Australia accepts Eiken certificate as proof of English ability

by Mami Maruko

Staff Writer

Holders of an Eiken English language certificate can now apply for admission to hundreds of high schools across Australia.

The arrangement follows an agreement between the Tokyo-based Eiken Foundation of Japan and the Australian Embassy, as part of ongoing efforts to encourage Japanese high school students to study abroad.

Schools in the state of Queensland began accepting Eiken at the start of the year, but recognition has since spread nationwide.

“We hope this will partly address declining numbers of students studying abroad,” said Eimei Minagawa, Eiken public relations and marketing manager.

The idea is to assist “the Japanese government’s plan in the next six years to double the number of students studying abroad — from around 60,000 to 120,000,” he added.

Eiken is one of Japan’s most popular English exams, with 2.3 million people taking it every year. They range from elementary school students to the elderly, although most are junior high and high school students.

Last year, some 150,000 people passed it at or above the level known as Grade Pre-2.

“Many of them would be (suitable) candidates to study abroad,” Minagawa said.

The Eiken evaluates applicants with seven grades, starting with Grade 5 at the bottom to Grade 1 — a level that requires considerable proficiency in English idioms and nuance.

Although Eiken is well known across Japan, it has a low profile overseas, Minagawa said.

The most widely used English-proficiency exam in the world is the Test of English as a Foreign Language, or TOEFL, which debuted in 1964. It remains popular in Japan as a certificate for students whose aim is to study abroad.

Others include the Test of English for International Communication (TOEIC) and the International English Language Testing System (IELTS).

Eiken now stands among them.

Since 2004, Eiken has been recognized for admission to about 400 universities and vocational schools in Australia, U.S. and Canada, but among non-participating institutions, particularly high schools, it had little recognition.

“We hope this will see the test spread more among other countries, and thus become widely accepted as an international certificate,” he said.

Students considering a high school education in Australia will need Eiken Grade Pre-2 for first-year study, and Grade 2 to enter the second year. In all, 533 schools will recognize it.

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