Results of Japanese National Exam for 6th and 8th Graders

August 31, 2008

Akita and Fukui had the best results, Okinawa had the lowest. The test was reintroduced into the curriculum after not having been used for 43 years. All of the students in the country took the test on the same day in April.

I’m not sure what information they think they are going to gain from using these tests. They are constantly doing some kind of education reform, which means its not carried out full throttle. People are blaming a lot of what’s wrong with education now on something called “Yutori Education” or “Laid Back Education”. They cancelled school on Saturday (or so it seemed because in the end kids had to come to school for club activities or something else anyway, cutting out any chance for increased family time or independent study like visiting museums or historical places).

Parents complained because the kids were home even more than they had been before. That’s one problem I’ve seen in several schools. Parents want to leave everything up to the school, educating the kids, disciplining the kids, and teaching them. Parents complain when there’s a day off because they say they can’t get things done or do things for themselves. Schools and jukus take all of the students time. The kids spend all their time with the same few groups of friends, and very little quality time with the family.

Back to the tests…
They reportedly cost about 5.8 billion yen (over 53 million dollars). My feeling is that they were thrown together based on the tests done 43 years ago and current national tests, but still I’ve seen little attention to the actual science of assessment (psychological or educational) in the schools here. One would think that some time would be spent testing the test themselves to see what kind of insight they provide, but the tests last year were done cold, with little real attention to testing conditions other than making them all happen on the same day at the same time.

They are, as the government here often does, looking for a pill or a threat or a rule that they can make to improve education. My personal opinion is that they need to decrease the emphasis on club activities, meetings, and the running of the school, and increase emphasis on actual classes and teacher training. They have to destroy the juku (cram school) system as well. The jukus and schools are so tied in with each other that which juku you went to affects your acceptance to private junior high schools, high schools, and colleges, and the schools rely on jukus to review and teach information for them. I know of teachers who were told not to give homework because the students won’t have time to do it on account of going to jukus.

Back to the test again…

What made the test cost 5.8 billion yen?