Closing the education gap

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Closing the education gap

A taboo was broken when the Korea Institute for Curriculum and Evaluation on Wednesday disclosed its analysis of results of the annual college entrance test for the past five years.

Past administrations have stuck to the principle of withholding test results since the national test was introduced in 1993, citing the possibility of unwanted side effects such as firing up competition.

More details of the test results will be released later this month after lawmakers have had a chance to inspect raw data, which, it is hoped, will help schools enhance the quality of public school education, going beyond simply satisfying parents’ and students’ right to know.

What’s interesting about the results from the institute’s investigation is the clear gap between urban and rural areas, and between schools in the same region designated by the government to provide egalitarian education.

Under egalitarian education, students are sent to different high schools on a random basis, regardless of their academic achievements. This policy, which has remained intact for the past 35 years, guarantees equal opportunities for students no matter what their academic performance is by having them study under the same circumstances.

However, the new data released this week shows that this system is not working. If we continue to pursue egalitarian education, we run the risk of seriously damaging the nation.

The institute’s data also showed that students at high schools with more autonomy over school management policies, including admissions, scored higher than those at other schools.

Such information strongly indicates that by diversifying the types of schools in Korea and giving them more autonomy, we can produce a decent alternative to the egalitarian system.

We believe it is good for the future of the country if there is more competition between schools, but for this to happen, schools have to share information.

The national test score disclosure this time is a step closer to this goal, and the court’s recent ruling to do so seems to be in the same vein. But it has to be emphasized that revealing test scores is meant to boost quality and competition, not create a hierarchy among schools and regions.

Toward this goal, the education authority should acknowledge that an academic gap certainly exists and implement a thorough analysis of schools’ achievements, leadership by school principals and the performance of teachers and students to find out why such a gap exists. This would allow for systematic support to help narrow the gap between schools and regions.

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