Posted September. 19, 2008 08:14,
Education Minister Ahn Byung-man says he will submit the original student test scores of the national college entrance test to the parliamentary committee for education, science and technology. When ruling party lawmaker Cho Jeon-hyeok asked for the document, Ahn said he would submit it on the condition that the data is used only for policy and research purposes. This is considered huge progress considering the ministrys prior rejection of the request.
Every year, high school seniors take the test and the results are stored in the computers of the Korea Institute of Curriculum and Evaluation. Analysis of the data shows the gap between the best and worst performing schools, and provides information on student scores and which district is doing better than others in the same city or province.
The Education Ministry has insisted on not releasing the data, warning against fueling a rankings competition among schools. Trying to cover up the gap among students, however, is no different than duping students and parents. The ministry finally agreed to the request after Cho and other legislators successfully filed a lawsuit. What is certain is that the Supreme Court is not on the ministrys side.
The open results on the college entrance test will show the gap between schools and regions, a secret which the government has tried to hide, and will force poorly performing schools and regions to raise their competitiveness. Teachers will also feel more responsible for student performance. In that sense, free access to the data will benefit students and parents, who form the demand side of the education market.
The Seoul city government will adopt a new system allowing students to choose the high school they wish to attend. Accurate and specific school information and average scores of each school are necessary for the new system.
Trying to cover up the flaws in the 30-year-old system, under which all schools are considered equal, cannot provide Korea a promising future in education. The Education Ministry must unveil the gap between good and bad schools and provide administrative and financial assistance to narrow the gap. The test data should not just go to lawmakers. Parents have the right to know as well. Gone are the times when government officials can monopolize information.