Minimizing CSAT side-effectsThe education field has again been shaken up due to a major change in the state-administered College Scholastic Aptitude Test (CSAT), used in the college admissions process. Under the revisions, the exam’s English section will be graded, starting in 2018, on an absolute evaluation system rather than a relative evaluation system, known as a curve. The new grading system will be applied to this year’s current first-year high school students.
Those who receive within 90 points out of a perfect 100 will be considered the highest level, or grade, while those who score from 80 to 89 will be classified in the second grade. Under the current relative system, only those who score within the top 4 percent can be classified in the highest grade. The change now, however, means that anyone with score above 90 will be considered top tier, regardless of whether they receive a perfect score.
To be accepted to elite schools, applicants must score within the top grade for each subject.
The revision was made under strict orders from the president, who called for measures to ease private tutoring costs on English education. The Ministry of Education hopes the change in the test’s grading could lessen the burden on students so that they can spend more time improving their English-speaking and writing skills.
But there are concerns. If the pressure on English education becomes less competitive, it could theoretically just shift to other major subjects. Based on last year’s English scores, those that made up the highest 4.49 percent - or 26,070 people - could increase to 15.6 percent, or 90,664, under the absolute grading system. That number is greater than the combined quota for freshmen in four-year colleges in Seoul. Students may have to cling to other subjects like math and the Korean language to beat out the competition.
The role of teachers also would become critical under the new change. Teachers who can conduct lessons in English account for just 23 percent, and the average TOEIC score among teachers who have had language courses overseas is just 450 out of a perfect 990. Due to the budget shortage, only 59 percent of the 11,543 schools nationwide have native English teachers, down 27 percent over the last five years. Who would be able to teach students conversational English? The ministry must come up with measures to prevent such ill effects. Teachers must receive more training and more native English teachers must be hired. The ministry should hold public hearings to map out a constructive direction for the college entrance exam.
JoongAng Ilbo, Oct. 3, Page 26