TOKYO, Nov. 1 Kyodo An Education Ministry advisory panel on Monday called for reform of the entrance exam system at Japan’s universities to allow students to choose the institution they want to enter based less on their deviation scores than on their individual goals.

The Central Council for Education proposed in a midterm report submitted to Education Minister Hirofumi Nakasone a shift from the “hensachi” system, which reflects a student’s chance of passing a particular university’s entrance exam relative to that of his peers.

In its proposal, students would be able to make a choice on the basis of their individual plans for the future.

To give students a sound basis for choice, the council urged that universities specify what kind of students they would like to admit by elucidating their educational objectives and the kind of ability they are seeking.

“Hensachi” scores have been used in Japan since the 1960s to calculate an individual’s percentile ranking in mock entrance tests.

The scores have been used by guidance counselors as a basis for assessing how likely a student is to enter certain universities compared with the mean average scores of other students trying for the same universities.

The council also called on the National Center for University Entrance Examination to design an exam for all public and some private universities with comprehensive problems and also to add aural comprehension tests to the English-language portion of the exam.

To address the problem of worsening academic performances, the council advised universities and senior high schools to boost their links by cooperating in designing admission tests or having high school instructors give supplementary classes at universities.

The council will next compile a draft report in December, based partially on reactions to its midterm report.

Although entry to some universities will remain tough, there will be a slackening in competition overall due to declining birthrates, and all students who apply will be admitted to an institution of their choice in 2009, the report says.

To this end, the council urged admission applicants to make subjective choices and universities to make efforts to select students not just by eliminating those who fail the exams but by discovering students who fit their educational ethics.

As a policy slogan, the council suggested “mutual choosing” to replace “selecting rather than being selected,” which has been criticized in certain quarters as giving the impression that universities were barred from making selections.

In view of the declining quality of academic ability accompanying an increase in college admission rates, the council recognized the need to increase the number of exam subjects, a shift from the ministry’s policy of reducing them.

The council also sought to introduce an exam in which applicants are evaluated by a regular admissions staff at a university based not only on such methods as document screening, interview, group discussion but also on students’ individuality and motivation.

To lessen the burden of universities in designing a new exam every year, the council approved lifting the taboo on the recycling past exam sets.

As for the aural tests in the English exam, the council proposed the use of interviews and other such methods, but left the University Council to consider the specifics of the proposal.

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