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Japanese Achievement Test Reinstated after 40-Year Hiatus

Japanese Achievement Test Reinstated after 40-Year Hiatus

Posted August. 25, 2005 02:59,   


A nationwide achievement test, which had been abolished for allegedly encouraging excessive academic competition among elementary and middle school students in Japan, will be revived after 40 years.

In addition, the Japanese government provided principals jurisdiction to deploy teachers and organize classes, which can effectively adjust the 40 student-capacity of a class in accordance with each school’s circumstances.

Starting 2007, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Science, Sport and Technology (MOECSST) announced on August 24 that it plans to conduct a national achievement test of Japanese and mathematics on sixth graders and third graders in public elementary schools and middle schools, respectively.

Japan had introduced a nationwide achievement test in 1956 but it abolished the test in 1966 in the wake of criticism that the test ranked schools and that it was not desirable, from the perspective of education, to drive students in their growth period to excessive competition.

However, after a decline in Japanese academic performance became evident by the policy of “carefree education” introduced by the Japanese government, starting in 1980s for a well-rounded education, many pointed out that it should properly figure out the actual situation of students’ academic performances for each school and region.

After his inauguration in last fall, Minister Nariyaki Nakayama of MOECSST said, “Both teachers and students should all be motivated through fair competition,” and has since suggested that the ministry is willing to conduct a nationwide test in an effort to reform Japanese education.

Some Japanese media outlets interpreted the ministry’s announcement as a signal that Japanese educational policy will turn into the one based on academic performance in that the abolishment of an achievement test has been a symbol of the standardization policy that dominated the Japanese education field over the last decades.

Meanwhile, the Japanese government decided to pass the revised bill of the compulsory education law based on transferring the right to organize classes to principals in public schools that had been within the purview of education committee in each local area. The revision is aimed at increasing the quality of education fueled by the decreased quota per class by flexibly deploying teachers to classes.

The Japanese government is also promoting a number of other measures for educational reform, including the repeal of five-studying-days a week, the introduction of a teacher-license renewal system, and the expansion of allocating major subjects.

Won-Jae Park parkwj@donga.com