The government is planning to introduce an examination system based on a new format that requires short essay-type answers to replace the current National Center Test for University Admissions. The entrance examination reform will be just around the corner if the government adopts the new plan, which was conceived by national universities, designating themselves as exam markers.
Discussions surrounding entrance examination reform have long strayed off course. In the past, initiatives to install multiple test days and to introduce cross-subject questions all fell through, except for a plan to introduce questions that ask for short answers.
A committee on entrance examinations in the Japan Association of National Universities submitted a proposal that, if adopted, will allow schools to introduce questions that ask for the applicants’ opinions. The current short answer format only asks for the applicants’ understanding and interpretations of the reading material.
However, it is unclear how many universities are going to adopt an answer format that entails an increased workload from grading short essay responses.
Many highly selective universities have already introduced short answer questions in their second stage examinations. On the other hand, universities that haven’t yet experienced grading short answers are requesting that the National Center for University Entrance Examinations provide exams along grading guidelines.
Creating common guidelines that reduce the schools’ grading burden will present a challenge, and winning over universities will present another.
International academic achievement studies have clearly shown Japanese students’ deficiency in answering open-ended, short essay questions. If the universities introduce short answers in earnest, it will impact what and how students study for the entrance exams. This will, in turn, promote educational reform in high schools. These are important reasons why the government should be serious and prudent in studying this initiative. (Abridged)