New English test seems like a big waste of public funds

Posted on : 2012-09-10 11:16 KST Modified on : 2019-10-19 20:29 KST
n an age of budget scarcity, about $26 million poured into development of test that could be discontinued

Jeong Jong-hwi, staff reporter
Over the last four years, the Lee Myung-bak administration has invested close to 30 billion won (about US$26 million) in an English language test called “NEAT” as part of a new university entrance system. NEAT, which stands for National English Ability Test, was created to replace American tests like the TOEIC or TOEFL and is to be applied as of the 2013 academic year. There are serious questions as to whether NEAT is being used effectively and or if it has been a waste of public money.
According to documents received on September 9 by Rep. Yu Gui-hong of the Democratic United Party from the Ministry of Education and Science, the total amount invested in the development of NEAT in 2008 was 2.7 billion won (about US$ 2 million). The amount spent during over past five years was 28.3 billion (about US $24.6 million) with this year’s budget being 10.7 billion won (about US$ 9 million). Additional funds of 1.9 billion won (US$ 1.65 million) were allocated hastily to allow students to do the test online.
Despite the amount that was spent, the results are not impressive. Two tests were offered in the months of June and July; those registered for the first test were only 644 test takers and the second 377, meaning a total of 1021 people took the test. Seven regional universities - Gangneung Wonju University, Kongju University, Pukyung University, Daejin University, Korea Maritime University, and Changwon University - are asking students to submit the NEAT results instead of TOEFL or the TOEIC. Meanwhile, major universities are skeptical using the NEAT in their college entrance system and creating a headache for the Ministry of Education.
The development of the test, including making questions and implementing the online test system, is said to be only half done. According to the documents sent by the Ministry to Rep. Yu, for the level 2-3 tests, they were able to secure only 29.4% of the test taking facilities and only 34% of the online system has been set up.
Rep. Yu said, “It is all good to develop a national English language test, but the infrastructure must be first established. Pushing it as they are doing it now will not work.”
The official in charge of English education policy at the Ministry, Koh Young-jong said, “We will do a survey of middle and high school students following the one that we did at the beginning of the year and will decide on whether we will continue to use this NEAT system.”
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