Abe vows level playing field for students taking English tests for Japan university entrance


Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Wednesday the government will consider measures to address inequalities in opportunities for students taking private-sector English tests under a planned unified university entrance examination system.

At a House of Representatives Budget Committee meeting, Abe said the government will develop a system that does not lead to regional or economic inequalities after it postponed the use of private English tests, previously set to start in fiscal 2020, amid concerns about such disparities.

“I’ll have the matter fully considered under education minister Koichi Hagiuda, in order to clear the problems raised so far,” the prime minister said.

The postponement came after Hagiuda himself fueled the inequality controversy by saying on television that students should compete for university places based on their financial standing. He has retracted the remark and apologized for it.

During the committee meeting, Hiroshi Ogushi, a member of the main opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, argued that the prime minister should dismiss Hagiuda from his ministerial post.

But Abe said, “I want him to continue to fulfill his duties.”

Meanwhile, the prime minister promised to make efforts to restore public trust hurt by two ministers’ resignations over money scandals late last month, less than two months after his latest Cabinet reshuffle.

Abe was speaking before the Diet for the first time since economy minister Isshu Sugawara and Justice Minister Katsuyuki Kawai resigned on Oct. 25 and Oct. 31, respectively.

Abe said he feels responsible for appointing them as ministers. “We’ll make efforts to restore public trust by resolving problems one by one in each administrative field.”

Nippon Ishin no Kai lawmaker Yasuto Urano told Abe, “If you say you keenly feel responsible for the appointments, you should face the people’s judgement” by dissolving the Lower House for a snap election.

“I think we should focus on realizing the policies that we pledged during the House of Councilors election campaign in the summer, so I’m not thinking about (a snap election) at the moment,” Abe replied.

Democratic Party for the People lawmaker Shu Watanabe said Abe, in his capacity as president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, should urge Sugawara and Kawai to give full explanations over their scandals.

“I believe they will fulfill their accountability,” Abe answered.



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