Korean history to be tested in job exams

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Korean history to be tested in job exams

The battle over whether Korean history should be studied in high schools got hotter yesterday, when National Assembly Speaker Park Hee-tae ordered the legislature’s secretariat to change its exam for job applicants to include questions on history.

“It is crucial for a civil servant to know the country’s history,” Park was quoted as saying by National Assembly spokesman Han Jong-tae yesterday. “Starting this year, Korean history should be included in the exam to select staffers for the National Assembly.” When someone questioned the change, Park shot back, “How could someone ignorant of Korean history possibly work for the legislature?”

This month, President Lee Myung-bak ordered the inclusion of history tests in all state-run exams.

“If Korean history is tested in state-run exams, schools will have to teach the subject,” Lee said in a recent meeting with senior aides to discuss last week’s JoongAng Ilbo series on the need to improve history education.

The controversy over Korean history classes is a result of a revision of curriculum guidelines in June 2009 by the Presidential Advisory Council on Education, Science and Technology, which will take effect this year. Under the new curriculum, Korean history is only mandatory through middle school and is an elective after that. Formerly, it was mandatory through the first year of high school.

Lee and Speaker Park think that putting history questions on employment exams and state-run tests will force students to study the subject, even if it isn’t compulsory.

The National Assembly Secretariat yesterday began reviewing procedures to change its exam for applicants. “This year’s exam was scheduled for March, but we will make the change to include the Korean history test, even if the date needs to be postponed,” an official at the secretariat said.

The change at the legislature is expected to influence other state-run exams, including the bar exam and the civil service exam.

In 1997, the government excluded Korean history from the subjects tested in the bar exam. Starting in 2005, various state-run civil service exams excluded the subject. Among national and provincial universities, only Seoul National University requires a Korean history test for admission. The JoongAng Ilbo series called for the inclusion of Korean history in state-run exams and college entrance tests as a way to make students study the subject.

By Kang Min-seok, Ser Myo-ja [myoja@joongang.co.kr]
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