Standards set for new admissions officer plan

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Standards set for new admissions officer plan

How do Korean universities select incoming freshmen?

In the future, they better look beyond foreign language test scores, academic competitions and extracurricular activities organized by hagwon, or private cram schools.

That was the command of the Korean Council for University Education yesterday when it released guidelines for the system, part of an effort to standardize college admissions systems and lessen the appeal of expensive and time-consuming hagwon.

The admissions officer system was first used among 10 Korean schools in 2007. The number of universities using it jumped to 41 in 2008 and to 90 last year. Those 90 schools admitted 24,622 students.

Admissions officers were brought in to ensure that institutions of higher learning would not select students based only on their national exam scores, but would also consider their potential and aptitude.

Under the standards announced yesterday, each school’s admissions department must clearly explain the selection process to candidates, and detail requirements of the application.

The schools may not limit their criteria to scores in language proficiency tests, such as the Test of English as a Foreign Language or Japanese Language Proficiency Test.

They may not overemphasize performances or prizes won at mathematics, science, music or art competitions held outside the applicants’ high schools.

Schools will also be prohibited from forcing applicants to prepare their letters of introduction or other required documents in English.

With the new set of standards, the council said it hoped to ensure that the admissions officer system would not have the unintended consequences of increasing families’ spending on private education.

Skeptics of the system have said the emphasis on extracurricular activities could drive students to take up expensive tutoring to earn high scores on language tests and win prizes in academic competitions.

“The objective of the admissions officer system is to take into account various aspects during the screening process, including students’ potential and the given university’s founding philosophy,” the council said in a statement.

“And to meet the objective, it is only appropriate to select students by assessing different criteria, such as their academic achievements, creative activities and their passion for academics, and by taking multiple screening steps.”

But some oppose the guidelines, saying the standardization will lessen diversity in high schools.

By Yoo Jee-ho []
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