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Elementary Schools in Seoul to Adopt Collective Test System

Elementary Schools in Seoul to Adopt Collective Test System

Posted January. 31, 2005 23:14,   


Starting the new school year, elementary schools in Seoul will revive mid terms and finals in eight years, and the current descriptive evaluation of students recorded on report cards will change to a format with evaluation by each level.

The portion of subjective questions in middle and high school exams will begin to increase greatly from this year’s 30 percent to 50 percent in 2007.

Superintendent of education at the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education, Kong Jeong-taik, announced Monday the plan to increase the academic level of students in Seoul, which is mainly aimed at advancement of academic levels of elementary, middle and high school students, and stressed, “Now that many countries worldwide are working to help enhance the academic level of their students in order to have a more competitive edge, we need to make efforts, too.”

The plan is that the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education will make sample questions of every subject for first through sixth graders in primary schools and store them in an “item pool.” Then, elementary schools are supposed to refer to them and make their own questions for midterms and finals.

However, to which graders the system will be applied, timing and method of evaluation will be left to each school’s discretion, and schools will continue to be banned from grading students by their exam results.

If that happens, the collective test system is likely to revive, which is the same one that was effectively banned by the former superintendent of education Yoo In-jong, who emphasized character education, in March 1997, when he announced the “New Wave Education Campaign for Seoul Students.”

Report cards of elementary schools will also help parents to better understand their children’s academic levels with evaluations in four to five steps like “Excellent”; “Good”; “OK”; and “More effort needed” in each subject and domain instead of the current descriptive evaluation.

The Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education explained, “We will present some sample report cards after reviewing ideas from varying circles,” adding, “Each school will be allowed to choose from them or make up their own, referring to our samples.”

The office also plans to cut back on the portion of objective paper-and-pencil tests and increase that of descriptive, subjective questions in middle and high schools exams to help them enhance their thinking abilities and be more creative.

It noted, “We will gradually increase the percentage of descriptive and subjective questions, excluding simple question-and-answer ones,” adding, “In five subjects including Korean language, English, math, science and social studies, the percentage will grow to more than 30 percent of school grades this year, to 40 percent in 2006, and up to 50 percent in 2007.”

It also intends to let first graders in middle school take a scholastic achievement test early March starting this year to use it for guidance of students who fail to reach certain academic levels. The test is presently taken by third graders in middle school and administered by the education office.

In the meantime, the Korean Teachers and Educational Workers’ Union claimed, “Scholastic achievement tests for elementary school students or those for the freshmen in middle school will potentially distort this nation’s educational system and lead to an overheated private education market,” noting, “We are opposed to the new system as the introduction of an evaluation system by each academic level for primary school students, in a way, amounts to the grading of students.”

Na-Yeon Lee larosa@donga.com