Some members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party are calling on the government to postpone a plan to allow the use of private-sector English proficiency tests as part of standardized university entrance examinations starting in fiscal 2020.
The move comes as worries persist over inequalities in opportunities arising from students’ economic situations and geographic locations.
“We can’t push for it amid so much opposition,” a veteran LDP lawmaker with knowledge of the education industry said Wednesday.
“It’s better to delay it,” a senior party official said, suggesting that the policy should be reconsidered after postponing its implementation. “The policy is imperfect and can produce more issues if we proceed with it.”
The government is wary of public sentiment over the policy after education minister Koichi Hagiuda said recently that students taking university entrance examinations should make efforts “according to their standing,” a comment taken to condone education inequality.
Although the government has yet to officially back down from its position of starting the policy in fiscal 2020, Hagiuda suggested that it could rethink the plan if attempting to force it through will lead to increased confusion.
“I feel it must be reconsidered if confusion is increasing,” he said at a House of Representatives education committee meeting Wednesday.
Under the new plan, students in their final year of high school will be able to submit results from up to two private-sector tests taken between April and December to measure proficiency in English reading, listening, speaking and writing. The government believes that private-sector tests will be able to measure test-takers’ speaking ability, which is difficult in standardized examinations.
The plan is under fire for the financial burden it is expected to place on students, as fees for two tests can amount to over ¥50,000. Additionally, private-sector tests are conducted mainly in large cities, potentially forcing students in rural areas to pay for transportation and accommodation to receive the same opportunities.
The education ministry hopes to stick to the original schedule of implementing the plan from the next fiscal year, due to worries that a delay may prompt private-sector test providers involved in the plan to demand compensation for losses they could suffer from the postponement.
In addition, government officials pointed out that students are already studying for private-sector tests in anticipation of the plan’s rollout in fiscal 2020.
Many in the government argue that the state should focus on cost alleviation measures, such as expanding test fee subsidies for low-income families, instead of delaying the plan.