Gov’t workers take flak for test prep methods

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Gov’t workers take flak for test prep methods

Officials in the Seoul Metropolitan Government have come under fire for taking expensive private lessons to prepare for a promotion test, or “competency evaluation,” a three-subject combined examination that decides promotions for managerial-level positions.

The Yonhap News Agency reported yesterday that many officials from the city government vying for promotions have been taking the expensive lessons for years, and the city government confirmed it during a regular briefing yesterday.

The city government said they are going to run a fact-finding mission to address the issue and also try to provide solutions to prevent officials from taking the expensive lessons.

The city government said that some candidates who were promoted to managerial-level officials and officials who are currently preparing for the competency evaluation were or are taking lessons that cost over 1 million won ($886) a person per month.

The candidates sometimes form a group with three to six colleagues and rent an apartment for three to six months to take a class with a famed hagwon, or private academy, instructor.

The city government said this began when the municipal government introduced a new evaluation system in 2008, as many candidates felt the new test was difficult and unfamiliar.

The test examines candidates’ capabilities in diverse sectors. It tests: “in-basket” ability, which demands officials write a summary report on a sheet of paper based on dozens of government documents; ability to write a case study report on government policies; and capabilities as a manager by answering role-playing questions.

The questions, for instance, ask candidates, “How are you going to handle reporters who are opposed to the city government’s policies?”

The city government explained that about 200 officials get promoted to the managerial level from about 500 to 600 candidates that compete.

The first 100 positions are filled based on efficiency rating reports (work performance appraisal) and work experience and the remaining positions are filled by the competency evaluation system. The competency test gets a lot tougher when officials are not selected in the first round.

“Taking private lessons is not a secret,” an official preparing for the evaluation said.

“Every time I hear about the promotion I really get stressed because I have not taken any private lessons due to my busy schedule. The city government was aware of it for years, but has been neglecting the problem.”

The city government said they are not able to punish or take any actions against the officials who took the lessons or are currently in classes because they do not have any specific regulations for the issue, but are finding solutions.

The city government currently runs six competency evaluation preparation classes that 120 officials can take annually, but planned to expand the classes to 10. In addition, the city government will also run online lectures from March next year.

By Kwon Sang-soo [sakwon80@joongang.co.kr]

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