The Japanese government is considering changing the Center Test from an entrance exam into an achievement test, something like the America’s SAT.  By this, the government aims to change the college exam system from an test-based system to a system that looks at grades, achievement, activities, and ability.  Since the Center Test is the largest entrance exam in the nation, this decision will, eventually, perhaps, someday change Japan’s educational system.

Students taking the Center Test in Japan
Students getting ready to take the great National Center Test, Japan

 The following quotes, from The Japan News, summarize this:

They want colleges to  “use results from applied level tests for basic candidate selection, and encourage them to conduct multidimensional evaluations of applicants through secondary exams by considering such factors as applicants’ eagerness, results of essay tests and interviews, and extracurricular activities at high school.”

And, “this approach has been modelled on the system used by universities in the United States, which use a multifaceted approach to evaluate applicants on various factors including essays and extracurricular activities at high school after confirming a certain level of academic ability.”

Sounds great.  Very reasonable.  But, let’s dig a little deeper here.  What does this mean?

 In case you are a teacher here in Japan who’s been living in a hobbit hole, the Center Test is a titanic undertaking for any college senior.  It happens in January usually, and most high school seniors take it.  Many use it to enter college, or as one of their entrance examinations.  Mostly public and national colleges use it, but many private schools will also admit students based on the results.

The Center is only part of the exam system.  (The whole entrance exam system is, of course, as complicated as they can possibly make it.)  I talk about the Center Test in a previous post, so take a look at that.

This is a big decision for colleges.  They will admit applicants based on real ability, which seems a bold step for Japan.  But is it really?  The devil is in the details.

If this proposal actually comes to pass, and is agreed to, it will begin in “about five years” (from the article).

Now, Japan’s educational system is test-based, meaning that those who go on to good colleges must have excellent memories but little else.  (For example, their TOEFL and TOEIC results are embarrassingly atrocious.)

Five years to change, nine years to results
Japan’s educational revolution . . . coming someday.

 After five years, colleges

will get well-rounded students.  With skills.  Who can do things, probably.

Tests will measure ability.  Sure, things will change then, won’t they?

No.  It will take another four years for them to graduate college, get a job, and then enter the workforce.

They’ll be in companies, driving the economy.  Will things change then?

No.  With Japan’s hierarchical, precedent-oriented society that rewards longevity over competence, well, we are looking at probably 15 years, optimistically.

However, in fifteen years, yes, things may begin to change.

And, maybe then, Japan will catch up to where it should have been fifteen years ago.

Japan's slow motion educational reform
Japan’s slow motion educational reform