26 September 2023

SOUTH KOREA: School testing change as standards slump

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South Korea’s Ministry of Education is to resume national evaluation of school students in an effort to reverse declining scholastic standards.

State-led academic evaluation on all students was dropped in 2017 amid claims there was too much emphasis on academic scores.

However, with an increasing number of students failing to achieve the minimum level of academic attainment, the Ministry has revived the evaluation system.

It plans to run an “autonomous evaluation of scholastic attainments” which will be a computer-based test.

Sixth graders at elementary schools, third graders at middle schools and second graders at high schools are to be subject to the test this year, expanded out to fifth graders at elementary schools and first graders at high schools next year, then to all students except for first and second graders at elementary schools by 2024.

The Ministry will also run a separate system to evaluate whether students have reached a minimum level of academic achievement.

All schools have to use one of the two evaluation tools and select students that need help on studying at least two months after the new school year begins.

Shortly before the Ministry’s announcement, President Yoon Suk-yeol said the Government would work on providing a “safety net of academic attainment”.

“If we neglect the education of children because of concerns about the criticism of lining the children up by their scores, Korea will have a grim future,” Mr Yoon said.

“Last year, the evaluation of scholastic attainments by high schools showed that the number of students who did not meet the level of basic academic skills for mathematics and English increased by 40 per cent compared to 2017.”

He said by reviving the national evaluation of scholastic attainments with all schools participating, an education model targeted at individual needs would emerge.

Seoul, 14 October 2022

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