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2010年8月 3日 (火)

全国学力テスト 「抽出」で失った貴重なデータ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Aug. 3, 2010)
Partial participation in scholastic test gets a 'D'
全国学力テスト 「抽出」で失った貴重なデータ(8月2日付・読売社説)

A prompt return to full participation by every school in national achievement tests is the only way the government will be able to accurately ascertain students' scholastic ability and for the state and schools to use data collected through the tests to improve teaching methods.

The education ministry recently published the results of the national achievement test, the fourth of its kind, that was conducted in April. Unlike the three previous occasions in which all primary and middle schools took part, only about 30 percent of schools chosen at random participated in the latest test.

Schools not selected were allowed to take part in the test if they wished. In the end, about 23,800 schools--more than 70 percent of the nation's primary and middle schools--took part, with 1.63 million sixth-grade primary schoolers and third-year middle school students taking tests in Japanese and arithmetic or mathematics.

Many schools wanted to participate in the test. We think all schools should be equally entitled to be provided with test results to discover the shortcomings of each student and draw up detailed teaching programs.

Limited data

The state shoulders the cost of marking the tests and compiling the data only for about 10,000 chosen schools. Schools that volunteered to take part have to mark the exam papers themselves. Many teachers at these schools will spend some of their summer holidays scoring the tests.

Students who took the first exams when they were sixth-grade primary schoolers in 2007 sat the 2010 test as third-year middle schoolers. The latest results showed more than 10 percent of these students could not calculate the area of a circle--repeating the error they made three years earlier. This finding should jolt teachers into thinking about improving how such calculations are taught in class.

Randomly selecting schools means the only useful data that could be gleaned from the tests was the average percentage of questions answered correctly by prefecture. Furthermore, with fewer samples available, each prefecture's average percentage of correct answers was within a range of one or two points. Correctly ranking the prefectures became a hopeless task.

Data specific to each city, town and village or school could not be obtained from this year's test. This made it impossible to compare the latest test's data with that collected from previous tests. This, in turn, will make it difficult for prefectural education authorities to analyze this data and appoint more teachers to schools that produced poor test results.

Saving dollars, losing sense

The Democratic Party of Japan-led government abolished the policy of requiring all students in the designated grades to take the tests without properly discussing the matter, and did so only to save money. The cost of holding the test was cut from 5.7 billion yen to 3.3 billion yen, but the loss of a chance to collect valuable data could have a heftier price than that.

The government has appropriated 400 billion yen to make high school tuition free, a policy that has been roundly criticized.

The Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry is considering adding science, social studies and English as test subjects from fiscal 2012. Cultivating talented human resources in the science and technology field will be crucial for this nation's future, so collecting data on students' scientific knowledge is essential.

We want the ministry to settle on a test method that gauges scholastic ability from many angles and produces usable, effective data without imposing an excessive burden on the students.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 2, 2010)
(2010年8月2日01時04分  読売新聞)


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