Entrance exams in Japan is serious business as several thousands of high school students vie for highly coveted spots in the country’s top-ranking universities, believing that graduating from an elite school will ensure lifelong job security and a stable future.
The deeply-rooted exam culture in Asia has its origins in ancient Imperial China, when emperors sought to find its best qualified subjects to serve in their courts. With the influence of Confucius, the system evolved into a search for the well-read and morally upright civil servants. The system was widely adopted in neighboring societies, like Vietnam, Korea and Japan.
Today, Japan’s educational system has maintained the importance of standardized university entrance exams. Because entry into an elite university is difficult, students, from as early as primary school, undergo regular testing to gauge their performance and get them accustomed to the pressure of that all-important exam.
While the system has its critics, it also has staunch supporters. Proponents of the standardized entrance exam say it cultivates discipline and a strong work ethic in students from an early age.
Through the preparation process, students develop effective study habits, time management skills, and strategies to surmount obstacles, which are all useful in their academic and professional careers.
Japan’s exam culture also helps maintain a high standard of education because benchmarks are standardized across the country. The pressure to meet those exacting demands pushes students to excel. Collectively, the effect is a highly-educated workforce.
Without compromising its standards, the government has also recognized the need to ease the pressure on students and promote holistic development in education. Aside from academic knowledge, the government wants its schools to encourage creativity, critical thinking and communication skills., as well as provide a supportive environment that prioritizes students' overall wellbeing and individual growth.