Higher English test hurdle awaits ministry applicants from fiscal ’15

by Kazuaki Nagata

Staff Writer

Would-be bureaucrats may soon have to take an English-language proficiency test before getting a shot at a ministry job.

The government is considering requiring candidates to take the TOEFL test from fiscal 2015 to address the growing need for English skills in a more globalized world.

The idea to require the Test Of English as a Foreign Language exam was proposed last week by members of a government panel discussing how to strengthen Japanese industry.

The National Personnel Authority said it is taking the proposal seriously, said Tsutomu Inoue, an official at the agency, which oversees public servants.

The policies and issues bureaucrats are having to deal with are becoming more international so “English skills will be more crucial for those in charge of drafting policies,” Inoue said.

It’s possible another exam, such as the Test of English for International Communication, or TOEIC, will be chosen, Inoue said, adding that the decision should be made by the end of the year.

Those who want to work for the central government must pass one of four exams categorized as comprehensive, general, specialists and experienced to be eligible to interview for jobs at the ministries.

Those wanting to take the comprehensive test may have to take English tests administered by outside organizations. In general, those who pass the comprehensive exam are considered future executive candidates.

An English proficiency element has been added to the exam this fiscal year. On top of more reading questions, candidates must use English documents on a written test and in a group discussion.