversy is already swirling about a plan to carry out a "Diagnostic Evaluation of Basic Scholastic Ability" on 700,000 primary school third graders on Oct. 15. The Ministry of Education and Human Resources, yielding to objections of teachers' associations, provided a complementary proposal that advocated testing all third graders but using the results of 10 percent of them, selected at random, for statistical analysis. But the Korea Teachers and Educational Workers Union, claiming that the revised proposal will not resolve problems, said that it would refuse the test.
The chief responsibility of the government and educational institutions is to provide students with basic scholastic abilities through proper education. However, there has been no systemic program on the national level that evaluates the basic scholastic ability of students and provides opportunities for supplementary classes to those who fail the test. As a result, the number of students whose reading, writing and calculation abilities are below the level of primary school third graders amounts to 50,000. That students with huge gaps in academic abilities are mixed together has been one reason for the poor quality of public education.
While many people recognize the necessity of a diagnostic evaluation of students, those same people worry that the test will be as bad as all-round examinations. The Korea Teachers and Educational Workers Union expressed worries over competition among students and schools over test results that could result in the expansion of private lessons. In practice, there are many students who attend cramming schools. The Education Ministry made it clear that students will be rated only in three or four categories, and that the standings of schools and students will not be made available.
The purpose of a diagnostic evaluation is to measure the level of reading, writing and mathematics needed for primary school third graders. There is no need for students with normal scholastic abilities to prepare for the test. Distorted educational zeal should be blamed for the overheated preparations. The Education Ministry should be blamed, too. It has prepared the policy without considering the opinions of teachers, and has created great distrust.