A great many of the foreign English teachers in Korea work in hagwons, private academies, a main purpose being to provide an advantage to students preparing for the college entrance exam given in November every year. A wealthier family can afford more of this after-school contact time, thereby "gaming the system", in one interpretation. Or learning more and being better prepared.
One new policy is being touted as a "Korean-style" university admissions officer system. Today new guidelines were announced so that "TOEFL, TOEIC and other English test scores will not be used as major elements in the [admissions] process". For example:
Lee Bae-yong, head of the council and also president of Ewha Womans University, said they will no longer count language certification test scores in the admission process, along with verbal English interviews and extracurricular awards from schools.
This according to a story in today's Korea Times. However, the lede in the coverage over at the Korea Herald says students will not be given extra credit for "achievements in private education."
There is a significant disparity between these two descriptions of the new policy. The Herald quotes a Korean Council for University Education official as saying:
The admissions officer system should keep a balanced view when evaluating students, considering all factors including academic achievements, creativeness, sincerity and others.
"Creativity" is certainly a valued commodity in the university applicant--less clear is how this trait is to be measured, especially since it's generally not part of the public education core curriculum and extracurriculars are to be discounted ...
But the elephant in the room is the supremacy of the SAT score--while it is laudable for this new process to look at students' other qualities, like leadership, etc., the fact remains that this single score, the result ultimately of one day's work in mid-November of the senior year, remains the be-all-and-end-all of college placement in Korea.