TOKYO: The Tokyo Metropolitan Board of Education will introduce an English speaking test as part of high school entrance examinations, in a bid to nurture human resources capable of playing an active role on a global stage.
The speaking test will be jointly held by the education board and distance learning provider Benesse Corp. in November for around 80,000 third-grade junior high school students.
An English test managed by a private firm will be used for high school entrance examinations for the first time in Japan.
The speaking test will account for up to 20 points of the 1,000-point scale in entrance examinations including other academic tests and reports from schools.
In the new test, students will give answers through earphones with microphones to questions shown on tablet devices.
Meanwhile, there is persistent opposition to the speaking test from parents, university professors and others. Some residents have filed a plea for audit to block the test.
Those opposed to the new test point to the lack of fairness and transparency, given that a Benesse partner company will be responsible for scoring the test and that subject to the test will be only students at municipality-run junior high schools and those at national and private schools will not be required to take the test in principle.
In September, the opposition camp in Tokyo’s metropolitan assembly submitted a bill to block the English-speaking test.
Although the bill was rejected by a majority vote, Tomin First no Kai (Tokyoites first group), a regional party for which Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike serves as special adviser, faced the rebellion of five members in the vote.
A senior official of the Tokyo education board suggested that the speaking test will take place as planned. “We’ve been working for a long time to make the test known,” the official said. “If the test is canceled, the impact on students who have been studying hard for it will be enormous.”
Koike has noted that Japanese people in general are “very weak” in speaking English. “Speaking (English) is a basic skill necessary to seize opportunities in the world,” the governor stressed.
The education board posted questions and answers regarding the speaking test on its website earlier this month, in the hope of easing concerns over the test.
The board explains that test scorers will be those with expertise in English education and receive training in advance.