College admissions

The entrance exams to Japanese universities were administered for two days until yesterday. A range of subjects were required for high school seniors to take (well, at least when I was in high school). Recently, however, it has taken on a bit different perspectives what with globalization, and what with the emphasis on practical knowledge.

One epitome would be the introduction of the listening comprehension section to the English test. In this very test, I always find something interesting.

This listening test is administered by providing the test-takers with a small gadget with which to listen to talks and conversations in English. The thing is that there are some technical glitches that make it impossible for the students to keep answering the test. They would be asked to come back on a certain designated date to take a make-up test.

Japanese mass media proudly and cynically report on these “mistakes” made by the national test administrator, although the number is just negligible (Think what country we are talking about: Japan). Don’t you think this is very Japanese?

At the same time, mass media are making a fuss about the possibility to adopt the TOEFL as a substitute for the current entrance exam, and they sometimes become a fervent supporter of it (I think this is because they just like anything new, as is often the case with Japanese people).

However, if the press keeps this negative attitude toward test administration and always requires the test to be perfect, they will get a rude awakening if the TOEFL is really to be introduced. At the TOEFL test centers, it is a common phenomenon to see people get out of the room without even getting to first base. I mean, they cannot even start the test because of technical glitches (broken PCs, interrupted connection, etc…).

I would imagine that for the first couple of months, they will get mad at the trouble and start investigative reporting on each test center, but shortly after the initial flush of passion is subsided, they will find those glitches not worth reporting any more.

That is the time when this country will have adopted a “global standard”.

It may be a good idea, then, to use the TOEFL for university admissions. They can test students to see whether they have global standards on both English itself, and tolerance of uncertainty!


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