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HOME  > Past issues  > 2007 April 18 - 24  > National achievement test: Government aims at neo-liberal reform in education
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2007 April 18 - 24 [EDUCATION]

National achievement test: Government aims at neo-liberal reform in education

April 15, 2007
The Education Ministry will conduct on April 24 a national academic achievement test that over two million sixth grade elementary school and third year junior high school students are required to take.

The ministry, first of all, aims at throwing those students into fierce competition with each other.

In November 2004, then Education Minister Nakayama Nariaki proposed to conduct the test in order to “foster a sense of rivalry among students” as part of the government educational reform policy.

Secondly, coupled with a newly introduced system in which parents can choose the school to which their children attend, the ministry is using the test to open the way for a “neo-liberal educational reform” modeled after the Thatcherite reform carried out in Britain in 1980s.

In his book “Towards a Beautiful Country,” Prime Minister Abe Shinzo praised the Thacherite reform as a “magnificent educational reform.”

The ministry intends to rank schools based on the test results as well as the popularity ratings.

A governmental Council for the Promotion of Regulatory Reform report issued last December called for the introduction of an “school voucher” system and stressed the need to have the school “choice” system “fully function” as its prerequisite.

Under the school voucher system, budgets will be allocated to each school according to the number of students attending. Accordingly, “Unpopular schools” in which the number of students has decreased will receive a lower amount of budget.

Thirdly, the ministry is intending to establish a new mechanism to ensure state control over education called “PDCA (plan, do, check, and action) cycle,” which is widely promoted in Britain and the United States.

By assuming the authority to plan and check, the state government will be able to exert strict control over schools with limited resources. With this mechanism, the achievement test will be used for checking.

“The national achievement test constitutes a part of the PDCA cycle,” said Nagoya University Professor Nakajima Tetsuhiko. He criticized the education ministry plan for “sweeping out” every effort made by schools, teachers, students, parents, and residents to create education suitable for each area and school.

In Britain, meanwhile, criticism of the education system with the achievement test and the school “choice” system is growing, and increasing numbers of people are questioning whether the results of the achievement tests show the true academic ability of students. As a result of such criticism, the academic test system was discontinued in Wales. - Akahata, April 15, 2007
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