Korean colleges to simplify admission rules

SEOUL - As a solution, the ministry will introduce a set of guidelines and limit the number of appraisal schemes to no more than six per university.

The outlines also include a one-stop service that allows students to submit a single application via Internet and apply to multiple universities.

"Teachers and students will benefit by having a simplified admissions system," Education Minister Seo Nam-soo said in a press conference.

"The new system will reduce costs and save time for both colleges and students," he added, nothing that the plans will be finalized in October after completing a series of public hearings.

The ministry announced it will also make a several changes to the standard college entrance exams.

It said it will put history on the list of mandatory subjects ― along with Korean, math and English ― on the College Scholastic Ability Test, and will require all colleges to use the test scores for admission.

Currently, students are allowed to choose two of 10 optional subjects, including Korean history, world history, geography, economics and politics, for the CSAT's social studies section.

The decision came after President Park Geun-hye said that she was worried about the young generations' increasing ignorance of the country's history.

Requiring all students to take a history test for college admission might help students learn the subject more thoroughly, some experts say.

The opposition, however, claims that it may only add more pressure on students who are already under enormous stress from cutthroat competition to enter college, and it may turn more students to private tutoring.

The ministry will also drop a plan to use the National English Ability Test for college admission.

The government initially sought to substitute the new state-administered English test, introduced in 2012, for the English section of the CSAT from 2016. It reportedly spent 39 billion won (S$43.6 million) on developing the Internet-based exam.

But the ministry said Tuesday it decided to abandon the plan due to "systemic problems and concerns about rising private education" costs.

Also, the ministry is reversing its decision to use two types of college admission examinations with different levels of difficulty, even before their implementation.

In November, CSAT takers will for the first time be able to choose between an easier A version and a more difficult B version for the Korean, English and math sections.

But due to mounting concerns that students taking the A tests will be at a disadvantage in gaining admission to colleges, the ministry will abandon the dual-exam scheme and revert to the previous system in 2014.

"The constant changes to the college admissions system show that (the ministry) has undergone this whole process with unrealistic expectations and without hearing what teachers and students say," said Ha Byung-su, a spokesman of Korean Teachers and Education Workers Union.

"The new plans may help reduce the steps in the admissions process, but it won't help to ease the burden for students preparing for college admission. They still have to prepare for the CSAT, essay tests and interviews," he added.

Kim Mu-seong, spokesman of the Korea Federation of Teachers' Associations, noted that the government should adapt the college admissions system using a long-term aim.

"The government needs to hear various opinions from teachers, parents and students and consult with them on setting up new polices so they don't have to change the college admission tests every year," he added.