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Essay Test Schools Using Intimidating Commercial Tactics

Essay Test Schools Using Intimidating Commercial Tactics

Posted July. 28, 2005 11:38,   


“May I speak to student Song? I am certain that you know the importance of the essay test.”

A second grader at Seoul Gyeonggi High School, Song (17) was surprised by the call the other day since the caller even knew his name.

Song said, “These days, I receive a lot of phone calls that urge me to attend hakwon, or private institutes, to prepare for the essay test or to receive private tutoring. Callers look for students’ information in middle school year books.”

Since the 2008 university admission system is said to put greater emphasis on the essay test, demand for essay classes has increased. There is fierce competition among private institutes to attract students.

Telemarketers Are Mobilized-

Private institutes go so far as to use telemarketing by hiring telephone publicity workers. They say to students and parents that “those who score poor marks in the essay test stand no chance of going to universities,” stoking a sense of unease about not having take classes for essay preparation among students and parents.

Private institutes look up telephone numbers of high school students in yearbooks of nearby middle schools and make phone calls at random to advertise private institutes to middle and high school students and parents.

Lee (41, Bukahyeon-dong, Seodaemun-gu, Seoul), a mother of a boy student who is a third grader in middle school said, “I receive two to three calls a day and those calls are about the importance of the essay test in university entrance preparation.”

Prior to summer vacation, private institutes distribute leaflets in front of schools and give away notebooks, plastic sheets, and fans that contain information on instructors and classes of essay preparation private institutes.

Kim Soo-young (16, Mok-dong, Yangcheon-gu, Seoul), a first grader at Seoul Jinmyeong Girls’ High School said, “With the summer vacation just around the corner, an increasing number of leaflets that advertise private institutes for essay preparation are being distributed. Private institutes target people who look like students and pass by private institutes.”

Park (Gaepo-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul), whose daughter is a first grader in high school said, “A private institute told me that high school first graders have to make all-out efforts to prepare for the essay test because in their second and third years of high school, they have to devote themselves to preparing for the CSAT (College Scholastic Ability Test), so I enrolled my daughter in a private institute.”

Quack Instructors Abound-

There are many cases in which prominent instructors have turned out to be incompetent. Many instructors stretch their educational background and career record.

They often place fake advertisements such as “Korean literature doctoral degree holder, majoring in essay,” or hide the universities they graduated from and put “graduated from [fill in the blank] postgraduate school.” Some instructors who once taught in the science or social sections are beginning to teach essay.

An official of the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education said, “Some instructors in areas where private institutes cluster advertise themselves as graduates of prestigious universities with a major in Korean literature or postgraduate schools, but many of them hype their educational backgrounds.”

An (48, Daechi-dong, Gangnam-gu, Seoul), a mother of a first grader in high school, said, “I consulted a lot of private institutes but few of them fully explained the difference between the existing essay test and the new one, and they only emphasized that ‘the new essay test that integrates courses is difficult.’”

A teacher of Korean at B High School in Seoul listened to a pilot class of a famous instructor and said, “They did not explain the basis of writing and background knowledge and repeated only that it is important to make clear arguments. I was disappointed with the class since the instructor gave the lecture using catchwords and foul language even, for the sake of fun.”

Educational Authorities Begin Crackdown-

The Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development told 16 municipal and provincial offices of education to crack down on the illegal management of private institutes.

Gong Jeong-taek, the superintendent of education for Seoul city, attended a Wednesday afternoon training event for officials of the Korea Association of Hakwon held in the educational training institute in Bangbae-dong, Seocho-gu, Seoul. There, he said, “Some private institutes are fanning a sense of unease among parents with false advertisements suggesting that the essay that integrates courses has been adopted.” He asked them not to teach the essay test the way they teach the university entrance examination conducted by universities.

Municipal and provincial offices of education decided to crack down on the overcharging of tuition fees and false advertisements, and they decided to give black marks to institutes which violate regulations. They will take measures such as suspending institutes or having the registration of institutes cancelled. In addition, they will check the career record of prominent instructors who are hyped by the institutes in their advertisements.

Jin-Kyun Kil leon@donga.com syroh@donga.com