Sunday, February 22, 2009

"ilje gosa" or 'nationwide scholastic achievement assessment'

One of the Korean English news websites I occasionally take a look at is The Hankyoreh. Today I saw some articles about the "ilje gosa" or 'nationwide scholastic achievement assessment.' This is a test that was discontinued years ago and was renewed last year amidst a lot of protests by schools, teachers, and students . . .

Something foreign English instructors that are new to Korea need to know is that test rankings dominate anything and everything to do with the Korean education system. It's a constant struggle for expat instructors who have been in Korea for years to find ways to motivate Korean students to learn for the sake of learning, learn for the joy of learning, and just plain learn anything that won't somehow give the student an edge up over his/her peers in terms of their academic ranking. Whether this is in the public school classroom or the university classroom the same problem exists for foreign English teacher classes.

And the problem just doesn't apply to Korean students--it also impacts Korean teacher performance and motivation in the classroom when teaching. Considering the long hours and enormous workload many Korean teachers have to endure each day throughout the school year it's no wonder that many see the foreign English teacher's class (with the mandated focus on English speaking and conversation) as a complete waste of their time. The materials are generally not tested (though I do know some foreign teachers who have actually been able to convince their co-teachers to adjust the grading system to include their class content on tests and/or have some kind of grading take place) . . . so not only do many Korean students see foreign English teacher classes as a waste of time when they are within the crushing exhaustion and stress of studying and preparing for the classes that are tested--the Korean teachers also exhibit a high degree of disinterest too . . . not all, but too many for sure.

So when something like the "ilje gosa" is added to the Competition-Education system here you really have to wonder what the underlying economic and social motivations are . . . because they certainly have absolutely nothing to do with education.

Some of the article that got me blogging about this is here,

Opposition to national scholastic achievement test increases

With the furor about a national scholastic achievement test on the rise following the discovery that the Imsil Office of Education in North Jeolla Province manipulated its test results, there are rising concerns that similar problems with the test could recur in the next three rounds of testing scheduled to take place over the course of the year. Given the complaints about inconsistencies in how the test is scored and the fact that the test will be administered to more than one million students in a single day each of the next three times the test is given, support for eliminating the test, rather than simply improving it, has increased as well.

If an EDUCATION OFFICE run by professionals with decades of experience cannot be trusted . . . wow, I don't know what I'd feel as a parent or student who has to deal with this kind of reality on a daily basis.

The nationwide scholastic achievement assessment (ilje gosa) is a test for elementary and middle school students that covers five subjects: Korean language, English language, mathematics, science and social studies.

Students in the fourth through ninth grades will be tested on March 10, according to an announcement made Friday by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology. This means that a total of 2.7 million students, or five times more than the number of students who take the national college entrance exam, will take the test. Students in the third, sixth and ninth grades will take the test Oct. 13. The third round of testing will take place Dec. 23, the ministry said.

I'm kind of guessing that Julianne, and other foreign English teachers in the public education schools are going to have an interesting first week back to school. The schools that are taking this test seriously will all be running around freaking out and trying to get their students ready to take this test--meanwhile new foreign teachers entering the country will likely be sitting at their desks wondering why all the teachers in their office look like trench warfare soldiers from WW I . . .

. . .

Nevertheless, an official at the education ministry said he did not anticipate any further problems because the results of the test scheduled for March will not be disclosed and that students would only be informed of whether they were classified as performing or under performing.

Great . . . 'pass or fail' pretty much is interpreted by Korean students as 'life or death' when it comes to tests and grades here. I wonder how this kind of testing is supposed to 'help improve' assessment of schools and what needs to be changed . . .

Also check out . . .

Education Ministry under fire for faulty scholastic achievement test

Standards for administering and scoring the test were inconsistent in districts nationwide, which led to schools manipulating their results

The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology has come under fire for its handling of the nationwide scholastic achievement assessment (ilje gosa) following the discovery that the Imsil Office of Education in North Jeolla Province manipulated its test results before reporting them to the Education Ministry. The Imsil Office of Education had announced that no sixth graders in Imsil county were under performing in the key subjects of Mathematics and English and Korean language, but it was discovered Wednesday that the opposite was true, with a significant number of the schools’ sixth graders under performing in those subjects. Several other schools have also been found to have manipulated their results before reporting them to the ministry. Meanwhile, the credibility of the test itself has been called into question because each school used different standards to score the test and the ministry did not do enough to resolve the problem after the inconsistencies were discovered.

The sheer arrogance that must have been behind such a ludicrous cheating plan is staggering--NOBODY HAS AN ENTIRE REGION WITH STUDENTS WHO ALL PERFORM ABOVE AVERAGE/PASS A TEST--unbelievable . . .

The ministry released the test results on Monday, but problems with the testing system were detected early on. The test was called into question after it was reported that some students either submitted blank papers or submitted papers with only one question answered because they knew their test results would not be reflected in their overall grades, a key factor in the university admissions process. The scoring system was found be problematic because there were no clear standards for scoring more subjective questions, which meant that schools in different cities or provinces were issued different standards for scoring by their regional offices of education.

A teacher at a middle school in Seoul asked, “Who would have earnestly taken the exam because the results weren’t reflected on the school performance records?” Supervision of the exam was loose and scoring wasn’t strict,” the teacher said.

Well, the school year hasn't even started and it already looks like it will be full of more stories about the ilje gosa . . . I seriously feel a great deal of sympathy for the students and teachers who are having to deal with this on top of everything else that comes with teaching and learning within the competition system here.



Brian said...

Hmm, perhaps more than meets the eye here. You'll recall the notorious KTU having their students abstain from, or cheat on, the achievement test in protest. And a few months ago I blogged about those teachers who were fired for protesting the exam or trying to manipulate the results.

The line about students submitting empty answer sheets made me wonder. The Hankyoreh is quite sympathetic to the union---well, it hates LMB just as much---and I wonder if we won't hear from the other papers about some funny business.

Well, it seems whomever was behind this achieved the union's goal of disrupting the test and making it meaningless. We'll just have to see if they had a hand in it.

Jason said...

Hi Brian,

I remember your posts, and yes I remember reading about teachers getting students to not write the test, and helping them cheat too.

It's 3am in the morning and I'm just blogging to alleviate insomnia . . .

I think that there are several entities that have their hands stealing cookies from the education cookie jar . . . I was just focusing on a couple within the context of the articles . . .

Anyways, I think I'm actually tired enough to go to bed now . . . tomorrow is a big prep day for the coming semester next week . . .

Hope you're sleeping now though I saw on facebook about an hour ago that you were smelling chicken, lol.