Middle school found to be tampering with admissions

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Middle school found to be tampering with admissions

The Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education announced yesterday that Younghoon International Middle School, a prestigious private institution, allegedly tampered with the results of the 2013 admissions test in an attempt to offer preferential treatment to some applicants.

The investigation conducted by the education office listed 31 allegations where the elite school purposely inflated or deflated the applicants’ scores on the subjective section that includes essays and references from teachers.

The investigators didn’t specify whether there were any backdoor dealings between parents and school administrators for the unlawful favors, adding that prosecutors will dig into the issue. The education office lodged a complaint against 11 school staff members with the prosecution and ordered the school to impose disciplinary action against 10 personnel and withdraw the current executive board members.

Among the accused officials, three key figures holding the post of vice-principal, teaching director and admissions director appeared to lead the test-tampering. They allegedly altered the scores of six applicants who ranked between 525 and 620 after the first objective section.

All of the six students somehow earned full marks in the second step and subsequently ranked within the top 400 among all applicants, a safe range for admission to secondary school. Three of the six students were accepted to secondary school this year.

Conversely, the school purposely gave the lowest mark in the second phase to those categorized as “inappropriate,” even though the students fared well in the first stage.

The coveted school divided applicants into the two groups “appropriate” and “inappropriate” largely based on meetings with their parents, according to the investigation.

The school’s admissions process came under scrutiny when the son of Samsung Vice President Lee Jae-yong was accepted this year under a special category reserved for those with disadvantaged backgrounds. The school said the son’s status as children of divorced parents makes him qualified for the spot. In 2009, Lee and Lim Se-ryeong, managing director of the Daesang Group, were divorced.

Although some cheating allegations took place in the admission category, inspector Cho Seung-hyun declined to reveal whether Lee’s son received any preferential treatment.

Cho also pointed out that the Younghoon International Middle School has disposed of admissions records for the last three years, fueling speculation that the test score manipulation might have gone on for longer.

By Park Eun-jee [ejpark@joongang.co.kr]
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