Two-track education system to be combined

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Two-track education system to be combined

The Ministry of Education will overhaul Korea’s primary, middle and high school education system following its decision to remove the long established distinction on the college entrance exam between liberal arts students and general science students.

The integration of the split system, which will take effect in 2017, is aimed at fostering more well-rounded talents. Currently, high school students choose between concentrating on math and science, taking only the science sections on the College Scholastic Ability Test (CSAT) or the liberal arts sections. But under the new system, students will be required to complete all sections of the test.

The ministry said that it will introduce more specific guidelines for course curriculums in July.

Some parents and education experts have accused the ministry of increasing pressure on students, who are already under immense strain, by mandating more subjects of study.

The announcement was part of the Education Ministry’s annual report to the Blue House in which it outlines how it will administer its policies throughout the coming year.

The education authority also mentioned that the English levels on the CSAT set for this year will be easier than on previous exams. Last year’s English Level B, the more difficult version in the segment, was criticized for being too complex for college-bound high school students. The length of the reading passages will also be shortened and the number of multiple choice questions will be trimmed - parts of the exam that are considered by many to be challenging.

Starting next year, students will be barred from listing language proficiency scores from tests like Toeic and Toefl when applying for earlier admission, which focuses on applicants’ school records, their statements of purpose and references from teachers.

Critics argued that the consideration of language aptitude tests would only benefit those from wealthy families, who have the means and resources to prepare for those tests through hagwon, or cram schools.

Additionally, the ministry will announce measures for textbook authorization. The controversy over alleged biases by a private publishing company in its history books sparked debate over whether the government should oversee the publication of those materials.

Last month, lawmakers of the ruling Saenuri Party and the Education Ministry discussed ways to strengthen the ministry’s monitoring and revision of history textbooks authored by private publishers, which would ideally prevent any uproar.

The initial certification process for history textbooks under the current system is “too short, with too few experts involved in the process,” Saenuri lawmaker Kim Hee-jung noted during the meeting.

The ministry is now considering expanding its efforts to include other subjects when adopting the new certification process. However, it did not specify what the authorization process will be like, adding that an official announcement will be made in July.

The number of students selected through the essay-oriented admissions system will be gradually reduced to shift the focus of the admissions process toward CSAT results.

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