On April 11, the Ministry of Education released a plan for changes to the college admission system, which will be implemented beginning 2022. Students currently in the ninth grade will be subject to the revised system. The ministry will toss the plan to the National Education Council, directly under the president, which will finalize the college admission system in August after public deliberation. The key issue in the new system is the grading method for the college scholastic ability test (CSAT) and a possible increase in the number of students accepted by the regular admission process. The education ministry suggested three options to assess the CSAT scores: a shift to an absolute grading system of nine levels for all subjects, maintaining the subjects currently graded with a relative grading system, and adopting the original CSAT scores. An absolute grading system for all subjects would mean that the grading system for subjects such as language, math, social studies and science, which had been subject to a relative grading system, would change. Last year, the education ministry had proposed this method when considering changes to the CSAT for 2021, but the proposal was suspended due to opposition.
The absolute grading system has the advantage that it can relieve the overheated competition for a better grade. However, it can be lacking in distinguishing the scholastic aptitude of the individual student, as there tends to be a multiple number of students with the same test score. This in turn can trigger a return to tests at individual universities. Maintaining the relative grading system is the same as the current admission system. Adopting the original test scores means test scores will not be categorized into levels and instead be submitted as they are. It may be good at distinguishing the students' scholastic ability, but it can put more pressure on students to study, and it may lead to a ranking of universities based on grades.
The public's attention is also on how much the government will expand “regular admission” and how much it will reduce "early" college admission based on "comprehensive student records," commonly referred to as the "admission system for those born with a silver spoon" and "blind admission," because it is largely influenced by private education and because the admission standards are ambiguous. Given that the education ministry, which had encouraged "early" admission, recently changed its position 180 degrees and requested major universities to increase the number of students admitted through the "regular admission process," it is likely that the government will increase "regular admission." The latest plan also included a measure to conduct the "early" and "regular" admissions at the same time. In this case, students will only be able to apply to 6-9 schools at most, but this could simplify and quantify the admission process.
The latest plan presented by the education ministry is simply a list of controversial alternatives. The ministry failed to be responsible as a government branch overseeing the nation's education policy, and did not present basic principles or the direction for a new college admission system. No wonder it came under fire for tossing difficult problems, with no visible middle ground, to the National Education Council, for fear of getting caught up in social controversy. In a way, it is natural that experts voice skepticism about the National Education Council being able to smoothly bring forth social consensus by putting the college admission system, an issue where the interests of various social actors clash, on the table for public debate.
The education ministry claimed that its plan was an "open plan" that could go through deliberation and public discussions, but perhaps the ministry should reflect on whether it was simply avoiding responsibility due to a lack of philosophy and strategy on education. Furthermore, the ministry should not turn away thinking that it has handed the problem over to the National Education Council. It should do its utmost to present improvements to the college admission system, a plan that contains goals and values for better education. That is the only way it can silence any arguments about the abolition of the education ministry.