Curfew by TOEIC score violates rights: NHRC

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Curfew by TOEIC score violates rights: NHRC

Imposing curfew on students who receive low scores on their English proficiency test is an infringement upon human rights, said the National Human Rights Commission of Korea (NHRC) in a written statement released Tuesday.

The decision came after undergraduate students submitted petitions last October and again last March to protest a university’s dormitory rule that states, “Those who fail to receive a TOEIC score higher than 550 within two months are forbidden from leaving or staying out of the dormitory.”

The controversial rule immediately incited protests when it was created last September by a public university specializing in maritime studies. The NHRC released their statement to the press on the condition that the university remains anonymous.

“So English is now the new ticket home?” said one student.

Another said, “The university is using education to justify its violation of human rights.”

The Test of English for International Communication, more commonly known by its abbreviation, TOEIC, is an English test provided by the U.S.-based Educational Testing Service for those who do not speak English as a first language. Although in some English-speaking countries the test is not as widely used as the Test of English as a Foreign Language, or TOEFL, it has become the standardized English test in Korea, where it is used by major corporations and universities in their employment and admission processes. The receipt of a 990-point full mark is considered by many in the country a remarkable feat.

The university said that the rule is aimed to motivate students and increase the English fluency of Korea’s future maritime experts, something that will be needed given the increasing number of international sailors. But even before the dorm rule was instated, the university had been using TOEIC scores as a requirement for graduation; students who scored less than 650 had their graduation postponed until they managed to do so. The university claims the dorm rule had “considerable educational effect,” reducing the number of students who score less than 550 from 52 to 27.

Between the university’s right to determine its own education policies and students’ basic human rights, which are both guaranteed by the Constitution, the NHRC decided to side with the students and advised that the regulation be amended.

BY JEONG JIN-WOO [lee.dongeun@joongang.co.kr]

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