Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Entrance Exam

Recently the first round of high school entrance examinations began all around Japan. According to a co-worker, the public high school tests are held on the same two day period at all high schools, March 4th-5th. The taking of these tests is often woefully referred to as exam hell.

Now, I don't really know a lot on the subject as I've never been through it myself, but the basic facts are that students will study for months on end (many students will go to Juku, or cram school, to study for these tests), trying to get into their first choice schools. After all, the high school students attend is closely related to whether they will likely go on to college, simply join the work force or follow another path after high school. With this in mind, the pressure to figure out what you want to do in life in junior high school, or even earlier in some cases (I read that some kindergartens require tests for entrance. Yeesh.).

source: http://flix66.com/ copyright: Studio Ghibli
These tests are taken over a two day period with a range of subjects. Here at Serenity High School, I believe the tests cover 5 academic subjects including math, Japanese, English, social studies and one other I can't recall. I am in no way a part of this test, but that's what the schedule says. Test contents are kept very close to the chest.

One of my co-workers, despite having been a teacher, and thus a part of the testing system, for more than 20 years, is not allowed to take part in the examination process until it is finished and marking begins. This is because the test is, supposedly, standardized and his daughter is a candidate at another high school. See? Secretive secrets.
That said, should a student fail this test, they will have one (or more at low level schools) more chances around the end of March to sit the test a second time at the same, or another, school. However, students who ranked the school as their first choice, even with a low grade, will be considered for admission before students who chose it as a second choice or last resort.

There is a really interesting site I found, if you're interested in the process or if you have a child about to enter the rigors of exam hell for the first time that I thought I would share. Education in Japan Community Blog . The author talks about narrowing down choices of high schools, three suisen (or alternate ways to the standard test to enter a high school) as well as a lot of other useful information. I'd recommend to anyone who is listening to check it out. 

Do you want to know the best part about exam hell? They get to do it again in three years.
That's right. For those students wanting to attend college and who are not eligible for or do not want to try for suisen, they will have another equally grueling test process to enter college. There has been a lot of talk about changing school policy to move away from this kind of testing, but change is slow and school administrators are skeptical. Only time will tell if this comes to pass!

To all of you middle schoolers taking the exams as I write this, good luck and may the odds ever be in your favor!

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