Worries about a quake during the CSATs

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Worries about a quake during the CSATs

The Ministry of Education announced that four out of twelve College Scholastic Ability Test (CSAT) centers in Pohang, North Gyeongsang, will be shifted following the 5.4 magnitude earthquake of Nov. 15 and a series of aftershocks - including a 3.6 magnitude one that hit the city at dawn on Monday.

The CSATs, originally scheduled to be conducted nationwide last Thursday, were postponed by a week to Nov. 23 due to safety concerns.

Kim Sang-gon, who doubles as education minister and deputy prime minister for social affairs, informed Pohang students where they would take the CSATs during a press conference on Monday. He announced that four Pohang centers located near the epicenter of the 5.4 earthquake that hit last Wednesday will be relocated to different schools in the city.

Some 2,045 students of the 6,098 total students registered to take the CSAT in Pohang will report to a new test center.

“Though we didn’t find any structural threats in any of the original centers after conducting safety inspections, we cannot ignore what the students may be going through psychologically,” Kim said. Prior to the announcement, government bodies and private organizations had conducted two rounds of safety inspections of the Pohang test centers.

He added that the new centers were chosen from within Pohang after taking into account “most students’ preference to take the exams there,” and the “possible difficulties involved in moving students en masse.”

Kim also said that 12 reserve test centers were prepared in nearby Yeongcheon and Gyeongsan, both in North Gyeongsang, in case another earthquake made more centers unavailable. “In case of an emergency situation, we will transport the students to the reserve centers to allow them to take the CSAT without disruption,” he said.

Many are concerned that aftershocks in Pohang will disturb students on CSAT exam day, as sizeable tremors continue to shake the city.

Addressing these concerns, the Education Ministry published detailed emergency guidelines to help students and supervisors react appropriately if earthquakes occur before or during the CSATs.

According to the guidelines, if a strong aftershock occurs before the nationwide CSAT orientation on Nov. 22 at 2 p.m., the day before the exam, Pohang students will have to find their way to designated reserve centers on their own the following day. But if aftershocks occur after orientation and before 8:10 a.m. on test day, the students will gather in front of their original test centers on the morning of the test and move together to the reserve centers. North Gyeongsang’s office of education will determine whether the tremors are strong enough to require relocating students.

In the event of aftershocks occurring during the exam, however, the ministry suggested different responses depending on the size of the tremors.

Students will continue taking the CSAT in case of small tremors, but evacuate to the schools’ sports fields if the tremors are believed to be large enough to cause physical damage. There are fears that the directors of each test center may assess the severity of the tremors differently. No standards have been set on when to restart the exams if they are paused.

A greater fear is what will happen if students in some schools fail to complete the exams.

The Korean Institute for Curriculum and Evaluation, which organizes the CSAT, has yet to answer how it will respond to this possibility. Delaying the test date again is highly unlikely due to universities’ admissions schedules.

The Moon Jae-in administration is trying hard to ensure the safety of all students on test day. Two firemen and two rescue workers are assigned to each test center in Pohang on Nov. 23. In the remaining test centers across Korea, two firemen have been assigned.

Kim, who also serves as CSAT emergency response director, will be stationed in Pohang on the CSAT day in case of an emergency.

President Moon, while designating Pohang as a special disaster area in a press conference on Monday, assured that “the government is making all preparations to respond to possible aftershocks during the test.”

BY KIM EUN-JIN, KIM JUNG-SEOK [kim.eunjin1@joongang.co.kr]
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