Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Education Policy News

The college admissions process has been in flux since the Lee Myung-bak administration came to power in February, 2008 with a promise to do something about private education costs of high school students.

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.


Mo said...

It sounds like they're trying to make things more fair, which is good. I for one, am glad that I haven't had to sit though and suffer the Korean education system. Having my entire future riding on the results of one huge entrance exam? No thank you! That's one thing I like about the North American education system, we give lots of leeway for people to have second chances at post-secondary education, even if they don't do well in high school the first time round.

Education Training said...

Very interesting post. I enjoyed reading it and look forward to more in the future.

SuperDrew said...

This administration's way to stop students from having an academic advantage? Keep all high school students at school until 10pm! That way they won't need to go to academies...

Why not fix the education system so students don't need to study 18 hours a day in the first place?

Tuttle said...

I agree, of course. It all comes down to the overweaning importance of the CSAT. With your entire future riding on this one item, the attitude of spare no expense to get that one extra point is understandable.

If the admissions system really does open up to other factors like leadership, volunteer experience, creativity, etc, that will be a big move in the right direction, IMO.