CSAT’s split between arts and sciences maintained

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CSAT’s split between arts and sciences maintained

The Ministry of Education said yesterday it will maintain the long-established distinction on the college entrance exam between liberal arts students and general science students through 2020.

The decision was part of the ministry’s final draft about how it will administer the College Scholastic Ability Test in 2017.

High school students currently choose between concentrating on math and science, only taking the science sections of the CSAT or only taking the liberal arts sections.

In August, the Education Ministry said it was considering making students take all sections of the test to foster more well-rounded talents.

The August proposal horrified students who realized studying for the test would double.

Parents joined in to accuse the ministry of placing more burden on college-bound students, who face enough grief in Korea’s fiercely competitive education system.

Students and parents also realized it would double the bills on cram school and private tutoring.

The ministry appears to have yielded to their concerns.

“We took into account parents and students’ opinions and the possible increase in private education costs,” said Park Baek-beom of the Education Ministry.

“We also focused on the stability of the system,” he said, indicating that frequent changes of the college entrance exam would be too disruptive. The education authority has been blamed for tinkering with the exam system too frequently with changes in governments and education ministers.

But the ministry stressed that high school students need to be exposed to wider academic disciplines, adding that it plans to come up with a long-term plan to combine the two tracks so that students can learn both social studies and sciences.

Currently, classes for high school seniors are totally dedicated to studying for the CSATs, whether it’s on the math/science track or the humanities track.

Another key issue concerned the scoring system for Korean history, which is being made a mandatory subject for all students on the college exams in 2017.

The ministry said that it will adopt an absolute grading system for Korean history because that puts less pressure on students.

Other subjects like English and math are currently scored based on a relative grading system, or curved grading.

When it comes to college admission systems, colleges will face stricter scrutiny and regulation, the ministry said. Currently, universities have been given discretion in coming up with a wide variety of admissions standards they can apply to candidates.

But in the future, each school will be limited to a maximum of six admissions standards.

Meanwhile, the ministry yesterday set the date for the CSATs for the third week in November, to be effective in 2017.

That means the test date will be pushed forward by two weeks compared to its current schedule.

BY PARK EUN-JEE [ejpark@joongang.co.kr]
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