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Japan HS principals to seek halt to private English tests for univ. entrance exams

The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology is seen in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward in this file photo. (Mainichi/Naoaki Hasegawa)

TOKYO -- Japan's national association of high school principals will demand that the education ministry stop the implementation of private English tests as part of the university entrance exam system in academic 2020.

Under the new system, university hopefuls will take English exams administered by six private firms as part of entrance tests run by the National Center for University Entrance Examinations (NCUEE).

"Test-takers' anxiety (about the new system) has not been allayed," the National Association of Upper Secondary School Principals stated at a Sept. 9 meeting of prefectural representatives in Tokyo. They declared that therefore a delay was needed if the current state of implementation continues. The association planned to deliver its request to the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology on Sept. 10.

The group represents public and private high schools across Japan, and its call on behalf of prospective exam-takers for the private English test plan to be re-evaluated is certain to strengthen the hand of those demanding the tests' introduction be postponed.

The association filed another formal written request with the ministry in July, calling on officials to quickly remedy problems with the new system identified by the principals. These included the lack of projections on the times and places the tests would be held, and inadequate efforts to resolve family socioeconomic and regional inequalities that could impact test-takers' performance in the private English exams.

The ministry did not present any improvement measures following the written request, and many of the representatives at the Sept. 9 principals' association meeting apparently voiced the view that there is no prospect that the problems will be solved.

Attendees also questioned whether the results of different tests could be compared fairly, as each exam has its own format and degree of difficulty. Furthermore, as of Aug. 1 this year, some 30% of universities in Japan had not stated whether they would make use of the private test scores in their admissions decisions, spreading anxiety among high school officials and related parties.

The private English tests were made part of the standard university entrance exam system as a means of evaluating applicants' abilities in four core language skills: speaking, listening, writing and reading. Students now in their second year of high school will be the first to apply to universities under the new exam system, and will in principle be allowed to sit the private English exams twice between April and December of their third year. The results will then be sent to the NCUEE, and thence relayed to the institutions where the students hope to gain a place.

(Japanese original by Yuka Narita and Kenichi Mito, City News Department)

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