Test results still in shadows

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Test results still in shadows

Legislators gained access yesterday to the results of national college entrance exams.

It marks the first time in the 16 years that the country has administered a uniform college entrance exam that the government has released the tight latch covering test results. The goal is to aid parents by providing them with more information and to equalize the quality of public education in the long run.

But the extent of this measure is limited, raising questions about the usefulness of the idea.

With their newfound access, legislators can visit the Korea Institute for Curriculum and Evaluation, which administers the yearly exam, and view the test results from computers there. Analysis and data for each school, however, must be asked for and obtained separately. The institute then holds a meeting over the request to determine whether to disclose the information or not. Any material sensitive to individual schools will likely be rejected.

In short, confidential data will remain sealed.

The government should stop and think about why the public has demanded the release of test results: to make an objective assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of each school. Releasing the results would therefore raise the competitiveness of public schools in general, as individual educational institutions would strive to provide a better teaching and learning environment. In order to determine where and how to improve, one needs to know the exact reason that a school is struggling and the cause and extent of academic differences between them.

Now that the government has agreed to go along with the plan, it should do so without attaching any strings, so that the release of information can in some way help public education improve. First of all, it should publicize individual school performance. General and prosaic information such as, “Students from schools in Seoul fared better than their peers from schools in other areas,” offers neither insight nor help. The release of results from individual institutions will give students and parents the information they need to choose their schools and will lead to tangible results when it comes to improving teaching and achieving academic excellence.

There are obvious drawbacks to “ranking” schools this way. But the flow is irreversible. Schools are already unofficially ranked based on how many of their graduates are accepted by elite universities. And new laws promote the diversification of schools by allowing them more freedom in choosing curriculum. Education authorities should now investigate ways to reduce the academic gap among schools instead of worrying about school image and ranking.
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