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Assessing proficiency in the National English Ability Test (NEAT) in South Korea

A critique of a government's approach to testing English proficiency

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 February 2015


The English language as a symbolic resource holds more notable cultural and social significance in South Korea than any other foreign language. In the current trend of globalisation, proficient English skills have been identified by the government as a critical resource for the country's survival, and developing these skills has been a major priority in all areas. A number of elite universities and sought-after conglomerates such as Samsung, LG and Hyundai have policies which noticeably favour and recruit students with high English proficiency levels (Lee, 2006: 67). In particular, scores achieved in the international proficiency tests such as the TOEIC (Test of English for International Communication) and TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language), in preference to scores gained in other English tests, have become a major determining factor in gaining employment and promotion. According to the Samsung Economic Research Institute between 2004 and 2005, 102,340 Koreans sat for TOEFL. Koreans represented 18.5% of the total 554,942 people taking the test worldwide and they spend 700 billion Won (approximately US$700 million) a year on tests to evaluate their English proficiency.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2015 

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