Posts Tagged ‘university entrance tests’

Prep schools succumbing to more than economic reality

Monday, September 1st, 2014

In recent weeks the yobiko Yoyogi Seminar announced that it would be closing 20 of its 27 schools nationwide by March of next year. The reason is clear and has been for years: enrollment is dropping with no bottom in sight.

Yoyogi Seminar in Tsudanuma, Chiba Prefecture, which is one of the branches scheduled to close

Yoyogi Seminar in Tsudanuma, Chiba Prefecture, one of the branches scheduled to close

The term “yobiko” is sometimes translated as “cram school” and sometimes as “prep school,” and so they tend to be mixed up with juku, another education-related term translated as “cram school.” Practically speaking there is no real difference, since both forms of enterprise prepare students to take entrance tests for higher institutions of learning. But juku tend to be associated with elementary school and junior high school students, while yobiko are more often attended by high school students who want to get into name universities.

Just as often they are used by high school graduates who are doing the same. Since these grads are not attending a for-credit school at the time, they are referred to as ronin, the word that described masterless samurai in the past. And in a sense it is the loss of ronin that made Yoyogi Seminar realize its future was in jeopardy. This past spring, according to the education ministry, 80,000 ronin took college entrance tests. In 1994, the number was 280,000.

The obvious reason for the loss of ronin is that the so-called “narrow gate” for entering universities has widened over the years. As the birthrate continues to remain low the number of available students has dwindled, and at the same time the number of universities has actually increased, from 552 20 years ago to 781 as of the beginning of this year. Schools, especially those lower on the prestige scale, are desperate for paying students and thus have eased requirements for admission. Some don’t even require tests any more, but accept recommendations or school performance records. And without the entrance testing system most yobiko have no reason to exist.

CONTINUE READING about cram schools and ronin →

University entrance fee system profits from unstable job market

Monday, February 28th, 2011

One of the big local news stories last weekend was the revelation that an unknown party posted questions from university entrance exams on a website while the party was actually taking the exams. Apart from the obvious question of how someone could do that and not be noticed by a proctor, the incident is further evidence of how twisted the whole entrance examination (nyugaku shiken) process has become.

Can't touch this: Entrance to University of Tokyo

Now that most of the entrance examinations are finished, the students who took them (presumably without cheating) have to wait impatiently for the results. For their parents, the wait is doubly unnerving. Because national universities are more prestigious and tend to lead to better employment opportunities, many students sit for the two examinations required to get into national schools. The first, given in mid-January, is the Joint Stage Achievement Test, colloquially referred to as the sentaa shiken (“center test,” since it’s administered by the National Center for University Entrance Examinations, yet another bureaucratic organ whose main job is to justify its own existence), a uniform exam that screens out some of the applicants. Then, in February, remaining applicants take exams for each national university they want to attend (kobetsu gakuryoku kensa). Students who are applying to private universities take only the tests for those schools.

The overlap in test-result announcements is what makes parents nervous. Many young people want to attend national universities, but they know the odds are against them: For the 2011 academic year there were 207,299 applications for 64,111 slots. Consequently, many also apply to private universities as a backup in case they don’t get into a national school. This process is known as suberi-dome, literally “prevention from sliding down.”

Continue reading about Japan's university admissions system →

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