To test or not to test: tug of war traps students

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To test or not to test: tug of war traps students

As the dates approach for the National Assessment of Students’ Academic Performance, students, parents and schools find themselves in a tug of war between liberal educational offices, which oppose the tests, and the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, which supports it.

An official statement from the education ministry issued on Wednesday instructed schools nationwide to “guide students well for the exam, publicize [the exam] and persuade students to take the assessment even if they request special permission to be excused.” The ministry also released a warning on Thursday that it would be “a breach of educational law if special programs are purposely held to keep students from taking the evaluation.”

The educational office in North Jeolla sent a message to all elementary, middle and high schools in the province yesterday saying, “The notice from the education ministry sent on Wednesday regarding the evaluation test should be disregarded.” The office also requested there be “no disruption of regular work schedules.”

The educational office in Gangwon also opted to oppose the ministry, telling its schools yesterday to provide special programs for students who do not wish to take the exam.

“The ministry is hyping the assessment, but our regional educational office wants us to come up with substitute programs,” complained one teacher at a middle school in Jeonju.

The Teachers and Educational Workers’ Union filed a petition yesterday with Seoul education superintendent Kwak No-hyun asking him to respect the rights of students and parents who object to the exam. It is the first time the liberal Union has filed a complaint against a liberal education superintendent.

“If [Kwak] is feeling pressure already on the issue of whether to allow students and their parents to choose whether to take the test or not,” said a spokesman for the Seoul unit of the union, “then we don’t know how he will get past the further obstacles awaiting him in the education system and from corrupted forces.”

The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology has enforced the tests from October 2008 to “better understand which factors impact academic ability and thus assist school efforts to raise student performance levels,” according to a policy plan released by the ministry at the beginning of this year. The ministry cannot punish students who choose not to take the exam.

The tests will be taken by students in the sixth, ninth and 11th grades nationwide on July 13 and 14.

By Christine Kim, Park Su-ryon [christine.kim@joongang.co.kr]

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