[Letters] Examining exams’ purpose

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[Letters] Examining exams’ purpose

Examining exams’ purpose
We are currently overwhelmed by various government policies in order to reduce the excessive spending on private education. These policies range from reducing the number of subjects we need to take for entering colleges to restricting the closing time of hagwon classes. Most people seem to agree with the direction and necessity of these measures but few believe that they will be successful.

Then, what is the overlooked reason that students plunge into private education regardless of government measures and why are most people are skeptical about the outcome of government’s war on private education?

The answer lies in the purpose of exams. In other words, the current focus of exams, including the college entrance exam, is not on testing whether students fully understand the basic concepts of the acquired knowledge but on making them stand in line by the scores.

The exam questions keep evolving in order to distinguish top-ranking students, and as a result, most students are having a hard time keeping up with the new-style questions. Those who can’t get good scores get frustrated. On the other hand, those who achieved a good grade, or deunggup, are satisfied with the results but are still afraid of failure. This drives students to seek private tutoring or change hagwon for better scores.

Recently, score reports for the trial college entrance exam taken on June have been delivered to high school students. It was reported that the exams were relatively difficult compared to previous exams. The average score of mathematics for third year high school students was around 37 to 39 percent, which means that 50 out of 100 students get scores lower than 40 percent. Personally, I believe this exam failed to evaluate the students’ knowledge properly.

However, many people in the media only mention that getting good scores in exams with a high difficulty level is the key to enter better schools, and this year’s college entrance exam will include several difficult questions only to differentiate advanced students.

The purpose of exams shouldn’t be distorted. The primary purpose of exams is to evaluate students whether they have fundamental knowledge about the topics covered in the classes or textbooks. Also, it should be a source of motivation and a sense of achievement for students. In this regard, the exam questions need not be difficult or complicated, and students should be evaluated absolutely, rather than relatively, based on their achievements.

Public schools have to spend more time on improving the creativity and enthusiasm of students instead of educating tricks or forcing them to memorize facts to raise their scores. Consequently, this reformation can help students reduce the heavy reliance on private education, thereby halving private education costs. This may not be the panacea for private education problems but can at least be a starting point to solve them.

Some may argue that this will lower the quality of education and weaken our global competitiveness, yet it is time for us to ignore temporal evaluation results, such as global rankings, for the time being.

Park Bum-soo, Ogum High School student
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