New admissions system expected to stir more study

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New admissions system expected to stir more study

One wrong answer during an in-school English language exam might be the end of the road for middle school students who want to apply to one of the nation’s foreign language high schools.

“If the fate of a student’s admission depends on one or two test answers that are written by a middle school teacher, students will pay more attention to their school lessons,” said Sung Sam-jae, an official at the school policy bureau at the ministry.

Earlier this week, the Education Ministry announced details of the new admissions policy for foreign language and international high schools in which applicants will be selected based mostly on their middle school English grades.

Out of a perfect 200 points, 160 will be based on English language grades from the students’ second and third years in middle school. The grades will be divided into nine levels, the first level being the highest English grade percentile.

The remaining 40 points come from an interview, the student’s own study plan and teacher recommendations.

With this high emphasis on school grades, local experts say students who are not in the top four percentiles in their English grades in their respective cities will most likely not have a chance at getting into a foreign language high school.

According to Hanul Education, one of the country’s top special-purpose preparatory institutes, the total number of recruits at Seoul’s six foreign language schools is 2,240. However, as of this year, the number of third-year middle school students in Seoul that received the first level grades for English totaled 4,762, or only 4 percent of the total number of third-year middle school students.

With this, many middle schools say they are being extra cautious about the level of difficulty for their English exams.

“From this year, I plan to feature more difficult questions on exams so to better find superior students,” said Sohn Chae-eun, an English teacher at Wolchon Middle School. Wolchon saw the highest number of students go on to foreign language schools in Seoul last year.

Sohn added that she plans to make her evaluation method more public and clear to parents so as not to receive their complaints.

The Education Ministry said that for those middle schools which have more students score first level English exam grades than the national average, the foreign language high school applicants’ first level grades at the school will be classified as second level English grades.

This means the schools must have tough English exams so as not to put students from their schools at a disadvantage.


By Cho Jae-eun, Park Su-ryon [jainnie@joongang.co.kr]

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