No NEAT fever yet
By Na Jeong-ju
Can the National English Ability Test (NEAT), a state-administered proficiency test, be an alternative to popular but expensive exams like TOEIC and TOEFL?
The Internet-based exam that focuses on evaluating speaking and writing skills has been much touted as being tailored for Koreans, who spend an astronomical amount of money on English education but have difficulty in communicating with native speakers.
It has two goals _ reducing Koreans’ dependence on foreign tests and alleviating the heavy household burden on private English education. It’s a lot cheaper than existing foreign tests, however, doubts have been cast over whether NEAT, developed and administered by Koreans, could compete with them.
The test was implemented just four months ago, but no one can feel NEAT fever anywhere in the country. NEAT courses are already popular at cram schools amid a forecast that the government may replace the English language section of the annual college entrance exam with NEAT.
Many experts, including Kim Jeong-ryeol, president of the Korea Association of Foreign Languages Education, caution that the exam will be another burden for students, if not conducted carefully.
One of its unintended results is soaring tutoring costs for English education. It is time for educational policymakers to face up to reality and carefully evaluate its impact on society and future generations.