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EDUCATION > Educational Reform

University entrance exams to undergo revolution in 2020

  • May 4, 2016
  • Trending@Japan

unnamed (37)Here’s a question for you — The picture at left is a photo of King’s Cross Station. Explain how you feel about it in around 800 characters.


This very abstract question sounds like it belongs on some sort of psychological test, but it actually appeared on the entrance exam for Juntendo University Medical School in 2015. This is a shocking development in Japan, as entrance exams in Japan have long been known to focus on testing students’ memorized knowledge. This new type of test is viewed as a precursor for drastic changes in Japanese university entrance examinations in 2020.  Instead of the conventional entrance exams that require students to answer multiple-choice questions to test their memory and knowledge, the new test to be introduced in 2020 is expected to require students to work out problems by themselves, think critically, and express their opinions coherently.


unnamed (35)On Juntendo University’s entrance exam question, Ichiro Ishikawa, the principal of Kaetsu Gakuen, writes in his book titled “2020-nen no Daigaku Nyushi Mondai” (University Entrance Exams in 2020), “Unlike conventional entrance exam questions, this one has no model answer. However, this type of question may become the mainstream after the university exam reform in 2020.”  According to weekly Shukan Gendai (2/29), a new test replacing the current National Center Test for University Admissions will begin when today’s seventh graders take their university entrance exams. Kazunari Kita, a director at a facility that administers mock exams in the Tokyo metropolitan area, says: “This is the first major reform since the Meiji Era. The reform is based on the government policy to unnamed (36)foster human resources that can succeed in the world amid evolving globalization.… The required skills and talents will be very different from today on account of the spread of the Internet and the development of artificial intelligence. Twenty-first century education will be focused on fostering the ability to think and express oneself while being independent and cooperative, unlike the conventional way of accumulating knowledge.”


unnamed (34)Shukan Gendai wrote that Japan is lagging other countries in educational reform. The University of Tokyo and Kyoto University were the only Japanese universities listed among the top 100 schools in a university ranking released by a British educational magazine in September 2015. The University of Tokyo lost its position as Asia’s top institution of higher education after being overtaken by the National University of Singapore and Peking University. University entrance exam reform is being implemented now out of fear that unless Japanese universities respond to globalization, talented students will flow out of the country, eventually weakening Japan’s economic power.


unnamed (33)Now, how would you answer the following question? Write what you think about the photo at left in 60 to 80 words in English.


This question appeared on this year’s entrance exam for the University of Tokyo. Toyo Keizai online (4/5) wrote that it symbolizes the upcoming drastic changes in entrance exams in 2020, saying that there is a growing demand for human resources who have the resilience and ability to respond to unexpected events. The magazine wrote that Japanese universities will likely stop focusing on testing the amount of information students have memorized and shift to testing students’ personalities and capabilities through other means to find students who can really compete on a global scale.

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