The Japanese Education System
Upper Secondary Education
Learning assessment in upper secondary school is provided to evaluate to what degree each student acquires ability established in the goals of the National Curriculum Standards (学習指導要領 gakushu-shido-yoryo). It aims to enhance instruction corresponding to individual needs and to ensure that each student absorbs what s/he has learned.
Learning assessment aims to accurately portray the results of student learning as well as to improve teacher instruction. It also serves an extremely important role in allowing students to reflect on their own learning so as to learn in the future. Grades are entered into the guidance records (指導要録 shido-yoroku) and copied on report cards. The guidance records serve as original record of a student’s enrollment and a summary of process and results of instruction which are used for future instruction and certificate issuance. Report cards are shared with students and guardians to support the student’s self-reflection and future learning.
Using Secondary Education Grades for Higher Education Admissions
When a student wants to move on from secondary education to higher education in Japan, records of grades and various study and other activities at upper secondary school are considered as one source of admission screening. Applicants submit ”調査書 chosasho”, a form of transcript, to HEIs as a part of application documents. Chosasho is created by the student’s upper secondary school based on the guidance records.
Marks on Chosasho Transcripts
Chosasho transcripts include records of academic grades, attendance, and special activities during the upper secondary school education. Academic grades are marked for each subject and course, on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest score.
Each higher education institution determines its own standards and methods of academic assessment. Universities are required by law to clearly indicate beforehand its assessment standards to students.
Grading scale varies for different higher education institutions. For example, 5-tier grading scale may use “秀 (shu), 優 (yu), 良 (ryo), 可 (ka), 不可 (fuka)” in Japanese or “S, A, B, C, F” in letter grades. Examples of 4-tier grading scale includes “優 (yu), 良 (ryo), 可 (ka), 不可 (fuka)”, “A, B, C, D” or “5, 4, 3, 1”.(1) Furthermore, “不可 (fuka), D, E, F, FF, or 1” are used to indicate that no credits are awarded either due to withdrawal or failure.
(1) When grades are expressed in alphabets or numbers, there are cases in which some alphabets or numbers are skipped between pass grades and failure grades like “S, A, B, C, F” in 5-tier scale or “5, 4, 3, 1” in 4-tier scale.
According to a study conducted by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) [Japanese only], as of 2016, 665 universities (90% of total) have introduced grade point average (GPA) system. However, the maximum GPA score is not consistent. The standard is 4.0 but some institutions set 4.3 or 4.5 as the highest score.
Using Undergraduate Academic Assessment for Graduate School Admissions
Transcript from university (undergraduate program) or equivalent can be used by universities for consideration when a student is applying to a graduate school.