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Grades or Personality? Possible Changes To The University Entrance Exam

by Masashi Mark Sato 

How do most students in Japan spend their time during the last year of high school? The answer is, studying. Students spend countless hours studying every day in order to get accepted into their desired university. However, in a few years, students might have to do more than just study.

The University of Tokyo is designing a system that assesses on top of a knowledge assessment similar to that of the current exam, a new entrance exam that will include a separate test or interview conducted by the university. The second part of the exam will enable universities to look at each students’ qualities such as personality, thinking abilities, and motivation.

Photo by rabbitneverlies (Flickr).

Photo by rabbitneverlies (Flickr).

The Council for the Implementation of Education Rebuilding formed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been discussing possible changes to the current university entrance system, in which students are tested solely on the knowledge they have acquired. According to the Prime Minister’s website, this new measure will help universities to seek out “diverse human resources who have both independence and creativity to work in various fields of society.”

How do students feel about the proposal? According to comments on social media about the topic, it seems that the majority of students do not approve of the new exam. There were various reasons as to why they prefer the current exam system, however common criticisms were that ‘it is hard for students to prepare for an exam with no definite answer’ and that ‘interview lacks objectivity, therefore it is unfair.’ Students have also raised the following question, “if we fail the interview, does that mean our personalities are denied by the university?”

I personally think that the change in Japan’s university entrance system is necessary, because students are only memorizing facts and not making use of the learned knowledge. Even English is broken down to a matter of vocabulary and grammar, and due to that many students are struggling to construct a simple conversation in English. If the new exam requires students to have an interview in English, for example, it would encourage students to apply their knowledge of English grammar and vocabulary in basic communication.

Many students are confused, and no one is sure whether the new exam system will have a positive or negative effect. However, one thing is for sure – if the new exam system is put into action, each student will have to decide on their own what to do in order to prepare for the exam. Cram school will no longer be a savior for them.

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