Osaka Univ. brought low by hubris over flawed entrance exam questions

The Yomiuri ShimbunThe latest case involving mismanaged entrance exams has seriously affected the paths that were open to examinees. The case highlights an impermissible error that was committed.

Mistakes were made in preparing questions for physics, as well as in marking exam papers, in general entrance exams conducted at six of Osaka University’s departments last February, including the engineering and science departments. The university rejected 30 students who would have passed the tests had it not been for the mistakes.

Although there were three correct answers to a problem regarding sound waves, only one of them was treated as the right one. The next question made no sense, as it required finding a numerical result based on the previous answer. Three and four points were alloted to the two questions, respectively, in marking the exam papers on the basis of a maximum of 100 points.

The fixed number of examinees to be admitted to the six departments stood at a total of 1,774. The physics test was taken by 3,815 persons. Considering the weight carried by even one point, the university’s mismanagement was a grave error.

Osaka University will permit the incorrectly rejected applicants to enroll if they wish. For such students who are now attending other universities or preparatory schools, the university will also pay compensation for the tuition and other fees they have paid, as well as consolation money. To make sure the people to be covered by these measures do not suffer any further disadvantage, the university must act sincerely on the matter.

The exam questions had been prepared by 10 science department professors and others. In April two years ago, they are said to have started planning questions through a process that involved examining them more than 10 times, and the questions had been checked at several stages. Why couldn’t the errors be prevented despite such careful arrangements?

All universities must on alert

In a meeting with high school teachers last June, Osaka University was subjected to finger-pointing over the possibility that there might be more than one correct answer to the question. However, the university was unyielding about insisting there was only one right answer. In August, the university received an email from a preparatory school instructor, who expressed doubt about the answer. But the university maintained its stance in replying to the email.

The task of engaging in these exchanges had been left to two professors — one responsible for preparing questions and the other assigned a secondary role in that task.

Then, at the beginning of last month, an elaborately written email was sent to the university from outside. With four different teaching staff added, Osaka University examined the matter, and it finally recognized the error. Its reaction came too late.

Had the university perceived the mistakes at an early stage, the examinees affected by the error could have been admitted in September.

The university has explained that those in charge of preparing questions were erroneously convinced of their answer.

Osaka University did not listen to the point repeatedly made by outsiders, and it did not share pertinent information internally, either. This attitude must be described as illustrating the university’s overconfidence in itself.

The latest affair is also a result of the university’s laxity in crisis management. Those in charge of preparing questions and others will inevitably be punished.

From this time on, Osaka University will implement all-campus measures to check questions for its entrance exams until just before announcing successful examinees. It will also establish a questions inspection committee tasked with responding to comments made by outsiders after the university’s entrance exams. To avoid a repeat of the case, efforts must be made to ensure these moves effectively function.

The National Center Test for University Admissions will be conducted on Saturday and Sunday, marking the full-scale start of the entrance exam season. All universities should stay on their guard and reexamine the arrangements for their entrance tests, making sure there are no defects in this respect.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Jan. 10, 2018)Speech


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