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Elementary and junior high school students showed improvements in the government’s scholastic achievement tests conducted in January and February 2004 from those in 2002, according to the education ministry.

About 210,000 elementary school fifth- and sixth-graders, or about 8 percent of all students in those grades nationwide, and about 240,000 junior high school students, some 8 percent of all junior high students, were tested on Japanese, including composition and dictation of kanji, and mathematics.

Results of the testing by the education ministry show that the percentage of questions answered correctly rose in many of the academic subjects and grades from those of the previous tests in 2002.

The ministry attributed the improvement to teachers’ efforts to establish basic scholastic abilities, coming as a result of declines in test scores in the wake of the ministry’s new curriculum guidelines under the “education with latitude” policy.

The guidelines were introduced in spring 2002, and the 2004 test was the first since then.

Although the rate of correct answers was higher for questions on simple calculation skills and kanji literacy, the percentages were down for questions on students’ skills in logical thinking, reading comprehension and descriptive power, the ministry said.

A survey on study attitudes conducted at the same time showed that the ratio was up for kids who answered “studying is important,” and “I like studying.”

“It’s a sign of a halt to the declining trend for scholastic ability. It’s a result of the revised policy from the ‘education with latitude’ policy,” education minister Nariaki Nakayama told a news conference.

The tests comprised 1,939 questions in the fields of Japanese, social studies, arithmetic-mathematics and science. English was added for junior high school students.

Among the questions, 557, or 29 percent, were the same as in the previous tests.

Among the questions common to both tests, the percentage of correct answers was up for roughly 43 percent, the same for 39 percent and lower for 17 percent.

However, for questions requiring answers in a descriptive format, the average percentage of correct answers in the area of Japanese language dropped by 0.9 percentage point, while the percentage for math questions requiring descriptive answers was down by 0.1 point.

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