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Use of private English tests for university exams delayed after gaffe

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All this fuss over an English exam that means pretty much nothing to the success or future of students. It’s only about reputation and more fiddled statistics. The student base is declining rapidly over the last decade or so as the birthdate continues to decline. This has meant nearly all private universities, colleges and even high schools have lowered their entrance exam standards just to reach student number targets. I proctored a couple of national tests at the private high school I work in last week. The tests were 90 minute tests and 80% of the students were sleeping by the one-hour mark with hardly any of the answer sheets completed. I’m quite sure this scenario was repeated right across the country. I’m also quite sure that the results will miraculously show very high average scores nationally. Education in Japan is a farce. Most universities will pass students based solely on attendance. Nobody ever fails!

18 ( +19 / -1 )

Under the new system, six private-sector institutions would have provided seven kinds of tests, such as GTEC and TOEFL, aimed at measuring students' English skills in four areas -- reading, listening, writing and speaking -- from April next year.

stupid. completely stupid. why do we need 7 different tests of 1 language. Choose one, and only one and make sure it is THE standard by which Japan evaluates English ability. After all, isn't that EXACTLY what they do when it comes to japanese language assessment? Its all about the JLPT. And not only inside japan, its global. Everywhere. The standard assessment of Japanese is the JLPT. Hell, I had to take it back in the mid 90s when I first starting studying Japanese in the US. At a national level, Japan should have one, just one standardized test. JEEZ! 7 different tests of english?? Seriously??

8 ( +8 / -0 )

Another case of being told ‘what to do’ rears its head in Japan.

However, the fact of the matter is that there are already private universities recognising many of the private tests out there and allowing students credit for them...

1 ( +1 / -0 )

The tests were 90 minute tests and 80% of the students were sleeping by the one-hour mark with hardly any of the answer sheets completed. I’m quite sure this scenario was repeated right across the country. I’m also quite sure that the results will miraculously show very high average scores nationally. Education in Japan is a farce. Most universities will pass students based solely on attendance. Nobody ever fails!

I concur. I have a mate who teaches at a well-known Medical J-University.

He had to submit his Letter grades before the summer break for the first half of the year. Out of 5 different English speaking classes numbering 45+ students each, there was only 1-2 A's, 1-2 F's, and the rest mostly C's and some B's per class.

The Japanese supervisor asked him to check his grades again and provided this grading scale.

A = 80-100

B =70-79

C = 60-69

F =

8 ( +8 / -0 )

@Numan

I work at a well-known university in Kansai. The University English system is a farce. The only real good thing is A level classes because those students tend to be there because they genuinely want to learn.

D to B classes are lazy classes. Typically students "should only fail for attendance reasons." If you fail a student that has attended all of your classes but provided no work, he can petition the school and the school will ask you for proof why the student failed. Even if you submit sufficient proof 90% of the time the school will still change the student's grade to passing. The only students that actually fail a class are the ones that are absent or don't challenge a failing grade.

10 ( +10 / -0 )

check writing

is THE critical skill! Forget speaking. That's completely overrated.

-2 ( +5 / -7 )

Ouch! theFu has hit the nail on the head! But try teachsplaining that to the self-deluded managers and blind watchdogs of the Japanese education system who overvalue the ability to rabbit on mindlessly in Eikaiwa while devaluing the (dangerous) skills of critical thinking and literacy.

2 ( +7 / -5 )

An absolute ship of fools. How many decades does the Ministry of Education have to drop the English ball? How many generations do they have to let down before they just do what has to be done? Not a fan of bureaucracies in general as you can probably see. Being a sports guy I know what it takes to get students over the line. 

To continue using flawed methods that have proven wanting time and time again just because you can’t get your act together to make the necessary changes is the height of incompetency. I’m actually quite a forgiving guy these days too, but the damage these jokers do to the generation that will have to steer the future of the nation, in what will be very trying times, is just unforgivable. Japanese companies are missing out on so much business through lack of communication skills in the global language. And it’s not even that hard, everyone knows what has to be done. 

 Sorry about the rant.

The good news is that AI will pick up where these guys dropped off. There will be an app in the very near future that will guide the language learner to competence. It will be able to use language at the proficiency level of the individual learner, then incrementally scale it up in difficulty, level and sophistication. Hey Siri will be the best friend of the English learner. The only thing left and my only request to the remaining English teachers in japan is to not make your students HATE the language that you are charged with teaching. Then the architects of the ‘lost decadeS’ can finally retire. The smartphones will do the rest.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

The education problems in Japan run deep and reflect society as a whole. The teach and test strategies are a reflection of a society that seems to have little curiosity or interest in knowledge or skills - other than a very small percent. Whether changing the education system will help increase motivation to learn, or whether society itself just needs to be more interested in stuff (out side of food) is the question. Overall the university entrance exams are just the tip of a very ugly iceberg.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Aside from acquired cultural peculiarities Japanese students of English (or any other foreign language) can't speak well because they possess a woefully inadequate vocabulary (yep, they don't read). It's a no brainer that people who are able to express their thoughts in writing will have no problem expressing themselves verbally. The POTUS is proof! Q.E.D.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

An absolute ship of fools. How many decades does the Ministry of Education have to drop the English ball? How many generations do they have to let down before they just do what has to be done? Not a fan of bureaucracies in general as you can probably see. Being a sports guy I know what it takes to get students over the line. 

Mate, the Ministry of Education after the war was staffed by members of the disbanded Kenpeitai and Toku- the thought police. Lets think about that for a minute- the thought police literally became in charge of the education system in Japan. And we wonder why the education system is the way it is?? seriously??

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Aly, makes sense. The residual effects of a dubious start. Good to know these little side details.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Everyone here seems to think that not only English education, but education in general in Japan is a big joke. And yet Japan is the worlds third largest economy with lots of innovative high tech and culture that has spread across the world. The logical conclusion seems to be that education doesn't matter.

-8 ( +0 / -8 )

Everyone here seems to think that not only English education, but education in general in Japan is a big joke. 

Well, you must admit English language education in Japan is at the very least unsuccessful.

Japan scores well in maths and the sciences.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Why must students be forced to learn English at all? Those who speak and write fluently don't get it from the classroom. Maybe the government should just drop it as a required subject.

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Gokai; And yet Japan is the worlds third largest economy with lots of innovative high tech and culture that has spread across the world. The logical conclusion seems to be that education doesn't matter.

Thanks for pointing out a hunch I’ve had for years, that there is an underlying attitude that indeed ‘education doesn’t indeed matter’ as you put it. The companies pick up the slack and do all of the training on the job. Let’s see how this strategy plays out in the coming years.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

gokai_wo_maneku!

Japan became #2 because it was a follower. There was little innovation other than miniaturize. Reading was all important. Without speaking skills Japan never could ‘sell’ ideas. Japan today is being filled with foreigners, many of who cannot read kanji. How many home electronics goods have English (at least) manuals? How many companies have English (at least) help desks, etc. This is the result of education controlled by politics. No future.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Out of the cohort of students I teach only 10% of 350ish are actually capable of university-level studies and that's the second years. It doesn't help that they've hired an eikaiwa to make the material which is just parroting a few lines for 'career situations' so it's embarrassing to actually have to call it a university. To be fair though, some students know it's BS and refused to pay for the overpriced books the eikaiwa forced on them!

2 ( +2 / -0 )

stupid. completely stupid. why do we need 7 different tests of 1 language. Choose one, and only one and make sure it is THE standard by which Japan evaluates English ability. After all, isn't that EXACTLY what they do when it comes to japanese language assessment? Its all about the JLPT. And not only inside japan, its global. Everywhere. The standard assessment of Japanese is the JLPT.

I agree. But as Japan is the only country to use Japanese, it is easier to have only one test. Part of the problem in Japan is that they have consistently used the Eiken. And while popular in Japan, it isn't recognized in the world. More recently, Benesse has been pushing their GTEC, claiming that it assesses students better than the Eiken. Not sure it really does. But it's a business. Benessee is trying to claim a piece of the money pie. But the same problem exists. GTEC isn't recognized in the world.

It's just my opinion. But I think that Japan would be better off using the TOEFL or TOEIC as they are recognized everywhere.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Japanese officials have a gaffe and fail to make a change? I'm shocked, has this ever happened before?

4 ( +4 / -0 )

The education system needs a huge revamping in Japan. The cramming system doesn't actually allow anyone to retain the information after it has served its purpose.

As for the language ability of Japanese people. The reason they are not that good is the same reason majority of Americans or people from England are not good at foreign languages.

When your country has been "on top" and you have always been one of the top developed nations, people came to you for money. You didn't have to go out to procure it. People wanted the Pound, the dollar, or the yen. So they didn't have to prioritize a second language. Other people learned your language because they wanted what you had. Now many in the world is on equal footing and those that never prioritized a foreign language are now struggling to catch up.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I agree. But as Japan is the only country to use Japanese, it is easier to have only one test. Part of the problem in Japan is that they have consistently used the Eiken. And while popular in Japan, it isn't recognized in the world. More recently, Benesse has been pushing their GTEC, claiming that it assesses students better than the Eiken. Not sure it really does. But it's a business. Benessee is trying to claim a piece of the money pie. But the same problem exists. GTEC isn't recognized in the world.

excellent excellent point.

> It's just my opinion. But I think that Japan would be better off using the TOEFL or TOEIC as they are recognized everywhere.

The TOEIC is english for people in a professional setting and so not applicable in many cases- especially in schools- elementary JHS and HS.

The TOEFL is a good idea. My personal opinion is that Japan should use the IELTS exam.

OK! Here's an idea: have all English tests in Japan be either TOEFL or IELTS. Students and/or institutions can choose which or both. Problem solved.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

This is all about international showboating. They create these tests and many others like it (not just English) for the sole purpose of providing averages on paper to boast to the international community about the high standard of education in Japan. They have nothing to do with actually learning a subject. Let's not forget, the minister for education stated two years ago that, "We want to produce 'empty shells' to be inducted into Nippon Kaigi. This is the same minister who also wanted to remove all humanities related classes in universities. He felt the skills of being openminded, free thinking and being to infer and concur were not suitable for the Japanese psych. Most Japanese teens spend ten years in intensive study of essential subjects and don't actually learn a flipping thing! However, they were able to pass the tests with an 80% average. I had never really thought about the difference between studying and learning until I started teaching in Japan. They study for tests. (period!) - Ask a Japanese university or college student who is Charles Darwin or what is the capital of Thailand and watch the blank looks you get. They don't learn a flipping thing!

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Funny, they left out the biggest elephant in the room, the EIKEN. TOEFL is relatively unknown to most HS's, and is typically used for US universities, and IELTS for British.

EIKEN is an unbelievable money machine, with literally tens of thousands taking the tests every year, and paying 4,000 yen and up for different levels the test IS far too expensive.

Hell tomorrow is the "interview" test, and the examiners get right at 30,000 yen for about 8 hours of "work", times 10 for one location, and multiply that by around 5 different locations with the same number of examiners, times 2, as they do it all again next week, it's basically 3 million yen being paid for examiners here in Okinawa alone! Multiple that by 47 prefectures, jack the money up for Tokyo, and it's literally 10's of millions of yen for ONE testing period, time that by 3 for the number of times a year it is held.

EIKEN is a rip off!

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Why are students even learning English in Japan??? Barely any jobs use English.

If anything English is a disadvantage as you will end up working early mornings to align with global times for meetings with almost no pay advantage. Not to mention oftentimes the Japanese only departments generate more revenue and profits so you lose out in bonuses as well.

Learning English is a rip off in Japan.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

The TOEFL is a good idea. My personal opinion is that Japan should use the IELTS exam.

OK! Here's an idea: have all English tests in Japan be either TOEFL or IELTS. Students and/or institutions can choose which or both. Problem solved.

I agree. The IELTS would also be a suitable test for Japanese students.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

The TOEFL is a good idea. My personal opinion is that Japan should use the IELTS exam.

When I talked to my friend he said IELTS is just a cash grab to get foreign students to come to the UK, New Zealand or Australia instead of the US. It is run by three groups: British Council, Cambridge and IDP Australia.

Apparently, it is easy to pass and easy to grade. He said most students who can't get the TOEFL to get into a US school 550 score take IELTS as their plan B, and intermediate-level adult students who don't want to spend a whole year studying for TOEFL will prepare for IELTS in a shorter period of time.

He said to pass the Writing and Speaking sections students only have to remember a few templates because the exam is very predictable. TOEFL is more challenging. He also said 7-8 of the top universities in the world are also located in the US, so those other countries needed to offer a more attractive exam.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

They cant' because the volume reading through junior high and high school, that should be preparing them to read by themselves, is miniscule. The vocabulary is artificially limited

@jpn_guy - an excellent post and great analysis of the problems of English education in Japan.

The vocabulary one is often overlooked. With a wide enough vocabulary you can more or less muddle your way through sentences even if you don't get all of the grammar. With the artificially limited vocab, the English learnt in school is useless outside of the textbook.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Just a simple English test and it caused a gaffe ???. Japan is too old in thinking.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Have Japanese English students ever considered rather than spilling loads of money on English study books for English homework and just use your translator on your iPhone or Smartphone for English and then you will be able to pass your English test? Jesus! I took English class 1-4 in high school 7 years ago and I still speak the American English Native Language. I think the Japanese governments needs to stop being too blind by their research and learn to recognize your own Japanese citizens born in Japan and raised in the US without recommending them to learn the Japanese native Langauge

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

They should make passing an English test mandatory for being in Government.....

Ah, no wait, that'd pretty much leave no one in Politics.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

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