Hagwon lecturers paid for CSAT prep questions

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Hagwon lecturers paid for CSAT prep questions

A recent police investigation into the nation’s private education market has revealed a wide-spread covert network of cram-school lecturers who pay school teachers as much as 100,000 won ($87) per question to help students preparing for the national college entrance exam.

Such profit-seeking by school teachers is punishable under the National Public Service Law, said the police special investigation team.

The 47-year-old private lecturer, surnamed Kang, who teaches Korean language and literature, purchased questions for his study materials from four school teachers. He paid the teachers some 40,000 to 50,000 won per question.

“I started writing questions for cram-schools about three to four years ago after I was introduced to the job by a university friend who worked at a publishing company,” said a high school math teacher from Gyeonggi, who has been writing questions for Kang for years. “It’s quite a profitable part-time job.”

The cooperation’s illicit activity was revealed after police started investigating in June the disclosure of questions for the mock College Scholastic Ability Test (CSAT).

The Korean language and literature teacher, surnamed Park, 53, who worked in a high school in Gwangmyeong, Gyeonggi, acquired test questions from seven other school teachers who wrote questions for the June mock tests and sold them to a cram-school lecturer surnamed Lee, 48. Park was paid over 300 million won by Lee for giving him some 5,000 questions over the past six years.

“The list of names of teachers that were paid to write questions for Lee will be sent to the Ministry of Education after the investigation ends,” said a police officer investigating the case.

The June preparatory exam is considered one of the most important tests for high school seniors, along with mock tests held in March and September, since they are made by the Korea Institute for Curriculum and Evaluation, the government organization responsible for the CSAT. The types of questions are therefore thought to closely resemble those of the actual CSAT, which is held every November.

A Korean teacher at a high school in Seoul recently confessed that one of his seniors told him that a lecturer from a renowned private academy was willing to pay handsomely if he agreed to write questions for students to study for preparatory exams right before the actual CSAT.

“You don’t have to worry about your name being revealed,” the teacher recalled his senior telling him. “It’s very easy to earn tens of millions of won without anyone knowing. It’s just like eating a piece of cake.”

“I was afraid that I might get caught if I did it,” said the teacher. “But I did contemplate the offer, since I made less than 500,000 won for writing questions for textbooks.”

Such requests are mostly offered to teachers who either participated in writing CSAT textbooks for the Education Broadcasting System (EBS), the major source of questions in the actual exam, or those who have examined the state-published mock tests.

A high school geography teacher, surnamed Kim, 42, was also asked by his senior teacher who teaches at a private academy to provide study materials to prepare his students for the exam. His senior promised to pay 100,000 won per question in return for two test sets with 40 questions each.

The teacher said the offer was “appealing,” but refused.

More and more cram-school lecturers are reaching out to school teachers, offering millions in order to survive in the intensely competitive private education market. From 2012 to 2015 alone, the number of lecturers rose from 236,105 to 279,211.

Questions written by school teachers who have passed the teacher certification examination and written questions for the actual CSAT are the most desired, and private academy lecturers are thus trying to attract students by obtaining more of these types of questions.

Lee, the cram-school lecturer who is being investigated by the police, advertised on his homepage, “The academy invests about 200 million won a year, or 100,000 won per question, to make state-of-the art textbooks that no other cram schools can devise.”

“Many students take his lectures,” said one 21-year-old who is now preparing to retake the CSAT. “His questions are similar to those that appear in the actual test and so they’re the best.”

“When school teachers are paid to make questions, that’s like taking a bribe,” said Kim Hee-hwan, an attorney who specializes in education cases. “The government must impose stricter regulations.”

BY PARK MIN-JE, SEO JUN-SEOK AND SHIN SOO-YEON [shin.sooyeon@joongang.co.kr]
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