Overhaul college entrance exam
It took a year for education authorities to admit to an obvious error in last year’s state-administered college admission test. While they dragged their feet, students were rejected from the colleges of their choice, interrupting their course in life. Parents had to wage a costly court battle with authorities to defend the rights of their children. The education minister and the head of the Korea Institute for Curriculum and Evaluation, which administers the annual scholastic aptitude test that serves as the primary base for universities to accept new students, formally acknowledged a misleading question worth three points in a geography problem. They won’t appeal the Seoul High Court’s Oct. 16 ruling that the question was vague and open to multiple answers.
Their belated apology and response is beyond excuse and shameful. The question was unquestionably ambiguous and yet authorities clung to outdated information in the schools’ textbook. Students who answered according to the latest news and information were debunked. The question asked if the European Union’s gross national product (GNP) is larger than the combined GNP of nations in the North American free trade agreement (Nafta). The textbooks carry incorrect information that says the EU’s GNP is greater than Nafta’s, although Nafta nations’ GNP has exceeded that of the EU since 2010. If students are forced to memorize incorrect information, how can they grow up to be inventive and stay ahead in the globalized world?
Traditional scholars sided with state authorities who hired an expensive lawyer from a major law firm to fight against student representatives.
Authorities said they will enact a special law to rescue the victims. But to what extent that could be possible remains doubtful. Many are already attending schools based on their lower scores. They must draw up guidelines for change and notify eligible students. They said the guidelines would be announced by Dec. 19 when this year’s test-takers apply for next year’s college admissions. But the schedule must be pulled forward as many are retaking the test in November because of their lower average due to the error.
The college entrance exam also requires a radical makeover. Resources behind drawing up and reviewing the questions must be enhanced. There also must be independent appeals and a fast-rescue mechanism. Academics must not recklessly give out their opinions without thorough study and discussion. The culprits behind the latest mishap must be uncovered. The outdated network of education officials must not be let off easily.
JoongAng Ilbo, Nov. 1, Page 34