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2013年8月30日 (金)

全国学力テスト 苦手分野をどう克服するか

The Yomiuri Shimbun August 30, 2013
Use findings of achievement tests to correct students’ weaknesses
全国学力テスト 苦手分野をどう克服するか(8月29日付・読売社説)

It is important to determine where children are weak in each school subject, a task that must be complemented by efforts to reflect such findings in methods for guiding them in their studies.

The Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry has published the results of a nationwide achievement test conducted in April. The test, which covered sixth-grade primary school students and third-year middle school students, was intended to examine their basic knowledge about the Japanese language, arithmetic and mathematics, as well as their applied skills in these subjects.

The latest achievement test was the first to be administered on all such students in four years, and provided detailed data on the performance of students in each school and each city, town and village. Such data was not obtained from similar tests conducted under the Democratic Party of Japan-led government, as the education ministry conducted achievement tests targeting only about 30 percent of schools chosen as samples during the DPJ’s rule.

The latest data can be used by local governments to improve education by, for example, preferentially assigning teachers to schools whose students performed poorly in the latest test. We hope the education ministry will continue to use the participation-by-all formula in administering nationwide achievement tests.

What is noteworthy about the findings is a welcome change in the results classified by prefecture. A sign of improvement was evident in the performance of prefectures that had fared poorly in the average percentage of correct answers given by students in previous achievement tests.

In some of these prefectures, improvements in this respect were achieved through a mix of measures, including after-school supplementary lessons and achievement tests administered by local education authorities.

All this can be seen as a sign that the nationwide achievement test, first conducted in 2007, has encouraged local governments to introduce measures to improve the academic standards of students in their areas.

Poor at expressing opinions

The results of the ministry’s achievement tests, including the latest one, clearly show where students are weak. For example, they fared poorly in writing their opinions about documents they were told to read in the test. They also did badly at logically explaining the reasons for the answers they gave.

Questions of this kind were incorporated into the latest test. Not surprisingly, the percentage of correct answers was low.

A major task that must be tackled by the authorities is to improve the academic ability of children in fields in which they have a problem answering questions. With this in mind, the education ministry is scheduled to produce documents designed to provide teachers with some innovative ideas, based on the findings from the latest test, while also distributing them to local boards of education and other institutions.

We hope teachers and school administrators will utilize these materials to improve the abilities of students to think and express themselves.

In administering April’s achievement test, the education ministry also conducted an awareness survey on children. The survey included a question about what they would do if they did not understand what was taught in class. Close to 10 percent of middle school students said they would not ask their teachers or friends to explain, leaving the points in doubt unanswered. This is worrying, given that the respondents are at a crucial time in the final stage of their compulsory education.

In dealing with middle school students who did not answer questions requiring written answers in the Japanese language exam and proof questions in the math test, the awareness survey asked them why. It was found that a considerable number of such children did not even try to answer the question.

Teachers need to pay meticulous care to such students through various means, including teaching methods based on the degree of their academic achievement.

Children’s learning at home is another important issue to be addressed in working to improve their academic abilities. The percentage of children who review their school lessons at home has been increasing since they were covered in an awareness survey for the first time. The latest survey shows about 50 percent of primary and middle school students review their school studies at home. This can be seen as a certain measure of progress in encouraging children to study at home.

It is important for school authorities and local governments to carefully explain the latest findings to parents while also sharing perceptions with them about what kind of problems need to be overcome to improve students’ academic abilities. Doing so will give parents a better understanding about what needs to be done and improve the quality of children’s home learning.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 29, 2013)
(2013年8月29日01時38分  読売新聞)


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