[Viewpoint]Low-ranked schools need a boost

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[Viewpoint]Low-ranked schools need a boost

The Seoul High Court ruled on April 27 that the results of the College Scholastic Ability Test and the record of the national evaluation of each student’s academic accomplishments should be made public.
The Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development insists that making public the results of the national evaluations will reveal the rankings of particular schools. That, the ministry says, will ultimately result in the collapse of the present equal-level education system and will lead to the adoption of a high school ranking system.
However, the court said, “There is no ground to support the claims of the Ministry of Education, and there is a bigger need to make public accurate data about the current educational situation as basic material for research and discussion. That will expedite the normalization of education by solving current problems such as the fierce competition that exists to get into universities, the crippled public education system and the dependency on private education.”
Will universities really consider it necessary to rank high schools if the school records are made public?
To tell the conclusion first, if universities feel the need to grade high schools, it is because their education policy bans them from offering independent university entrance exams, leaving colleges unable to fully evaluate their applicants.
If the government gives the universities back the right to select students, it would make a high school rating system meaningless. We need to take a look at the definition of the independent university entrance exam before we look into the high school rating system.
The government prohibited universities from using independent entrance exams for the 2008 admission season. In other words, the Ministry of Education will not allow universities to try to select students without consulting their high school reports or CSAT records by using an exam in which the universities ask questions partly outside of current high school curriculum.
Therefore, if universities only select students by combining applicants’ high school reports and CSAT records with an essay test based on the present high school curriculum, they won’t have to worry about the government’s prohibitions.
Of course, the essay test for university admission should be designed to objectively test the applicants’ scholastic ability.
If the current system of banning universities from testing applicants independently is supplemented in this way, the universities will be able to judge the ability of students and a high school rating system will become meaningless.
This is why there was no high school rating system in the 1970s, when universities were allowed to offer independent university entrance exams.
Opening the high school records is the best way to promote competition among schools and regions, and raise the level of public education.
Nowadays, there is a similar proportion of academically excellent students in each class, whether the teacher is competent or not. It is hard to expect teachers to work hard to raise the quality of their teaching under such circumstances.
This is why the standard of education in Korea is leveling off in a downward direction.
On top of that, the Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development demanded that universities raise the ratio of applicant’s achievements records at high school to more than 50 percent of the total when selecting students in the spring semester, and now wants to level off universities by changing the evaluation system of school achievement reports and CSAT records.
In this environment, the universities had no choice but to use a complicated entrance exam system based on the CSAT score and an essay test to judge candidates. The private education market benefited the most from this.
If the CSAT records and the degree of academic accomplishments are made public, the government should give universities back the right to select students, at least to prevent the adoption of a high school rating system.
That is, universities shouldn’t be restricted with the imposition of guidelines based on the weight of an independent entrance exam or the format of exam questions. Universities, too, must be aware of the social responsibility of the independent exams they offer and try their best to comply.
They should shed the old idea of telling students, “You should at least know this much to enter our university,” or, “We should ask difficult questions that go beyond a high school curriculum because we are a distinguished school.”
Universities should have the right to select their own students through independent exams, but evaluations must be made within the framework of the current education curriculum and should be made under a social consensus.
Universities must also give up the shallow idea of trying to select only the best students from the best academic schools. We need a specific plan to train excellent students by supporting low-grade schools, which ultimately contributes to the development of our nation’s competitiveness.

*The writer is the chairman of the association of university dean of admissions and a professor at Inha University. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.

by Park Jea-nam

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