This year’s Korean language test uncertain due to Covid-19Authorities consider computer-based tests, but it’s fraught with challenges given the large number of candidates.
Chandan Kumar Mandal
As uncertainty looms over this year’s language test for prospective Nepali migrants to Korea, authorities are considering several options, including taking it online, and allowing candidates to sit for the exam round the year.
In light of the Covid-19 pandemic, dates for the Test of Proficiency in Korean (TOPIK), which would normally be announced in April-May, have not been published so far this year.
“Authorities from both the countries have been discussing whether the test can be conducted online,” said Krishna Prasad Khanal, director at the Employment Permit System (EPS) Korea Section at the Department of Foreign Employment. “We are considering whether the computer-based test (CBT) model can be adopted for the exam this year.”
Khanal, however, said the Korean side has not proposed dates for this year’s edition of the language test, mandatory for Nepali migrant workers aspiring to work in South Korea. Given the current situation, it’s difficult to conduct tests the way they were carried out before the pandemic, he added.
Every year, Korean language exams are conducted as paper-based tests (PBT) for first-time candidates. The computer-based test is reserved for migrant workers, who have returned after working from South Korea, and want to go back as their numbers are significantly low compared to first-time candidates.
“Every year, thousands of candidates apply for the Korean language test. Conducting tests online would need more computer labs and better internet,” said Khanal.
Last year, over 92,000 candidates, the highest ever, registered for the test which went on for two days across several examination centres in the Kathmandu Valley and Pokhara, where schools and colleges were converted into exam centres.
The section has also been considering the idea of renting computer labs from schools and colleges to conduct computer-based language tests for more candidates. But the number of candidates pose challenges for online tests.
“Even if we manage to conduct the test for 1,000 candidates every day, it will go on for several months,” said Khanal. “EPS section’s proposed building for language examination at Bhaisepati is also yet to be completed.”
In a bid to address the problem, discussion is also on to conduct the test round the year, rather than just once. “We have also been thinking if language tests can be conducted for groups of candidates throughout the year,” said Khanal.
“People are taking the test for others and this has also presented another major challenge, strongly raised by Korea. Installation of a biometric attendance system for applicants is also under discussion.”
Nepali workers migration to South Korea, considered a better labour destination for its better income and facilities compared to that of Gulf countries and Malaysia, remains suspended since mid-February due to the pandemic.
“Even for the language test to happen, we will have to wait for the lockdown to be over,” said Khanal. “Before that, it’s not possible.”