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13 nat'l universities

to allow applicants

with rock-bottom

private English test level

From The Mainichi

TOKYO -- At least 13 of Japan's 82 national universities will accept applications from admissions candidates with junior high school-level scores on private English tests when the new standardized university admission exam system is introduced in academic 2020, it has been learned.

Junior high school graduate level English is equivalent to A1 on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR), an international standard for gauging foreign language skill. The CEFR has six levels, A1 being the lowest and C2 the highest.

However, the Japan Association of National Universities (JANU) has already set guidelines requiring at least a mid-high school level of English -- equivalent to A2 on the CEFR -- to be considered for admission to one of its member schools once private test results become part of the entrance exam system in academic 2020. JANU has announced that national universities should require applicants to submit private English exam scores, use the scores to add points to the results of standard English entrance exams, or combine applicants' private and standardized exam results.

However, a Mainichi Shimbun examination of application criteria listed on national university websites and in other sources found that 13 institutions would accept A1-level English test results for admission to some or all of their faculties, as of April 30 this year. The schools are: Obihiro University of Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine, Miyagi University of Education, Yokohama National University, Joetsu University of Education, Kanazawa University, University of Fukui, Kyoto University of Education, Tokushima University, Kagawa University, Ehime University, Kochi University, University of Teacher Education Fukuoka, and Kumamoto University.

The schools' decision to keep the required English level low takes into account that regional and economic disparities can impact a student's opportunity to take the private tests, among other problems with the new exam system pointed out by critics.

According to an education ministry study from academic 2018, no more than 40% of third-year high school students had A2-level English-language skills. It is possible that if universities require at least an A2-level test score to apply, students with better scores in other subjects and otherwise met admissions requirements would not be able to sit a school's entrance exam.

Presumably, the 13 universities were concerned that the use of private English tests would narrow examinees' opportunities.

Some have also raised questions about the method of using private English test scores to add points to standardized exam results. School sources assert that it is difficult to compare the CEFR grading method and the eight separate tests approved for use in the new university entrance exam system, including TOEFL and three new types of the Eiken test. This is due to that fact such exams focus on testing a broad range of English-language skills, such as general business-related terms and English needed to study abroad.

"It's impossible to examine how much of the entrance exam score should be allocated to the private English test score since we don't have any data," stated a representative of Kumamoto University's admissions division, which decided not to use private English test scores to add points to the result of the standard entrance exam.

Kyoto Institute of Technology professor Yumi Hato, an expert in English tests, commented, "It is irresponsible as an organization holding entrance exams to use private tests for admission decisions while there are still doubts. The system should only be introduced after its smooth operation is ensured, and examinees must not be experimental subjects."

(Japanese original by Sooryeon Kim, Lifestyle and Medical News Department)