Published : 2013-08-21 21:01
Updated : 2013-08-21 21:01
Criticism is mounting over the efficiency and quality of the new state-administered English proficiency test, putting a strain on the government’s initial plan to use it for college admission.
By introducing the National English Ability Test in 2012, the government sought to substitute the English section of the state-run College Scholastic Ability Test from 2016.
The plan, however, has been met with criticism from teachers and parents groups, who claim the government is implementing the new test without careful plans and preparation.
The Ministry of Education is now considering putting off its plan to use the NEAT for college admission, an official from the ministry told The Korea Herald.
“We’re now considering various options, including the cancelation of the original plan. We’ll make the final decision about the usage of the test soon,” he said.
The criticism grew stronger after a number of students who took the test in June complained that there were critical errors in the system. They said that they were unable to complete the Internet-based exam because their answer sheet suddenly disappeared from the computer screen.
Fifty-eight of the 1,116 test takers cited the same error, raising questions about the new state English test into which the government reportedly poured 39 billion won ($34 million) over the past four years.
The NEAT consists of tests on listening, reading, and speaking as well as writing, unlike the current college entrance exam that only assesses reading and listening.
The ministry believed NEAT would enhance communicative English education that has been neglected at schools.
Promoting the use of NEAT for college admission was one of the key educational projects the ministry pushed over the past years.
But facing increasing criticism, the ministry is likely to put off its plan to use NEAT for college admission, and it will be now hard to avoid blame for wasting time and taxpayer money on it.
The government’s hasty plan has resulted in confusion among teachers and students, Kim Seung-hyun, a high school English teacher in Seoul, told The Korea Herald.
“It was wrong in the first place. There were a lot of criticisms when the ministry introduced the test, but they dismissed them,” Kim, who is also director of civic group “World without worries of private education,” added.
Now, questions are also mounting about whether the ministry will abolish NEAT. Several private institutions, including YBM, one of the largest English school operators in Korea, have already closed NEAT courses that they rushed to open last year, suggesting the new state-English test has still no practical use.
Currently only 36 colleges nationwide have pledged to accept the NEAT scores for admitting new students, while the majority of schools are still skeptical about using it.
But an official from the Korea Institute for Curriculum and Evaluation, which administers the NEAT, said it has no plan to abolish the test.
“The primary goal of developing NEAT is to change current English education, to enhance practical and communicative English education,” he said.
“Although it will be less effective, if NEAT is not used for college admission. But we’ll continue to run the test and will develop ways to use it.”
Some teachers are skeptical about the usage of NEAT, arguing many schools lack resources for teaching speaking and writing to students.
“High school students are currently taught English four hours a week and one teacher teaches more than 50 students in a class. It’s almost impossible to teach speaking and writing at schools,” Kim said.
“Without changing the current learning environment, the test would only encourage more students to turn to private English education,” he added.