Posted March. 04, 2003 22:56,

Every one in seven freshmen at science and engineering colleges at Seoul National University (SNU) gets an " F" in math.

This year, every one in seven freshmen at Natural Sciences College and Engineering College showed low level of proficiency in mathematics, and every one in five freshmen did in English.

According to a mathematics performance test conducted on prospective freshmen at Natural Sciences College and Engineering College on Feb. 20, 177 students, or 13.7%, scored less than 20 out of 100, an "F", the national university announced on Mar. 4.

The average of this math test, which consisted of 13 subjective questions, was 40.8 out of the 100 full mark, a little up from last year’s 37.6. Those who scored less than 20 in the mathematics test to measure students’ proficiency in high school mathematics should take the " basic math class" as a prerequisite for regular classes. The 129 students who scored more than 60 are entitled to take the "advanced math class" without any prerequisite while the other 977 students should take "math and exercise I," an intermediate level.

As the gaps among students in mathematics proficiency become wider, the university introduced this system, in which those with low scores should take a prerequisite before taking the advanced math class.

Meanwhile, the same day when the math test was taken, 4155 freshmen took TEPS (Test of English Proficiency developed by Seoul National University). According to the result, 781 students, or 18.8 %, got scores higher than 701 (out of the full 1,000), down 11.3 percentage points from last year’s 30.1%. The number of those who got an "F," less than 501, is 855, or 20%, which is almost the same as last year’s figure. They should take the basis English class before taking regular classes for general education.

"Although the average score of the math test was up from last year, this year’s freshmen’s proficiency is lower than those of last year, given that the degree of difficulty was lowered," said Kim Woo-churl, a senior staff member of Seoul National University. "The number of students who belong to the top 5% across the nation also decreased compared with last year. Considering that the top group forms a talent pool that will lead the nation in science and engineering, the current trend of the lowering of academic standards is a matter of grave concern."

Jin-Young Hwang buddy@donga.com

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