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The government is set to make the College Scholastic Ability Test (CSAT) easier by excluding questions at the highest level of difficulty from the state-administered college entrance exam, starting with September's mock test, to tackle the country's dependence on private education.
Education Minister Lee Ju-ho said during a policy consultation meeting with the ruling People Power Party (PPP) at the National Assembly, Monday, that the government will "exclude what is not taught in the public education curriculum to make the CSAT fairer."
Also known as "killer questions," these exam questions of the highest difficulty are based on content not taught at schools, giving an advantage to those who have better access to private education. It was an easier way to better assess the level of the students, but also a "root cause to drive students to private education cram schools," Lee explained.
The minister said this initiative is the start of the Yoon Suk Yeol administration's education reforms to make the CSAT a fairer exam for everyone, underscoring that "it is possible to maintain the test's assessment ability without using the difficult questions."
President Yoon instructed in the government policy goal in March to produce a fairer CSAT exam, but the mock exam carried out on June 1 included some questions beyond what is taught in the public school curriculum, which created a stir.
Under such a system, the private tutoring business cartel "dismantles education order and hinders students from having a fair chance at the same starting point," Yoon was reportedly quoted as saying.
The government and the ruling party also decided to retain special-purpose high schools, such as foreign language schools, autonomous private schools and international schools, to address and foster students' diverse aptitudes and talents. These schools were criticized for intensifying competition among students and were flagged to be shut down under the last administration.
However, the announcement triggered criticism from the opposition parties for intensifying confusion.
Rep. Kim Young-ho of the Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) who heads the main opposition party in the National Assembly's Education Committee condemned the move during a radio interview, Monday. He said it is "out of common sense" for a president to give directions on the CSAT just five months before the state-administered college entrance exam takes place. The lawmaker also emphasized that it is an issue to be decided by examiners and education experts.
Rep. Lee Jeong-mi of the minor progressive Justice Party also pointed out that removing highly difficult questions from the state-run college entrance exam had already been a work in progress and criticized the government for creating public confusion by announcing policies that were not reviewed properly.
Later on Monday, the Korea Institute for Curriculum and Evaluation (KICE) President Lee Gue-min announced he will step down from his post to take responsibility for the June mock CSAT exam debacle. The organization develops and manages the CSAT and biannual mock CSAT exams in June and September for high school third graders who take the college entrance exam in November.