- Supporting Lagging Students and Learning for All: Applying the Diagnose-and-Supplement System of Basic Skills in the Republic of Korea
Understanding students’ abilities and skills relative to the demands of the curriculum and guiding them accordingly is a vital part of maintaining a high-quality education system. Students below the basic level of academic skills need more time to learn and more personalized guidance from their teachers. The Republic of Korea has been meeting this need by developing and running the Diagnose-and-Supplement System of Basic Skills (DASOBS). This system is used to guide academically underachieving students by diagnosing their basic academic abilities constantly and in stages, and providing them with supplemental material that matches their academics. This system is intended to raise the degree of attention paid by schools and teachers to students who are easily isolated from the rest of the class due to their lack of academic skills, and to improve students’ quality of life by helping them experience academic success over and over again. The ultimate purpose of DASOBS is to give academically underachieving students the attention they need, in a world that tends to focus more on students who excel. Major features of this system include using tests that can precisely identify academically struggling students, testing below-basic students regularly throughout the school year to track their progress, and providing them with personalized guidance suited to the academic needs of each student. DASOBS testing is done more than once in the year. The first Diagnostic Test for Basic Skills (DTBS) is administered at the start of the year, and other diagnostic tests are carried out in three stages during the year. Only those students who placed below-basic in the initial diagnostic test take the succeeding tests. After each test, the students are provided with supplemental material in the subject areas they struggled with in the test. The test type the students take the next time depends on how they performed in the previous DTBS. Different test types cover different ranges of content. Below-basic students are thus grouped into smaller and more specific subgroups after each test, and provided with more personalized academic support. Many institutions, each one with a specific role, take part in DASOBS. Without their efficient cooperation, DASOBS cannot achieve its objectives. The Applied Measurement & Evaluation Center (AMEC) at Chungnam National University (CNU), is the main developer of DASOBS content on top of its many other responsibilities. AMEC forms various teams to develop, review, and revise test items, and eventually create supplemental learning material corresponding to the finalized test items. This material is then uploaded to the database so that it can be used online or offline by schools. Not all schools in the Republic of Korea use DASOBS, as it is not mandatory; however, about half of all schools in the country use the system. DASOBS has numerous policy implications. It enables students to be monitored, teachers to be equipped to provide students with the specific academic support they need, and the related institutions to be organized. Moreover, implementing an online system is very closely aligned with today’s world, especially in light of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. The goal of DASOBS was to create an educational environment that gives all students equal opportunities to succeed―a place where meaningful learning happens even among the lowest-achieving students. Again, supporting lagging students is the foundation for ensuring learning for all.