A non-profit organisation has launched a rival to Japan's established university entrance exam as admission procedures for the country's 1,200 four-year universities, two-year colleges and technical colleges become more flexible.
The Educational System Research Forum claims that six universities and junior colleges in the Tokyo area have agreed to use the test and that 30 to 50 institutions are considering adopting it by the end of the current academic year.
More than 50 senior high schools have elected to start preparing their students for the exam, in preference to the widely used Centre Exam, which is required by all national universities. The new National Unified Test of Academic Ability comprises multiple-choice questions covering five subjects: English, Japanese, mathematics, science and social studies.
Although the new exam will probably have only about 10,000 candidates (compared with the Centre Exam's 570,000), its advantage is that it is held in October, before the Centre Exam, which is held in January. If some influential universities adopt the new exam as an alternative to the Centre Exam the numbers of students taking it would be likely to grow quickly.
The forum's next target is to get 100,000 candidates a year to take the new test, but the small number of test centres - 28 compared with the Centre Exam's 712 - may limit its rate of growth.
Many universities and colleges are introducing more flexible admissions policies. These include considering broader measures of achievement and ability outside of entrance exam scores, such as high-school grades, recommendations from high-school principals, interviews and educational experiences abroad.