Inmates score high in TOEIC test
By Yun Suh-young
Inmates are getting higher TOEIC scores than most college students.
The number of prisoners who received a score of over 900 out of 990 in the Test of English for International Communication (TOEIC) at the Uijeongbu Correctional Institution doubled from last year.
Ten at the Uijeongbu prison received a score of over 900 at the recent exam held on Aug. 17. Last year, five inmates scored over 900.
On the Japanese Proficiency Test (JPT) held on Aug. 13, two prisoners scored over 900, the same number as last year.
The highest TOEIC score was 975 this year, 10 points lower than last year’s best and on the JPT, one inmate scored 965 points out of 990, 45 higher than last year’s top mark.
The scores, however, are higher than those most college students achieve. The average for collegians is 800 points.
The Uijeongbu prison offers the test to inmates every August. This year is the 13th year the system has been in place. It is the only prison across the nation offering English and Japanese language programs. There are 26 inmates participating in the English program and 21 for the Japanese one.
When asked why the prisoners attain such high scores, a correctional officer said “it’s because they study all day.”
“The inmates come to the educational center a little past 8 a.m. and stay until 4:30 p.m. They go to bed at 9 p.m. but they’re allowed to stay up past that time if they want to study. So basically, they’re studying all day which is perhaps the biggest factor for their high scores,” said the officer, who requested anonymity.
“The other factor may be the teachers who are native-speakers. There are three native-speaking instructors for English and one for Japanese. They come to the prison to teach classes every day. These foreign teachers may have helped boost their skills,” he said.
The inmates who take the language programs are specially selected from correctional institutions across the nation. They must take a test and be selected from their own prisons to participate in the one-year program at Uijeongbu Correctional Institution. When it is over, they return to their respective prisons.
“If they get a good score, they may receive a slight benefit in being released on parole but it’s not a big incentive. They are privileged in the sense that they can study unlike others who have to do mandatory hard physical labor,” the officer said.