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November 04, 2004

Ministry Eyes New National Test

Education minister Nariaki Nakayama has proposed a new national test with the aim of Japan having the highest academic standards in the world. He presented a proposal to the prime minister on Tuesday that outlines a return to the national exam system of the 1950s and 60s. The system was abandoned as it was felt to incite excessive competition between schools. Since the 1980s, there has been a survey to assess the level to which the curriculum is being taught, but at most it has covered only about 9% of students. The proposed test would not cover all students but would see a significant increase. Details such as student numbers and grades to be tested will be discussed by the Central Education Council.

Recent reports from the ministry express a sense of crisis in the education system. Reintroducing the sense of competition between schools is now seen as a necessary measure. Other proposals under consideration are: revision of the basic education law; introduction of a license renewal system and specialized graduate schools to improve the quality of teachers; transfer of more budgetary and personnel decision-making powers to local boards of education; and establishing an external school assessment system.

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