Hiroshi Noro makes sweeping generalizations in his Sept. 18 letter “Aim of annual achievement tests,” beginning with the notion that the goal of the nationwide tests is ultimately for educators to improve students’ abilities.

In reality, the goal is to get students to do better on the tests the next time around. Teachers need to start doing more than merely preparing students to take tests. The education ministry must ensure this takes place.

Disclosing achievement test results, Noro suggests, will spark an interest in learning among students. This is no more than a noble ideal. Japanese students have never really been autonomous learners. His suggestion that the aim of the tests is for teachers and students to indulge in meaningful communication about the results is again vague.

Action, not words, is what’s needed. More often than not, communication between educators and their subjects is one-way with the student assuming the role of passive bystander.

Readers are left wondering just how the “flexibility and adaptability” that Noro says are most important as part of students’ overall ability, or the idea of an “education of coexistence,” will improve Japan’s stature in the 21st century.

What’s needed to gear Japan for the future is a paradigmatic overhaul of education policy. One step forward would be to switch the school year from the traditional three terms to two. This would eliminate at least a round of testing (a) on material students were supposed to absorb over the break between terms, (b) at midterm and (c) again at the term final.

Ushering in a two-term school year would pave the way for more time during which actual learning could take place.

chris clancy

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.

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