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Japan schoolkids' test scores show no effect from pandemic disruption: ministry survey

This photo taken July 26, 2018, shows the building of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology in Tokyo. (Mainichi)

TOKYO -- Japan's elementary and junior high school students are scoring similar test scores to their counterparts five years ago in Japanese and arithmetic and mathematics, with no wider discrepancies between the lowest-scoring and top-scoring groups, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology announced in part of its results analysis for the National Assessment of Academic Ability.

    Although the elementary and junior high school students tested in the 2021 academic year experienced the temporary closure of all schools in spring 2020 due to the emergence of the coronavirus, among other events, the education ministry stated, "No effect on academic attainment was confirmed."

    The results announced by the education ministry came from the National Assessment of Academic Ability's section referred to as the multiple-year changes analysis survey. Every year the test is conducted on students in the sixth grade of elementary school and the third year of junior high school. Unlike the national assessment's main investigations, which are conducted on all applicable nationwide students and average test scores are released separated by prefecture, the changes analysis survey conducts a sampling survey over intervals of multiple years.

    Unlike the main test, which varies by difficulty each academic year, the exams' difficulty is kept at a steady level in keeping with testing theory, which offers advantages when comparing the results of different academic years.

    In the fiscal 2021 multiple-year changes analysis survey, a total of about 110,000 students at 600 elementary schools and 749 junior high schools nationwide were chosen to be part of the sample. They sat tests for Japanese and arithmetic and mathematics, while the third-year junior high schoolers also took an English test. Excluding the English test held for the first time, the results of the two other subjects were compared with those from fiscal 2016.

    For sixth-grade elementary school students, the average Japanese score was unchanged at 505.8 points, while for third-year junior high schoolers it was 511.7 points -- almost flat with the previous 508.6 points.

    On the arithmetic and mathematics tests, sixth-grade elementary school examinees scored an average of 507.2 points -- up from 502.0 previously -- and third-year junior high schoolers scored an average of 511.0 points, a rise on the average of 502.0 recorded in the 2016 academic year.

    (Japanese original by Akira Okubo, Tokyo City News Department)

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