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Essay questions scrapped for new university entrance exams in Japan

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Education minister Koichi Hagiuda said issues such as the potential for errors to be made by private-sector graders, including student part-timers, and the difficulty for test-takers to self-assess scores in an essay question format could not be overcome.

This is the failure of Japanese education at it's core. The inability to use subjective and critical thinking.

If the answer is not black and white, it's not allowable.

30 ( +31 / -1 )

I find it strange that English proficiency (whatever that means) is still a part of general requirements for university entrance. I wonder how many potentially brilliant people in various fields are denied entry to courses that they would excel in.

11 ( +16 / -5 )

Ah....could change the guidelines and become a world changer, smudge the guidelines and continue to be a nation of ignoramouses. I hope some day beauracracts actually have a moment of clarity. But then they become an expensive usless commodity. So not going to happen.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

This is the failure of Japanese education at it's core. The inability to use subjective and critical thinking

This is the reason why I don't want to raise kids in Japan. They're just taught to obey and repeat, not actually think...

13 ( +18 / -5 )

Considering the number of test-takers, which is well over 500,000 students every year, it has been unavoidable to opt for multiple-choice format tests up to now. Essay questions are much better ways to evaluate students' understanding levels without doubt, though. Japanese government doesn't need to make haste to solve this trade-off issue.

1 ( +5 / -4 )

Don't think, just repeat!

No creativity, no individuality and making it easy for those who evaluate the test.

Where have the good old times gone when children were expressing their own thoughts.

Uniformity, the way it is demanded (not only but also) by MEXT.

14 ( +14 / -0 )

Considering the number of test-takers, which is well over 500,000 students every year,

The dreaded "center test" will be given for the last time, next month. Following that, individual universities will be administering their own exams, and many are outsourcing the exams to businesses like Bennese and others.

The ministry is working to standardize the process.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

errors to be made by private-sector graders, including student part-timers, and the difficulty for test-takers to self-assess scores in an essay question format could not be overcome.

What this amounts to is that if exact wording isn't used in the answers, they can't properly grade the test. The idea that multiple roads could lead to the correct answer is incomprehensible.

9 ( +10 / -1 )

Ageed with the posters above,most universities in Japan focus only on memorizing for the main entrance exam and the rest is nothing but silently follow the lessons like robots.

Most of the people that went to their university actually didn’t learn so much.

They just memorized things to pass the exams that obviously they forget in the years.

The lack of creativity and thinking logically is a reality.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

In a trial Japanese essay exam conducted in November last year, several scoring errors and wide gaps between the actual grades and the grades students considered their tests should have been awarded were found, fueling criticism over the introduction of essay questions.

The reality is that Japanese teachers. ALTs and many Eikaiwas do not prepare students for critical thinking. What many speaking teachers, politicians, eikaiwa managers, and students don't get is formal writing is less forgiving than spoken language. It is a better reflection of a student's true level of ability.

That understanding would cause students and parents to place the blame on Japanese teachers, MEXT, and the system itself.

Hagiuda is trying to avoid the fallout of that realization.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

I wonder how many potentially brilliant people in various fields are denied entry to courses that they would excel in.

If that brilliance is STEM related then it will be mandatory. I can not think of one Japanese NOBEL prize winner that can't communicate (Speak and Write) in English at a reasonable level. Collaboration is a must!

4 ( +4 / -0 )

It is Japanese educational culture to adjust the curriculum and testing to keep grades high. These graduates have no idea how easy they have it compared to other countries. The whole system is set up so they don't actually have to produce anything besides a score on an adapted test. They don't have to produce research projects, essays and there is no thesis. They never have to write a book report either. They just skip through blissfully with attendance accounting for up to 50% of their final passing grade. Too easy!

5 ( +7 / -2 )

I disagree on everyone saying the Japanese are not or cannot be critical thinkers.

Look at industry. the Japanese are a powerhouse of brilliant inventors. Group inventing for sure, but cooperation and putting together many minds over one is an asset.

If the Japanese could not be critical thinkers, nor the Chinese for that matter as there are so many similar traits in the cultures, why are they so strong in building economies?

I will leave you with thinking about the amazing toilet seat devices here.

-9 ( +3 / -12 )

Disillusioned - I agree.

The ubiquitous multiple-choice answer system here is essentially a "lazy" system that has been allowed to remain in situ for way, way too long.

The system essentially allows for only one correct answer with no discussion taken into account. And the system itself relies on rote memory of details, without any chance to reflect upon the core matters.

Numerous times I challenged (very politely) my daughters English tests at Jnr & Snr highschool over single word / sentence multiple choice answers that could have alternative answers. Every time the relevant staff agreed that yes thats possible. The last occasion I recall was when my younger daughter was highschool 3rd grade and it was the "Big" final test. They actually had a faculty meeting over my suggestion that my daughters answer could be correct. Finally they agreed.

Getting these same people to mark paragraphs and essays (like the rest of the modern world) though, would be a monumental leap of faith.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

If essays to assess the critical thinking ability of high school students were required many universities and colleges would go out of "business". Even foreign teaching staff who employ essay-based assessments of Japanese students studying English (often against their will) put their jobs at risk if they dare to buck the cookie-cutter approach to "learning" their students to "communicate" using English. It always comes down to "old wine in new bottles" or stick a new, sexy label on 'em. Repeat the same thing decade after decade and expect a different result!? Plus ça change!

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Look at industry. the Japanese are a powerhouse of brilliant inventors. Group inventing for sure, but cooperation and putting together many minds over one is an asset.

BS! Japanese industry is not innovating at all. The are just good at manufacturing cheaply not at coming to original ideas, they are like the Chinese. You will have a hard time coming up with a big list of game changing inventions and innovations coming from Japan.

I will leave you with thinking about the amazing toilet seat devices here.

What a horrible example. If you are impressed with the toilets here, you must have pretty low standards in tech....

2 ( +5 / -3 )

NumanToday  08:14 am JST

In a trial Japanese essay exam conducted in November last year, several scoring errors and wide gaps between the actual grades and the grades students considered their tests should have been awarded were found, fueling criticism over the introduction of essay questions.

The reality is that Japanese teachers. ALTs and many Eikaiwas do not prepare students for critical thinking. What many speaking teachers, politicians, eikaiwa managers, and students don't get is formal writing is less forgiving than spoken language. It is a better reflection of a student's true level of ability.

That understanding would cause students and parents to place the blame on Japanese teachers, MEXT, and the system itself.

Hagiuda is trying to avoid the fallout of that realization.

Japanese teachers - yes, ALTs and Eikaiwas - depends on the native teacher and what is expected from teacher's Eikaiwa and school supervisor. At my school, as long as the students were happy, almost anything went. The eikaiwa that I worked for was fine with our student preparation lessons, and we did challenge our students to think. Now, at the academic level, mostly with elementary through high school, "What do you think?" is a dangerous question for many Japanese educators. I have three daughters and my wife and I tell them that in the house, how you solve problems is up to you. There is no "one way" to solve them. At first, my wife was upset when I helped our oldest daughter understand her math. Unfortunately, I murmured out "Chugoku-jin mitai" (like a Chinese person) when she told her that our daughter had to learn the math a certain way only. My wife was upset with me and my daughter was crying from the forced stress from my wife's tutoring. In the end, I helped my daughter to understand math better her way and I apologized to my wife.

Yes, in student's English classes taught by Japanese, they are taught to memorize and translate without much language production. One time, my wife wanted me to help our nephew in English. She said that he has to memorize the verbs with conjugation. To that, I told my wife, "NO! If he is going to learn English, he is going to produce it; no rote memorization. I don't teach that way. If you want him to memorize, YOU teach him." In the end, I taught him my way and he really enjoyed and understood my lesson. His dad was very happy, too.

9 ( +9 / -0 )

This isn't a good idea... Basically offering zero expression of thought... the answer is right or wrong, nothing in the middle.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

It's almost like a parody article, the essay doesn't have an objectively correct answer and therefore cannot be trusted to the Japanese graders! Why, the jukus would all go out of business if you simply can't just memorize pointless facts! Also the problem of using cheap part-time student labor, certainly there's no way to establish standards or use trusted staff members instead of just trying to save as much money as possible when the future of many hang in the balance!

So much which is wrong with Japanese society explained in one article!

9 ( +9 / -0 )

I find it strange that English proficiency (whatever that means) is still a part of general requirements for university entrance.

It's interesting that English levels are still so low in Japan. But then, it goes hand in hand with how successful nations have treated English-speaking media, especially movies. Countries like Japan, Spain, France, Italy, etc. all dubbed English movies for years. And English is still relatively poorly spoken in these countries. However, countries like Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Netherlands, Finland, etc. never dubbed films and people there are almost entirely fluent in English. Many of them are more eloquent than native speakers, even. The big exception here is Germany.

Anyway, something to think about.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I always did well at school but feel it was my ability to remember stuff. When I moved to Japan, I found it easy to learn the language again because I was able to remember lots of words. My question is therefore is it appropriate to test people solely on memory? Especially now that on any test of simple recall, Wikipedia will get 100 percent. There seems little point in testing children on what can be looked up in seconds.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Good, I always hated the darned things. I would not wish them on ANY generation.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

What yesterday's announcement by the education ministry demonstrates, following as it does on the heels of its decision to postpone changes to the English component of the 大学入試センター試験, is the ministry's failure to address concerns regarding fairness and marking standards.

.If the answer is not black and white, it's not allowable.

University entrance exam. Stakes extremely high. Subjective marking a critical issue.

This is the reason why I don't want to raise kids in Japan. They're just taught to obey and repeat, not actually think...

Might want to talk to some who have raised kids here to see if there's truth to your assertion.

and there is no thesis.

Ever hear of a 卒業論文?

1 ( +2 / -1 )

"math essay" ???? Ok, let me have a crack,

"123456789101112131466666666677777777777777777778888888888888888888899999999999999

Do I pass?

3 ( +3 / -0 )

English proficiency is most needed for Japanese politicians. I wish they could read English newspapers and understand English broadcastings.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

I have difficulty in Japanese because I demonstrate mostly through logical and critical thinking, as I find learning by rote robotic. Through an essay, I can create my way.

I can tell you it is a must to succeed in maths.

Multiple choice format is a joke since a monkey with a bit of chance could do better than some, if you show him how to tick ;)

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I disagree on everyone saying the Japanese are not or cannot be critical thinkers.

Look at industry. the Japanese are a powerhouse of brilliant inventors.

You miss the point, it's not about business, it's about a university entrance exam, and those critical thinking skills are not developed in young minds. In effect they are too busy trying to remember "stuff"

Group inventing for sure, but cooperation and putting together many minds over one is an asset.

Asset? The way Japanese corporations treats their assets is one major reason those who can "think" do, but generally NOT in Japan!

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Well...there goes "creativity" out the window!

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I think the ministry may have realised that students would all fail because they haven't been taught how to do it at school and is pretending to take the blame instead (well, framing it as 'it can't be helped').

You can blame eikaiwas and alts all you want but if the student refuses to learn there's nothing they can do. The only people with any ability to do anything are the Japanese teachers in schools. If it's going to be a mandatory component of the entrance exam it needs to be taught by them, it shouldn't be left to private companies because that's more weight on poor kids' shoulders.

It also beggars belief that students are entering university and can't put together a valid argument. Of course, the people who work in universities (me included), know it's a wee bit of a scam with institutions just getting people in promising a rubber stamp and a cosy 4-year holiday.

Yes, yes, yes, there are some brilliant minds in Japan but what happens is a few clever people come up with a good idea then it's scaled up for industrial production. Everyone else is there for 'full employment' pressing buttons without any need to think about anything

4 ( +4 / -0 )

’decided against adding Japanese and math essay questions’

What is a math essay?

It seems confidence before skill has not proven right in the long run, as all powers in the region are to find out after their bubble.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Then the only way is down. Too bad, Japan.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

re: article: However, the minister stressed the importance of including essay questions that evaluate logical thinking and a student's ability to express themselves and urged universities to put these types of questions on their own entrance exams.

Finally some critical thinking and not memorization that gets many nowhere when the time comes to think and use what is between the ears and inside the head, a brain. I really hope it makes the next generation of graduates into thinkers not the typical systematic robotic way of doing things. It is very tiring in dealing with Japanese and for one frankly hate that system. The mmm ssshhss etoo...mmm..wakarunai...doesn't cut it in todays global economy.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

English proficiency (whatever that means)

is still a part of general requirements for university entrance. I wonder how many potentially brilliant people in various fields are denied entry to courses that they would excel in.

I would think that brilliant people would have the intelligence to know a decent command of english is essential in today's globalised world, i also think those brilliant people wouldn't have much trouble learning english along with the fields they study in. Afterall excelling in today's world is on a global level not just a Japanese one

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Japanese education does not deal with diversity of opinion and process well at all. Essay questions are an important way of establishing that a person can think for themselves and express it to others clearly. Explaining relationships, processes, concepts, making arguments, and clearly conveying ideas and knowledge to others is basic to success. In fact the biggest indicator of success at the university level is not knowledge, it is the ability to think and act independently. Taking risks is also important. Robots can memorize everything but they cannot think, formulate ideas, form theories, postulate, reach complex conclusions, and create new knowledge. And robots can't take risks. (Yet) Students who expect to be successful at the university level had better be good at these things. You cannot assess these skills with standard multiple choice questions.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

i graduated from the n.1 university in japan 4 years ago. The quality of teaching and of the students in general is very low. Sad.

what People don’t get is that you should be putting effort into the study through the degree, and not just memorizing a bunch of multiple choice questions to get in.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

The dreaded "center test" will be given for the last time, next month. Following that, individual universities will be administering their own exams, and many are outsourcing the exams to businesses like Bennese and others.

Yesterday's announcement by the education minister makes clear that the "Center" test will not be introduced in the 2020 fiscal year (which runs from April 1, 2020 to March 31, 2021) but at some later date yet to be determined- and in any case, the exam will not be laid to rest when that occurs but will survive in its updated iteration as the 大学入学共通テスト. Individual universities currently administer their own exams, among them the AO入試、指定校推薦入試、スポーツ推薦入試、一般前期・後期入試.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

There has to be a balance between free thought and obedience. Too much obedience has already been talked about. Too much free thought and you have american children. Try teaching middle school in US compared to Japan. No respect, lectures considered bad (god forbid teachers teach), etc.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

-Ageed with the posters above,most universities in Japan focus only on memorizing for the main entrance exam and the rest is nothing but silently follow the lessons like robots.

Not true. I have twenty years teaching experience in Japan (sociology in Japanese) at universities from the top (Todai) on down.

-Most of the people that went to their university actually didn’t learn so much.

That’s also true of the US. There have been several books published on this. Here is an introduction to the subject in The Chronicle of Higher Education, the top trade publication for the US higher education sector.

https://www.chronicle.com/article/Are-Undergraduates-Actually/125979

-They just memorized things to pass the exams that obviously they forget in the years.

Chinese/Korean entrance exams are heavily memory based. Several European countries are known for memory based education. Parochial schools in the US emphasized memorization when I was going through elementary and middle school. None of these cases indicate that memory work kills creativity.

-The lack of creativity and thinking logically is a reality.

If this is an assertion about Japan and the Japanese, it is racist.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Math essay:

"Please write your thoughts on algebra, in binary code.:

0 ( +0 / -0 )

If that brilliance is STEM related then it will be mandatory. I can not think of one Japanese NOBEL prize winner that can't communicate (Speak and Write) in English at a reasonable level. 

I wasn't thinking of Nobel prize winners when I mentioned "brilliant people". I was thinking more of those who might be able to knock a tiny fraction off the emissions of vehicles, or reduce energy requirements of glass production by a whisker, etc. Basically everyday engineers.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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