Wednesday, April 22, 2009 Kyodo News
About 2.35 million sixth-graders and third-year junior high school students took unified achievement tests Tuesday that were reinstated in 2007 after a 43-year hiatus amid concerns over a decline in academic standards.
Students from some 32,300 public and private schools from around the nation took the exam, which has drawn fire from experts and teachers who say it encourages unnecessary competition.
This year, every public school run by central and local governments participated in the test, including schools in Inuyama, Aichi Prefecture, which boycotted the past two.
The Inuyama board of education had claimed that education cannot improve under a policy that promotes competition and that the tests were a waste of taxpayer money because similar ones are conducted by the private sector. But the board changed its stance after its membership was reshuffled.
Meanwhile, some 48 percent of the nation’s private schools took part in the exam, down 5 percentage points from the previous year.
The Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry is scheduled to release the results of the test around September.
The exam, for which ¥5.8 billion is allocated, covers basic knowledge and applied skills in Japanese and mathematics.
The test is aimed at acquiring data on national academic performance by school and region so the ministry can discover problems that might have to be addressed in school curricula.
Similar national tests, though varying in scale, were held in the late 1950s and 1960s but terminated later after being criticized for encouraging excessive competition.
The test was restored in April 2007 after previous education reforms promoting the less rigorous “yutori” (relaxed) style of education were criticized after international assessment tests showed that the math and reading comprehension skills of Japanese students were declining.
Although the disclosure of breakdowns of the test data by municipalities and schools is banned to avoid promoting excessive competition among schools, the Tottori and Saitama prefectural boards of education have decided to voluntarily publicize this year’s details.
Source: Japan Times