Ex-minister denies ties to English test business

Ex-minister denies ties to English test business

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Former education minister Hakubun Shimomura has flatly denied a media report that he is in a “cozy relationship” with a company that administers English tests.

Shimomura told reporters that no such ties exist with the firm in question. The Shukan Bunshun weekly reported the allegation in its latest issue on Thursday.

Shimomura, a senior official of the main ruling Liberal Democratic Party, pushed for university entrance reforms when he was education minister. A decision was made to introduce private-sector English tests for university admission.

Shimomura said the weekly’s allegation that the reform was intended for business interests was made with some ulterior motive. He stressed that there was no problem with the process of deciding to introduce the tests.

He said the party discussed the reform, and an education ministry panel also had thorough discussions before the final decision was made.

He said the fact that students are unable to speak English well after studying the language for six years raised questions about the teaching methods in Japanese schools. He said that’s why officials decided that reforms were needed so that students can master the four skills of reading, writing, speaking and listening.

The private-sector tests were to be used to assess the four skills for university admission, starting from the next academic year.

But on November 1, the ministry made a last-minute decision to postpone the introduction of the tests on the grounds that their current formats are not fair to all students in terms of their financial situation and where they live.

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November 8, 2019