Gov’t to change school grade system

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Gov’t to change school grade system

In an effort to keep universities from curving grades for students from prestigious high schools, thereby putting students from less prestigious schools at a disadvantage in college admissions, the government said yesterday that it will revise the current school grade system.

The current grade system, developed by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology eight years ago, requires high schools to grade students on a relative scale in an effort to prevent inflated grades, but the Education Ministry will require schools grade students on an absolute scale starting in 2014.

The Education Ministry’s new plans come a day after a local court ruled in favor of 24 students who filed a class action lawsuit claiming they failed to gain admission to Korea University in October 2008 even though their grades and test scores were better than applicants from prestigious high schools. The court ordered the university to compensate each student 7 million won ($5,986).

The ministry said it will soon hold a forum at which education experts will discuss ways to effectively change the current school grade system.

Experts have said that the ministry must abolish the nine-level grading system, which has been used to divide students into groups based on their scores.

“The nine-level grade system was originally devised to curve inflating school grades, but it sparked fierce competition among students because a student’s grade level can be determined by just one point,” said Kyung Hee University education Professor Ji Eum-lim, who devised the new changes. “The high school grade system must be changed to an absolute scale, given that the nine-level grade system didn’t fully reflect the level gap between high schools, and that admission officers increasingly don’t trust most school grades when picking students.”

A ministry official said: “Among OECD member countries, Korea is the only one that has a school grade system on a relative scale.”

The liberal Korean Teachers and Education Workers’ Union said yesterday the ministry’s change could allow universities to administer their own admission tests, other than the College Scholastic Ability Test (CSAT).

The teachers’ union expressed concern that if the ministry changed the ranking system, universities would tend to pick students from rich schools and special purpose high schools, which would worsen the education gap between the rich and the poor.


By Kim Mi-ju, Kim Seong-tak [mijukim@joongang.co.kr]

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