With Todai’s announcement (see Jiji news article below) that it aims to introduce a recommendation-based entrance exam system, this addresses in part the criticism of the over-emphasis on rote memory-learning and testing, and allows for more factors such as student personality, character and aptitude to be considered.  See also the Japan Times, Editorial “Entrance exam change needed” on what changes to the system are considered welcome:

“Alternative methods of evaluating students are desperately needed. Some schools allow interviews, recommendations and submissions of work such as essays or creative projects to give a broader picture of the individual applying. Those methods take time and effort to evaluate, but are more likely to provide a meaningful picture of a student than the ability to sit in a chair for a day and answer multiple-choice questions”

University of Tokyo to begin recommendation-based entrance exam

JIJI,  via Japan Times, MAR 13, 2013

The University of Tokyo, one of the most prestigious universities in Japan, aims to introduce a recommendation-based entrance examination system for the first time since its establishment in 1877, university sources said Tuesday.

In about five years, the national university will scrap written exams in part of its exam process in order to introduce a new screening system, the sources said.

The university is considering a system based mainly on interviews and recommendations from the high schools of the applicants, but no firm details have been set, the sources added.

The university hopes to work out details by holding discussions with high schools, the sources said.

National university entrance exams at present are conducted in two stages. The first one is common tests administered by the National Center for University Examinations and the second one is university-specific exams administered by each institute.

Usually, those passing the first-stage tests can take the university-specific tests, which have two types — conventional written exams carried out in the first period and other exams focusing on essays and interviews in the second period. Applicants can choose from either type.

The University of Tokyo plans to start the recommendation-based exam system on a trial basis only for the university-specific test in the second period. If the system works well, the university will consider introducing it also in the first-period test.

The university set the enrollment limit for fiscal 2013 on 100 students for those taking the second-period test, far fewer than the nearly 3,000 students for those taking the first-period test.

The university last April set up a panel, chaired by Executive Vice President Takao Shimizu, to discuss university reforms, including entrance exam reforms and a possible change in the admission period from spring to autumn.

The idea of introducing the recommendation-based entrance exam system has been floated at meetings of university executives and faculty members. None of them has clearly expressed opposition to the system, the sources said.