The education ministry is thinking of letting municipal boards of education make public individual schools’ results of nationwide achievements tests for sixth and ninth graders. Currently only individual schools are allowed to make public their test results if they choose to, and the ministry only makes public the average test results at prefectural levels.

We believe that such a policy change would lead to excessive competition among schools as well as students, and lead to the ranking of schools in terms of the test results, thus skewing the overall purpose of education.

When the ministry introduced the achievement tests in 2007, it declared that their purpose is to find out what is wrong with teaching and to help teachers improve their teaching of individual students. It is hard to understand how making public the test results of individual schools would contribute to fulfilling the ministry’s goal. The ministry should rethink its planned policy change.

In the achievement tests, the basic knowledge and the application ability of sixth and ninth graders for Japanese and mathematics are examined. If the test results of individual schools are made public, it is very likely that parents will pressure schools and teachers to make efforts to improve their test performances. In the worst case, teachers may be forced to concentrate their efforts on improving test results. It must be remembered that the tests cover only a portion of students’ education. The purpose of education is much more than merely improving students’ achievement test results in Japanese and mathematics.

In this year’s tests the difference between the nationwide average test marks and the marks of the worst prefectures was within five points for public elementary schools. This was the first time there was such a small difference in the history of the achievement tests. But even this small difference, if published, might lead parents to pressure teachers to improve test results.

The education ministry has based its planned policy change on the fact that 44 percent of the governors and 40 percent of the prefectural boards of education want to let municipal boards of education make public the test results of individual schools. But 24 percent of the prefectural governors, 43 percent of the prefectural boards of education, 62 percent of the municipal mayors and 79 percent of the municipals boards of education oppose such a change. In short, the closer officials are to the actual education process, the more they are inclined to support the current policy. The education ministry should heed their opinions.

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