Admissions rules loosened

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Admissions rules loosened

The Ministry of Education yesterday unveiled its new university entrance system for students who will enter colleges in 2015 and 2016, aiming to ease their burden in preparing for the annual test.

One of the biggest changes in the system is for those preparing for the so-called “early admission system.”

In Korea, students can apply for university by choosing between two systems - early admission and regular admission. The applicants for early admission must present their SAT scores and various skills, such as extracurricular activities, language skills, academic records, awards at competitions, essays, etc. They also must submit all of their documents and records before the SAT, which takes place in November, and then they should take the SAT as well.

Those applying for regular admission can just submit their SAT scores and academic records, although they should have higher SAT scores than those applying for early admission.

However, even if the early applicants pass all other sectors, they should still meet the minimum SAT “percentage,” set by each university, such as “the top 11 percent in Korean language” or “the top 20 percent in math.” Their percentage on each subject is present on the SAT record.

“The early admission applicants are preparing so many things, they also have to meet the minimum SAT grades, which is too strict,” Shim Jae-chul, a director at the university entrance policy department in the education ministry, told the Korea JoongAng Daily by phone. “So we tried to ease their burdens on the SAT.”

While the current system requires a certain SAT percentage, the new system will divide applicants into several levels based on their SAT scores and set a minimum level to apply for early admission.

The ministry will also urge university officials to discard their essay tests for early admission, because those tests have prompted an expensive underground education market, such as cram schools (hagwon) or private tutors.

Early admission for so-called “talented students” - those who have foreign language skills, or are talented in math or science - will also be reduced. The system has been under fire because it excessively drives students to enter private foreign language high schools or science schools only, rather than public schools or other ordinary private high schools.

Universities also will be prevented from carrying out interviews or their own aptitude tests, which also made students flock to cram schools. Instead, they will be encouraged to evaluate students based on the academic records of their high schools.

Many university officials expressed doubt about the credibility of academic records written by high school teachers. They say teachers tend to praise their students too much or inflate their school test scores so that more students in their schools can enter elite universities in order to raise the reputation of the schools.

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