Aug 19, 2017 at 12:00am ET By Joanna Hughes

Japan’s Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) announced changes to admissions policies for both public and private universities earlier this summer, according to The Japan Times. Here’s a closer look at what students can expect in the near future.

“The Powers of Thinking, Judgement and Expression”

Managed and supervised by the National Centre for University Entrance Examinations, the National Center Test for University Admissions is a standardized test used as an admissions component by public and some private universities in Japan. In its current incarnation, the “Center Test” is a multiple choice test comprising civics, geography and history, Japanese literature, foreign languages, science, mathematics and science. More than half a million high school students took the test last year.

As of 2020, the Center Test will be renamed the “Daigaku Nyugaku Kyotsu Test,” which will introduce questions to the Japanese and math sections requiring test-takers to write 80 to 120 character answers. Says The Japan Times, “By assessing what they call the powers of thinking, judgement and expression, MEXT hopes their reformed exam will encourage changes to high school teaching methods.”

The private university admissions process will also see major changes, including more rigorous admissions criteria, including everything from short essays to volunteer work.

The English Imperative

While MEXT had also proposed to do away with the Center Test’s English component, this has been tabled due to opposition from the Japan Association of National Universities, the Japan Association of Private Universities and Colleges, and the National Association of Upper Secondary School Principals.

Instead, beginning in 2020, universities will be able to choose whether to use the new Center Test’s English section or private-sector tests to assess candidates’ English speaking skills. However, it’s not yet clear which of these private tests will be endorsed by MEXT.

While there are pros and cons for testing speaking, many academics are in favor. One professor told The Japan Times, “Putting speaking on the university entrant tests may be the best thing that has ever happened to English teaching in Japan.”

Read more about studying in Japan.

Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.

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