Japanese High School Kids Average 12% Correct Answers In English Oral Test

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Third-year junior high students in Japan were only able to answer 12.4 percent of questions correctly on average in an English speaking test for national assessments conducted in April, the education ministry said Monday, marking an 18.4 percentage points fall from when they were previously assessed in 2019.

More than 60 percent of the students evaluated could not answer a single speaking question correctly, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology results showed.

Although national assessments are conducted annually, it was the first time in four years that third-year high schoolers' English was evaluated.

The drop comes after changes were introduced to the English teaching curriculum in the 2021 academic year, putting more focus on students' ability to convey their thoughts and understand those of others in the language.

Aside from speaking skills, the junior high school students provided correct answers to an average of 46.1 percent of questions in the reading, listening and writing sections of the test, a fall of 10.4 points from the previous assessment.

Although the results showed a fall in the proportion of correct answers, an official at the ministry said the test had been "difficult" and explained that it "cannot be concluded that students' English ability has fallen."

With a majority of students unable to correctly answer a single speaking question, some experts say the curriculum is too advanced and that the way the questions are formulated is ill-suited to the task of assessing students' language skills.

The English speaking portion of the test comprised five questions, including one in which students watched a video about environmental issues and then provided answers in English, which included expressing their thoughts. Their responses were recorded on digital devices and sent to the ministry.

To avoid the recordings being sent all at once from across the country, which risked causing a communications failure, the ministry sampled about 42,000 students at about 500 schools in the nationwide April assessment.

The ministry says direct comparisons with previous assessments are not appropriate, as the average is calculated from the sample alone.

While the junior high schoolers' average correct answer rate in reading and listening stood at over 50 percent, writing scores were also low, averaging 24.1 percent.

Prefectures in major metropolitan areas such as Tokyo, Kanagawa and Aichi had the highest results in English reading, listening and writing, according to the ministry.


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