[LETTERS]Wrong incentive for improvement

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[LETTERS]Wrong incentive for improvement

The education office announced its plans to improve test results [reported yesterday in the JoongAng Daily]: “Though officials at failing schools will be penalized, those at improving schools will be rewarded. Officials in the top 3 percent of schools will receive bonuses and promotions.”

I recall working at a middle school in Gwangju many years ago, where I had given a listening test to a group of students. There were 75 students to be tested. I brought them into the office individually and had items on a table (pens, pins, paper, pepper, etc). I asked the students to give me the items as I asked for them (“Give me pins,” and so on). The results were varied: 8 A’s, 11 B’s, 13 C’s and the rest rated ‘D’ or lower. When the principal saw the results, he demanded a retest. I did the test a second time, eliminating items that might sound confusing or minimal pairs. The results were much better: 15 A’s, 21 B’s, 20 C’s, and the rest D or lower. The principal insisted I do the test again. Things became clear to me. I did not do the test again; I just adjusted all marks so that I had 35 A’s, 30 B’s 10 C’s. No one failed. The principal was happy with the result. The school receives money from the board of education based on how well students perform.

I see the same thing happening again. Officials at schools being rewarded or penalized based on student performance? I guarantee that student grades will improve. I can’t guarantee that the students’ education or knowledge will improve. I am reminded by something Eliyahu Goldratt said, “Tell me how you will measure me and I will tell you how I will behave. Measure me illogically and I will behave illogically.”

Falsifying information to meet quotas is no stranger to Korean education.

David Woelke, Youngsan University
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