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[Editorial] Imsil County`s Educational Fraud

Posted February. 21, 2009 07:44,   


Fourteen elementary schools in Imsil County, North Jeolla Province, have nine underperforming students, not three as they initially claimed. Though the Imsil Office of Education knew that its miraculous outcome was not true, it lied to the province’s educational authorities. In response, Imsil educational superintendant Jang Wi-hyeon resigned. This was a natural action since he undermined the credibility of the national standardized test that faced tough opposition. Since this example is not the only one involving manipulated test results, extensive investigation of the test results seems inevitable.

Education, Science and Technology Minister Ahn Byong-man said, “We will review all the processes – evaluation, scoring and data collection.” This case, however, is not just about the problem of the scoring system. Though it was a nationwide test, the ministry let schools score the answer sheets of their own students. As the test results have a huge impact on a school’s reputation, a principal’s promotion, and the evaluation of education offices, the temptation to manipulate test results was all too evident. Therefore, the ministry must find more sophisticated solutions such as computer scoring or exchange of answer sheets to score them between different educational districts. It must also find out whether some tried to undermine the credibility of the test.

The ministry should also change the designated grades - sixth, ninth and 10th graders – for the test. The test is intended to evaluate scholastic achievement on the given curriculum, but gives students no chance to be reevaluated because they graduate soon after the test. Educational authorities thus need to test fourth, fifth and eighth graders to track their changes for the sake of student progress.

To make the test more meaningful, the proportion of underachieving students to all students must be released as well as those of average and excellent students.

The Korean Teachers and Education Workers’ Union said the “miracle of Imsil” shows the ministry deluded the public, urging the abolition of the nationalized test that rates schools from top to bottom. One cannot talk about the wood, however, after seeing just trees. The legitimacy of the standardized test that sheds light on the reality of schools, which has been covered for 30 years, will not go away just because of Imsil.” Side effects or problems can be corrected.

At a time when Koreans have vaguely come to see the reality of academic achievement, the country cannot afford to turn back the clock.