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Group calls on Tokyo gov't not to penalize students with stutters in English spoken tests

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TOKYO -- People with stutters should not have points deducted for spoken word issues consistent with their condition in English speaking tests being introduced to Tokyo metropolitan high school entrance spring 2023 admissions exams, according to a statement presented by a group of experts, people who stutter and others to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government on Jan. 27.

    The group is calling on any symptoms consistent with a stutter not to be used to dock points for an examinee with a stutter. It is also raising the alarm on the issue ahead of what it sees as a possible rollout of the speaking tests across all of Japan's high school entrance exams.

    Third-year public junior high school students applying for metropolitan high schools are expected to take the speaking tests this November. A maximum of 20 points can be awarded in the test, which will be added to students' overall scores in the metropolitan high school admissions tests.

    According to the Tokyo Metropolitan Office of Education's curriculum and guidance planning division, special measures had been set up in pretests held at public junior high schools by fiscal 2021, including in which students who have stutters who apply ahead of time are granted thrice the time to answer the questions. But the exam rubric treats numerous cases of unnatural pauses, silence and faltering speech as grounds for reduced points.

    The written statement asserts that the current standards "underestimate the true abilities of students who have stutters," and seeks for consideration when awarding them points. Regarding the special measures, too, it states that because students and their guardians may not fully understand them, or not make the relevant applications in time, there should be advisories on school websites and enough time obtained for application windows, among other measures.

    It is believed that one in 100 people have some form of stutter. Some have social anxiety that makes them uneasy around people due to experiencing mocking or bullying over their condition. Yoshikazu Kikuchi, a doctor at Kyushu University Hospital who is on the voluntary panel and has a stutter, called for appropriate consideration of the issue, "The inclusion in high school entrance exams could alter the lives of students who stutter."

    (Japanese original by Aya Shiota, Digital News Center)

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