S. Korea may implement test-free semester to ease academic pressure

June 29, 2015
(NEWSis)

(NEWSis)

SEOUL, June 29 (Yonhap) — President Park Geun-hye called on Monday for efforts to ensure that a test-free semester program for middle school students will succeed, describing it as a key task to fundamentally change South Korea’s education system.

South Korea introduced the pilot program in 2013 to provide middle school students with chances to experience a wide range of learning activities for their future career.

The so-called free semester program is currently administered at 2,551 middle schools this year, about 80 percent of all middle schools across the country.

Under the program, schools will shift the focus away from test scores and teach students through such diverse engaging methods as discussion, experiments, outdoor activities and team projects.

The one-semester program represents a big change in a country where students heavily rely on simple memorization and rote learning, the cram culture that experts say is to blame for lack of creativity and critical thinking.

Park called on officials to make sure that the free semester program will succeed, noting the program is a key reform task to induce fundamental changes in the public education system and to change the future of the country.

Park made the comments in a meeting with officials, including those from the Education Ministry.

She also said public companies should take the lead in hiring employees by using the new National Competency Standards, a hiring tool designed to check the abilities of applicants to meet real world work conditions.

In the past, such matters as alma mater, personal background, general work-related experience, language proficiency and math skills were tested, which often led to an “over-spec” competition among many job applicants.

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