School fibs on test-takers

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School fibs on test-takers

A school principal in Seoul lied about the number of students who took the National Assessment of Students’ Academic Performance at his school yesterday, and two teachers from the school were found to have encouraged students to opt out of the exam, raising the possibility that there may be more schools hiding false attendance reports.

Lee Joon-soon, head of the Secondary Education Policy Division at the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education, said in a briefing yesterday that the principal of Yeongdeungpo High School falsely reported there were zero absentees when, in fact, 145 out of 334 11th graders skipped the test on Tuesday.

The two-day test, which measures competence in basic subjects like Korean and mathematics, has pitted the education ministry against many teachers and education officials.

The tests were started in 2008 by the ministry 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.

However, liberal education administrators and teachers - traditional supporters of opposition parties - dislike the compulsory test and say that students and their families should have the right to decline to take it. After the June local elections, many liberals now control school boards.

On Tuesday, the ministry said that out of 1.93 million students nationwide, only 433 chose to sit out the test on its initial day.

Two hours after an attendance report was transmitted by the Yeongdeungpo High principal at 2 p.m., the vice principal of the school informed the Seoul education office that there had been absentees. The education office sent two school inspectors to look into the matter at 6 p.m.

A full investigation of the school was ordered by the education office yesterday morning.

“We discovered that homeroom teachers in charge of Class Two and Class Three are members of the Teachers and Educational Workers’ Union,” Lee said. In Class Two 32 out of 36 students skipped the exam, Lee said.

The liberal Teachers and Educational Workers’ Union opposes the exam.

“We all know that Park Hyeon-ae is a member of the union,” said Park Gyung-jin, a student from Class One, referring to the homeroom teacher of Class Two. “Kids read on the Internet that the exam isn’t mandatory, so students in her class decided to leave and the teacher didn’t stop them.”

According to students, word spread on the exam during breaks on Tuesday, and more abandoned the test.

“I don’t know where some kids went,” said Park Jun-oh, a student in Class Three, from which 15 students did not take the test.


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

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