The nation’s falling birthrate is good news for future university and junior college applicants but could spell disaster for some unpopular institutions, according to a report compiled by the Central Education Council.

About 699,000 people are expected to take such entrance exams in 2007, about equal to the number of places open, according to the council, which advises the minister of education, culture, sports, science and technology.

All applicants will be able to enter university in three years’ time, provided they do not pick and choose, the report says.

The council had predicted in January 1997 that the de facto parity would occur in 2009, but revised its estimate to allow for a likely decrease in the number of students wishing to attend universities.

According to the revised estimate, 791,000 people will take college entrance examinations next spring, with 704,000 places available. The comparable figure for spring 2007 is 699,000 applicants, with the number of university places available down slightly from the 2005 figure.

The forecast could spell business trouble for unpopular universities and colleges, since a number of such institutions already face difficulty attracting students.

In spring 2003, there were fewer applicants than places available at 28 percent of all private universities and 46 percent of all private junior colleges, according to the Promotion and Mutual Aid Corporation for Private Schools of Japan.

In the earlier estimate, the parity was expected to be around 707,000.

TOEIC scores vital

Most prefectural and major city governments are basing their hiring of junior high and high school English teachers on how the applicants scored on the Test of English for International Communication, according to a survey released Friday.

The survey, conducted by the Tokyo-based Institute for International Business Communication, polled all 47 prefectures and 13 major cities.

It found that 54 of the respondents accorded favorable treatment to applicants who had achieved good TOEIC scores, with roughly half of them saying applicants with high scores are exempted from taking parts of certain examinations.

The Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry, which is waging a campaign to enhance the nation’s English language proficiency, says applicants for English-teaching posts should aim to achieve a TOEIC score of 730 or higher.

The institute considers those with TOEIC scores of 730 or higher to have the basic skills necessary to communicate properly under any circumstances.

Hokkaido, Mie and Kumamoto prefectures require applicants to have 730 or higher, while the city of Nagoya, and Tochigi and Gunma prefectures demand 900 or more.

“It seems that more and more municipalities are asking applicants for English-teaching posts to have practical knowledge of English,” an official with the institute said.

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