Overhaul state test-making

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Overhaul state test-making

Fairness is the raison d’etre of state-run exams such as the College Scholastic Ability Test, high school entrance exams and the Teacher Eligibility Test. That’s why the Korea Institute for Curriculum and Evaluation was put in charge of making the questions and grading with strict oversight.

But the Board of Audit and Inspection’s recent investigations into the institute showed that supervision of the question-drafting process was poorly managed. It is a lamentable and unbelievable case that has completely shaken the trust in the fairness of state-run exams.

The audit revealed many serious problems. Over the past four years, 11 teachers with children who were studying for the CSAT worked as test makers or test reviewers. Last year, five teachers and researchers who had children preparing for the high school entrance exam made, reviewed and evaluated the test.

They have critically damaged the tests’ fairness. All of them falsely pledged that they had no children who were to take the tests, and the institute appointed them to work on the test-making process. If the institute had checked their family registries, they would not have been eligible for the job. It is a clear dereliction of duty by the institute. Moreover, hagwon teachers and editors of test-prep books were appointed to create the Teacher Eligibility Test, providing clear evidence that the institute had no plan to protect the test’s integrity.

Institute officials’ ethical problems are to blame for the lamentable situation. The audit also revealed that five officials embezzled 80 million won ($75,840) meant to be paid to the CSAT question makers over the past five years. A senior official ordered poorly made mechanical pencils from China and officially provided them to test-takers in order to favor a company. The official also received bribes from a printing firm.

These corrupt officials probably consider ensuring the fairness of the exams as their least important responsibility. The institute must open its eyes to the seriousness of the situation and tighten the lax discipline. The corrupt officials who took bribes must be dismissed and face criminal punishment.

Furthermore, the institute must carry out a complete overhaul of its state test management and operation to make sure there is not a single weak point. Poor oversight of the test-making process must never happen again. The institute must remember that it will never be able to restore public faith unless it puts in vigorous effort to turn over a new leaf.
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