Education minister Koichi Hagiuda said Tuesday the nationwide academic achievement test that was set for April 16 will not be held, following mass school closures in response to the new coronavirus epidemic.

Hagiuda suggested at a news conference that the education ministry will consider whether to conduct the annual test later this year or call it off while taking into account how widely the virus is spreading and the impact of the outbreak on schools. “We want to avoid a cancellation as much as possible,” he said.

On the decision to not hold the test on the scheduled date, Hagiuda said, “Some schools may need time to prepare normal education systems for the new school year from April, and it may be difficult for them to cover things that are not taught by the day before the originally scheduled test date.”

The test is aimed at measuring the academic skills of some 2 million elementary school sixth graders and third-year junior high school students, and covers the Japanese language and mathematics in principle. The results are published around the summer.

The test in 2011 was canceled across the nation due to the massive earthquake and tsunami that hit mainly the Tohoku region in March that year.

The 2016 test was called off across Kumamoto Prefecture, hit hard by a series of powerful earthquakes in April that year, and some affected areas in nearby prefectures.

According to a ministry survey released Monday, nearly 80 percent of schools ranging from public elementary to high schools plan to continue their emergency closures through the regular spring break despite usually being open for activities at that time.

Emergency school closures began nationwide March 2 at the request of the central government following the spread of the novel coronavirus. The measure is intended to keep the schools shut until early April when spring break ends.

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