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June 14, 2004

Academic Ability Tests the Norm

More regional boards of education now run tests of academic ability to assess how much students are actually learning. Of the 60 boards nationwide, 51 (85%) carried out the tests as of this April, of which 29 tested all students, up from 19 the year before. Japanese and math are the most widely tested subjects, followed by English, which is tested in 42 regions. The tests became much more popular in 2002, when the school week was reduced to five days and the curriculum simplified, partly as a means of reassuring parents that academic standards weren't dropping. The education ministry wants to avoid overt competition between regions and only releases results based on nationwide samples. But 35 boards have made their overall test results public and 30 have followed up with questionnaires on study and motivation.

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