Schools that lie

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Schools that lie

A high school record should tell everything about a student. It includes the record of a student’s grades and attendance, extracurricular activities, achievements, individual aspirations and characteristics. It becomes a pivotal reference in the rolling admissions that more and more universities are using to recruit freshmen instead of the one-time state-administered college entrance exam.

Rolling admissions took up 70 percent of the 2016 freshmen admissions in four-year universities. More colleges are accepting students entirely based on three years of high school records. In this year, 72,101 were selected based on their records (20.3 percent of the freshmen admissions) and the number is expected to reach 83,231 next year (23.6 percent). The share is 42.6 percent in 16 universities in Seoul. For the elite Seoul National University, the ratio is 78 percent.

It is desirable that universities are taking account of non-academic activities and individuals’ potential in accepting new students. It is in line with the trend of universities worldwide vying to admit agile and versatile talents to meet the challenges of the future. School records, therefore, must be fair, reliable and transparent.

A recent study dug up by an opposition lawmaker comes as a shock. Over the last four years, 419 cases of incorrect and falsified records were discovered in 371 high schools across the nation.

Last month’s discovery of tampering with school records at a private girls’ school in Gwangju city turned out to be a common occurrence. A school in Daegu fabricated the extracurricular activities of 30 students and one Ulsan school turned a delinquent student into an exemplar. The schools are guilty of deceit that amounts to fraud.

What was discovered may be the tip of the iceberg. School records overall could lose reliability. The education authorities should be blamed for lax supervision. The Education Ministry promised a crackdown when one school in Seoul was caught cooking school records in 2011.

But there has not been much improvement. A student that joined a group sexual attack on a female teenager was admitted to respectable university after being lauded by his school for volunteer work. A student who was absent for 20 days was praised for never being absent throughout high school. The electronic state record system should changed in order to prevent distortions and breaches of school records. The ministry said it would investigate 2,300 schools across the nation. But authorities won’t find anything if the school staff are careful and tough. Without these actions, the credibility of the entire college admission system could be at risk.

JoongAng Ilbo, Oct. 8, Page 30

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