What's next for English-language education in Japan?

Japan Times -- Jan 05
Across the country, university hopefuls are now gearing up for the standardized entrance exam that will greatly impact their post-secondary options.

Recent years have seen policymakers try to revamp the test, run by the National Center for University Entrance Examinations, from the ground up in order to respond to the needs of the changing times. At the heart of their discussions has been English amid growing frustrations that few Japanese students learn to speak the language fluently despite years of studying.

Below are some key questions about the test, English-language education in Japan and what the future holds for learners of the language here:

What does the test cover?

Previously known as the “National Center Test,” the standardized university entrance exam is primarily taken by graduating high school seniors in mid-January and is one of the biggest tests in Japan, with an annual participation of about 500,000. It is an all-important requirement for many students wishing to enter national and public universities and a good number of private universities also incorporate the exam into their screening processes, further adding to its importance.

Among the batch of subjects assessed under the exam, English is the most commonly taken, with 99% of test-takers having had their English proficiency vetted last year.

Last year was the first time that the multiple-choice exam was held since it was rebranded as the kyōtsū test (“common test”) and the sweeping changes featured a major overhaul of the English portion of the test.