With regard to the methods to conduct private-sector English proficiency tests as part of Japan’s standardized university entrance examinations, many social and political issues occurred this fall. In order to resolve the issues, Mr. Koichi Hagiuda, Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), decided to postpone the introduction of the private-sector tests. As a result, confusion which arose from the Ministry’s recent controversial remarks on the matter seemed to be considerably eased. In response to this, the LDP decided to review all the issues and formulate a countermeasure plan to conduct proper English proficiency tests as part of the standardized university entrance examinations. For this purpose, the LDP set up a working team, and I was appointed as the team leader.
In order to engage in international activities, it has become indispensable for us to learn the four skills of English, reading, writing, listening, and speaking, as a common communication tool in a more balanced way than before. However, it is extremely difficult to evaluate the four skills of English in current standardized examinations. Making appropriate questions, formulating a guideline on the use of the test, and marking the test will all be complicated, and there are many issued to resolve such as using private institutions which have professional expertise in English proficiency tests, and training instructors who engage in the tests. The working team is requested to identify the problems and sort out all these issues, and then, formulate a guideline for the proper English proficiency tests as well as the future of English education in Japan. Our work is really a big task requiring a great deal of efforts and coordination capacity.
As the leader of the working team, I delivered my speech as follows: “At the meetings of our working team, which will determine the future of English education in Japan, we have to basically discuss what English education should be like, along with institutional and technical discussions on how to operate the university entrance examinations. Furthermore, we should not forget about the students and their guardians who are preparing for university entrance examinations day and night, worrying about what the entrance exam system will be like.”