At the recent Busan-Kyeongnam KOTESOL meeting, branch president Brad Serl gave a presentation on the new NEAT test. Umm, I may have written ‘test’ twice. I think the test is the “New English Aptitude Test” and it is intended to replace the current English test used in the University Entrance Exam.
There were two stated reasons for changing the test; one reasonable and achievable and the other…not so much.
The test -still three years away from actually being used – requires more English production from the takers and looks to be a better test to prepare for. If you do well on this test, you will likely also do well speaking English. This is good and achievable part.
The second reason for changing the test is to reduce private education expenditures – money to cramming schools or hagwons for English. In discussing this, we -(the people at the meeting consisted of 20+ people, including three Korean teachers of ESL, four to seven university instructors and ten or more middle and high school native English Speaker Teachers) did not think this goal would be achieved. Cynically, the group consensus was that private spending for ESL would likely increase.
How much is spent on private education now? The numbers on the presentation slide below are for private education for children in general so math, Korean language and other languages are included in the totals.
If you are a parent, you will want to be sitting down. If you have a heart condition, go and get your medicine and put it where you can reach it quickly if need be.
If parents paid one million won a month (around $900 US or Canadian) for private education, their child would have an 11% likelihood of qualifying for a Tier one university (Seoul National, KAIST, Yeonsei, maybe one or two others). For even odds of attending a Tier one university, parents need to spend two million won a month…
Sorry, I needed to lie down and engage in some calming visualizations there for a moment. Okay, the palpitations have eased.
As I see it, I can either educate my son to the level that he could attend a tier one university or I could save enough money to actually pay for him to attend one. I am not sure that I could do both.
The main suggestions we came up with for teaching students so they can do well on the test were 1) Organize extensive reading programs and 2) teach writing (more). A common complaint at the meeting was that students did not appear to understand how to write more than a sentence at a time in Korean or in English. Teachers will need to work on organizing ideas then on paragraph and essay formation.
As Serl noted, these are good suggestions for teaching ESL regardless of what kind of test there is. To paraphrase, “Teachers complain about ‘teaching to the test’. This isn’t always a bad idea. If the test is a good one, then teaching students how to do well on it improves both the test scores and absolute English proficiency.”