Uni­ver­si­ties must ex­plore ways of us­ing pri­vately made English tests

Woonsocket Call - - OPINION -

The Univer­sity of Tokyo and Osaka Univer­sity have each an­nounced their own plans to uti­lize English tests pre­pared by cer­ti­fied pri­vate or­ga­ni­za­tions as part of com­mon univer­sity en­trance tests, which will start from the 2020 aca­demic year.

The an­nounce­ments of English test plans by many other na­tional uni­ver­si­ties have been de­layed. They should re­veal con­crete plans as soon as pos­si­ble to elim­i­nate the anx­i­eties of stu­dents pre­par­ing for en­trance ex­ams.

The Ja­pan As­so­ci­a­tion of Na­tional Uni­ver­si­ties (JANU) has com­piled guide­lines to make it manda­tory for test-tak­ers to take English tests pre­pared by cer­ti­fied pri­vate or­ga­ni­za­tions in ad­di­tion to tests pre­pared for com­mon univer­sity en­trance tests. The as­so­ci­a­tion leaves whether to use test results as qual­i­fi­ca­tions to ap­ply for univer­sity ex­ams or add them to com­mon test results in the hands of in­di­vid­ual uni­ver­si­ties.

One fac­tor be­hind the trend of de­lay­ing the an­nounce­ment of how to use results of English tests pre­pared by pri­vate in­sti­tu­tions is the im­pact of the Univer­sity of Tokyo’s de­ci­sion, which de­vi­ates from the JANU guide­lines.

The Univer­sity of Tokyo does not make it manda­tory for test-tak­ers to sub­mit results of pri­vately of­fered English tests.

The univer­sity al­lows stu­dents to ap­ply for ad­mis­sion if their English abil­i­ties are cer­ti­fied by high school teach­ers in school doc­u­ments sub­mit­ted to it.

The level of re­quired pro­fi­ciency has been held to the sec­ond from the bot­tom, called A2, un­der a cer­tain set of in­ter­na­tional stan­dards, which is the in­ter­me­di­ate level for high school stu­dents, or equiv­a­lent to Grade Pre-2 of the Eiken Test in Prac­ti­cal English Pro­fi­ciency. Con­sid­er­ing that the univer­sity de­mands B1 or higher to take classes at the Univer­sity of Tokyo – with B1 be­ing a higher level than A2 – there is no deny­ing that its mea­sure seems in­con­gru­ous.

There was strong in­ter­nal op­po­si­tion to the univer­sity’s de­ci­sion. As a rea­son for ob­jec­tion, op­po­nents as­serted that pri­vately pre­pared tests such as Eiken and the Test of English as a For­eign Lan­guage (TOEFL) tend to pro­duce dif­fer­ences of op­por­tu­nity for test-tak­ers, who sit for ex­ams ac­cord­ing to the fi­nan­cial power of their house­holds and the re­gion where they live. The univer­sity’s ir­reg­u­lar adop­tion of pri­vately pre­pared English tests could be a re­sult of com­pro­mise be­tween the JANU guide­lines and views of the op­po­nents within the univer­sity.

Osaka Univer­sity, which sets the big­gest num­ber of stu­dents to be ad­mit­ted among na­tional uni­ver­si­ties, dif­fers from the Univer­sity of Tokyo in that it has made it manda­tory for test-tak­ers to sub­mit results of English tests of­fered by pri­vate in­sti­tu­tions. This is in line with the JANU guide­lines. The univer­sity will re­port­edly set A2 as the grade for stu­dents to be able to ap­ply for univer­sity ex­ams.

Other than Osaka Univer­sity, such col­leges as Hiroshima Univer­sity and Tokyo Univer­sity of For­eign Stud­ies make it manda­tory to take pri­vately pre­pared English tests.

Half of the aca­demic year has passed for cur­rent first-year se­nior high school stu­dents, who will be­come test-tak­ers in fis­cal 2020 when the new com­mon en­trance test for­mula is in­au­gu­rated. In­di­vid­ual uni­ver­si­ties are called on to de­cide in­de­pen­dently on the way of us­ing pri­vately pro­duced English tests to be­fit the se­lec­tion of stu­dents they want to en­roll and an­nounce de­ci­sions as quickly as pos­si­ble.

The Ed­u­ca­tion, Cul­ture, Sports, Science and Tech­nol­ogy Min­istry will make the in­tro­duc­tion of pri­vately pro­duced English tests a cen­ter­piece of its univer­sity en­trance exam re­form. The min­istry aims to cul­ti­vate English speak­ing and writ­ing skills in ad­di­tion to read­ing and lis­ten­ing abil­i­ties. Lack of prac­ti­cal use of English has long been pointed out.

The in­tro­duc­tion of speak­ing tests is aimed at re­form­ing univer­sity en­trance ex­ams and en­cour­ag­ing the improve­ment of English ed­u­ca­tion at se­nior high school, which tends to place em­pha­sis on read­ing abil­ity. The re­form drive should not be un­der­mined.

The adop­tion of pri­vately pre­pared tests has al­ready pre­vailed among pri­vate uni­ver­si­ties and has taken hold among se­nior high school stu­dents. From a view­point of pre­vent­ing un­fair­ness, the ed­u­ca­tion min­istry is re­spon­si­ble for keeping a watch­ful eye on the im­ple­men­ta­tion sys­tem for pri­vately pro­duced tests.

The min­istry must work to­ward dis­pelling the anx­i­eties of test-tak­ers by putting forth ef­fec­tive mea­sures, in­clud­ing sub­si­dies for ex­am­i­na­tion fees and giv­ing con­sid­er­a­tion to re­gional ar­eas. A to­tal switch to the use of pri­vately pro­duced tests is sched­uled for fis­cal 2024. Pru­dent study is called for to ex­am­ine whether this will bring about con­fu­sion again.

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