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Tokyo, 3 other prefs. look to limit scope of high school entrance exams amid pandemic

Students are seen sitting for an entrance exam at Tokyo Metropolitan Nishi High School in the capital's Suginami Ward, with masks on their faces to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, in this February 2020 photo. (Mainichi/Naotsune Umemura)

TOKYO -- The education boards in Tokyo and three other prefectures are looking to narrow the scope of studies subject to high school entrance exams next year in response to delays in curriculums due to prolonged school closures amid the novel coronavirus pandemic, a Mainichi Shimbun survey has found.

Meanwhile, education boards in 15 other prefectures, including the northernmost prefecture of Hokkaido, will not make such a change for high school entrance tests, which will be sat for by students currently in their third year at junior high school.

Most of the education boards in Japan's 47 prefectures will finalize their decisions regarding the issue while evaluating the progress of studies at schools and looking at moves in other prefectures. Some boards, however, will wait until around August to make a final decision.

The survey was conducted on June 4 and 5 covering the education boards in Japan's 47 prefectures, asking them about the scope of studies to be covered in high school entrance exams and test schedules in response to the viral pandemic.

With regard to the scope of exams, 32 prefectural education boards said they were looking into narrowing it down. Among them, boards in Nara, Nagano and Nagasaki prefectures said they were making adjustments to limit the scope of tests. On June 11, the Nara Prefectural Board of Education formally decided that it will narrow the range, and the Tokyo Metropolitan Board of Education also announced the same day that it will limit what will be covered.

According to a survey conducted by the Nara education board in late May targeting third-year junior high school students in the western Japan prefecture, 73.8% of 6,092 students who responded to the survey said they had misgivings about their learning activities after the resumption of classes following coronavirus-driven school closures.

Among them, 48.9% said they had anxieties over the scope of studies subject to entrance exams, while 54.7% said they were worried about the progress of their studies, according to the survey that allowed for multiple answers. In a separate poll targeting junior high school principals, 76.8% of 95 respondents said they favored "partially curtailing" the scope of exams.

"We've decided to reduce the scope of exams in some subjects in order to dispel concerns among exam takers," Yasuhiro Yoshida, superintendent of education in Nara Prefecture, told the Mainichi Shimbun on June 11.

The Nagano Prefectural Board of Education stated, "It is obvious that classes are behind. We are investigating how much the scope of exams should be narrowed after confirming with schools about their progress in curriculums."

Meanwhile, Hokkaido, Aichi, Kagawa and 12 other prefectural education boards answered in the Mainichi survey that they will go ahead with next year's entrance exams with their scope remaining "as usual." The Kagawa education board stated that "students can make up for the delays by using the summer break and through other means." The Hokkaido and Aichi education boards replied that they will proceed with entrance exams "as normal unless virus infections spread hereafter."

Among the education boards that said they were considering limiting the scope of exams, several boards are struggling to make a decision over the matter. The Saga and Kagoshima education boards stated that, as there are students from other prefectures who are taking entrance exams in their respective prefectures, it's hard to say if they can make a judgment based only on the circumstances faced by their own prefecture. The Kumamoto board said, "We are looking into measures such as excluding contents of the latter part of textbooks for third-year junior high school students from entrance exams depending on how the situation from now unfolds." The board is planning to finalize its policy in around August.

With respect to the exam schedule, the education boards in Tokyo, Hokkaido and 29 other prefectures said they will stick to regular exam dates, while 16 other boards said they were still investigating the matter.

The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology issued a notice to education boards and other bodies across the nation on May 13, asking that they give consideration to exam takers so that they will not suffer any disadvantages, by taking measures such as determining the scope of entrance exams and other selection methods for high school admission based on the situations surrounding studies at each junior high school under their jurisdiction.

(Japanese original by Hitomi Saikawa, City News Department)

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