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EDUCATION > English Language

Panel urges scrapping private English tests plan for unified exams

  • July 8, 2021
  • , Jiji Press , 10:06 p.m.
  • English Press

Tokyo, July 8 (Jiji Press)–An expert panel of Japan’s education ministry proposed Thursday to scrap the planned introduction of private-sector English tests and open-ended questions for annual unified university entrance examinations.


The panel also advised that the ministry, instead, promote the adoption of such tests and questions by universities for their own entrance exams.


Receiving the recommendation, education minister Koichi Hagiuda said his ministry “will respond positively.”


In line with the experts’ conclusion, the unified exam reform ideas will officially be abandoned as early as this summer, informed sources said, adding that the ministry will provide financial assistance for promoting each university’s efforts.


The panel came up with the proposal after it “recognized the challenges of a system that relies heavily on external examinations,” in view of many privately run English proficiency tests having been canceled amid the novel coronavirus crisis.


It also found “geographical disparities” in terms of availability of such tests another major obstacle.


Meanwhile, the panel recommended that universities individually judge applicants’ English reading, writing, listening and speaking skills by making use of commercial tests.


The experts also called for improvements in university English education, urging the government to set a concrete level of English proficiency required to graduate.


On the adoption of open-ended questions, the panel said it is difficult to find a sufficient number of highly capable scorers for unified exam takers.


According to the ministry, 16.4 pct of universities used commercial English tests for their conventional entrance exams in fiscal 2019, while 34.6 pct used them for the so-called admissions office exams, which in many cases put greater emphasis on interviews with applicants or theses written by them.


While most public universities used open-ended questions in their own entrance exams, only around half of private universities did so.


The proposal called on the government to provide universities with financial incentives to promote the questions.


The ministry initially planned to introduce private-sector English tests and open-ended questions in the unified exams from fiscal 2020, which ended in March.


But the plans were put on hold in 2019, due to cost and scoring quality problems. The ministry has since been discussing whether to materialized them in fiscal 2024.

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