Tue, October 26, 2021


Exam-takers look for needles before pencils / Cities help students get shots before test season

TOKYO - With registration for the Common Test for University Admissions set to open on Sept. 27, educators and authorities are facing a test of their own as they prepare for a second entrance exam season under the novel coronavirus pandemic.

There is a growing trend toward priority vaccination for test-takers as they are expected to travel more across prefectural borders.

"The Common Test exam site is going to be crowded, so I wanted to make sure I got vaccinated," said a 17-year-old third-year high school student after receiving a shot at the Comprehensive Social Education Center in Ota, Gunma Prefecture on Sept. 19.

The student was vaccinated alongside her mother, 42, who added: "I didn't want to leave any chance my daughter would be infected at home before taking her exams."

Since August, Ota has offered priority vaccination to third-year students who live in the city and attend junior and senior high schools there. Students' parents have also been given preferential access, as have students planning to take entrance exams or run the job interview gauntlet. About 2,400 people have applied for the 2,800 slots set aside by the city for these purposes.

Ota is just one of many local governments that have begun implementing priority vaccination campaigns as entrance exam season hits full swing.

In Tokyo, 50.7% of all residents have already received two shots. But less than 25% of Tokyoites aged 12 to 19 have been vaccinated. The Tokyo metropolitan government has begun accepting reservations for third-year high school students and other youths at a mass vaccination center in the capital from August.

The Shizuoka city government set aside 7,000 doses for the priority vaccination of students in their last year of elementary, junior high or senior high schools in the city from September. About 6,300 doses have been claimed.

On Sept. 14, the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry issued a memo to local governments nationwide, introducing the precedent for allowing exam-takers priority access to COVID-19 shots.

Education minister Koichi Hagiuda also called for "special consideration to be given to exam candidates who want to get vaccinated so that they can do so expediently."

Private high schools have even initiated their own vaccine drives -- some drawing ire in the process.

Although schools offered shots on a discretionary basis to students who wanted them, this was in some cases misconstrued as a vaccine mandate for all students. One school was inundated with missives protesting the policy, on the grounds that peer pressure would make it hard for students to decline the shots.

The Common Test for the upcoming academic year is slated to be held on Jan. 15 and 16 next year, with a makeup test two weeks later. Makeup tests will be conducted at venues in all 47 prefectures.

Face masks were required during the last Common Test in January, but trouble still arose when an exam-taker was disqualified after repeatedly refusing to cover his nose with his mask. This led to a new rule stipulating that masks must fully cover examinees' mouths and noses.

A majority of universities plan to take precautions when conducting their own institution-specific admissions exams.

As of the end of July, 1,020 of 1,056 -- 96.6% -- of national, private, and junior colleges surveyed by the education ministry indicated that they plan to offer makeup exams or alternative dates.

According to the Kawaijuku cram school chain, some perennially popular private universities have announced that they will use Common Test scores to make an admissions decision in the event an applicant becomes unable to sit for their institution-specific entrance exams due to infection with the novel coronavirus or other extenuating reasons.

Published : September 26, 2021