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New Gov`t English Test to Debut in 2012

Posted December. 19, 2008 08:04,   


The Education, Science and Technology Ministry announced yesterday that a new state-certified English proficiency test will be given from 2012 to improve practical English skills, similar to the existing TOEIC (Test of English for International Communication) and TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) tests.

The government will also consider replacing the English section of the College Scholastic Aptitude Test with a Korean version of TOEFL starting 2012. Many experts warn, however, that the new test will spur private tutoring fever as fifth graders can replace the English section of the college entrance exam with the new test in 2016.

Grade 1 of the English proficiency test will be available for university students or ordinary citizens preparing for college graduation, employment or study abroad. The assessment results will be presented as scores.

Grade 2 and 3 tests will be used to evaluate high school students for college admission. Grade 2 will be utilized for students applying for majors requiring a high level of English proficiency and Grade 3 for those needing practical English skills.

Based on these projections, the difficulty of Grade 2 will be the same as the English section of the college entrance exam but Grade 3 will be easier.

To stem rising costs for private tutoring, the ministry is considering establishing a system that simplifies the results to pass or fail for Grade 2 and 3 tests.

The government could also divide test results into four to nine grades, as experts cite the need to discriminate proficiency among test takers.

To enhance practicality in English education, the new test will focus on speaking and writing skills rather than reading comprehension.

The writing section, which students consider most difficult, is expected to be moderate given the limitations of public education.

The Korea Institute of Curriculum and Evaluation plans to launch three pilot tests on 10,000 students in May, September and December next year and two pilot tests on 50,000 students each in 2010 and 2011.

English classes in elementary schools will be lengthened by an hour each week from 2010.

Third and fourth graders will get two hours of English classes per week starting from 2010. Fifth and sixth graders will get three hours instead of two.

To handle the rise in class hours, the Education Ministry plans to recruit more licensed English teachers to meet the increased demand for English teachers in elementary and middle schools nationwide.

Under the plan, fifth graders can take the new test instead of the English section of the college admission exam.

The English section of the college entrance exam and the new English test could co-exist after 2012, so students in the second year of middle school are expected to be affected by the new test.

Certain experts say the new test will result in the expansion of both public and private education, with stronger emphasis on speaking and writing skills and the number of English classes increasing in elementary schools.

Many people express worry that the new system will further widen the gap between the haves and the have nots and the sending of children abroad for education.

One parent in northern Seoul said, “Private institutes in my neighborhood are competing to offer classes by native speakers, of which the tuition is double or triple the current rates.”

Another problem is the heavy burden on high school students.

Education Minister Ahn Byong-man said, “Since 2012, each university will be allowed to reflect a student’s English test records in admissions. It is not a bad idea to let high school students take both Grade 2 and 3 tests.

The new English test, however, could further strain the heavy workload of high school students, who must endure “exam hell” when preparing for college.