In the realm of national assessments conducted in April, third-year junior high students in Japan revealed their English-speaking prowess, answering a meager 12.4% of questions accurately on average. This marked a disheartening decline of 18.4 percentage points from their previous evaluation in 2019. Astonishingly, over 60% of the evaluated students were unable to provide a single correct response to the speaking questions presented during the assessment, a grim revelation according to the education ministry’s report.
Remarkably, it had been four years since the English proficiency of third-year high schoolers was last examined in the national assessments. The alarming drop in performance followed the implementation of alterations to the English teaching curriculum in the academic year 2021, which sought to emphasize students’ ability to articulate their thoughts and comprehend the perspectives of others in the language.
Beyond the domain of speaking skills, the junior high school students managed to secure an average correctness rate of 46.1% in the reading, listening, and writing segments of the test. However, this too marked a concerning decrease of 10.4 points compared to their prior evaluation.
Amidst the downturn in correct answers, a ministry official stressed the challenging nature of the test and cautioned against hasty conclusions regarding a decline in students’ English proficiency.
With a substantial majority of students faltering to answer even a single speaking question correctly, experts posit that the current curriculum may prove too demanding, and the formulation of questions may not be ideal for accurately assessing students’ language skills.
Delving into the specifics of the English-speaking section, the test comprised five intricate questions, one of which required students to view a video pertaining to environmental issues and eloquently express their thoughts in English. These responses were meticulously recorded using digital devices and submitted to the ministry.
To avoid overwhelming the communication infrastructure with simultaneous submissions from across the nation, the ministry wisely selected approximately 42,000 students from around 500 schools to participate in the nationwide April assessment.
Crucially, the ministry clarified that direct comparisons with previous assessments would be inappropriate, as the average scores were calculated solely from the selected sample.
Analyzing other aspects of the test, the junior high schoolers exhibited commendable performance in reading and listening, with correctness rates surpassing 50%. However, their writing scores fell woefully behind, averaging a mere 24.1%.
Remarkably, prefectures housing major metropolitan areas, such as Tokyo, Kanagawa, and Aichi, boasted the highest English reading, listening, and writing results, according to the ministry’s comprehensive analysis.