Today in Japan the high school students are having their "Senta-shiken" the National Center Test for University Admissions. It is a two day test given to all high school students who want to go on to college and is somewhat similar to the U.S. SAT and ACT tests. (I think.) One day is for language and social studies, the next day for math and sciences.
Most universities will accept students from a combination of the results of their Center tests and from entrance exams scores given by each university. Both tests are rigorous and high school students have been studying on their own and also going to cram schools in order to prepare for these tests for months. One big difference between the U.S. tests and the Center test is that in Japan this test is only given one time a year (today and tomorrow!) and if for some reason you miss it...
"Sorry kid. You'll have to try again next year. No college for you this year!"
Unfortunately, this test is given every year around the middle of January which means there is sometimes snow and storms and transportation can back up.
"That's too bad too kid. Unless the whole city has shut down, weather is not an excuse for being late to the test!"
It is also the season for influenza so if the student isn't feeling well today... As you can see the rules are strict and rigid. Another thing about the Center test is that the students never learn the results. The scores are sent directly to the university and everyone sits on pins and needles hoping that the scores were high enough so that the student will be considered by the college.
And after all that information I must tell you that neither of my children ever took the Center test. Leiya avoided it this year because she's been in a high school in Ohio and is planning to go to college there too. Takumi...? Well, he graduated from Japanese high school but had already decided to go to the States before the Center test. BUT... He had applied for the test a few months before (just in case he changed his mind) and he had paid the $300 fee to take it. Tetsu and I thought that since we'd paid for it, he ought to at least get the experience of taking it.
The day of the Center test, Takumi and his best friend arranged to go together to the test area. This is where having an American mother went against Takumi. Most Japanese mothers will take special concern about their son's or daughter's health from a few days before the test, drive the student to the testing area on the day (start early in case of snow) and wait for hours (maybe with head bows and prayers being sent up?) then bring the student home, feed him or her something warm, make sure he or she gets a good night's sleep and do the same thing the next day for the second part of the test. I mean we are really talking about a very important couple days in a student's life! In Takumi's case, he said he was going with a friend and I said
and that was it. An hour or so after he left, I got a phone call.
"This is Takumi. Now, don't get upset. I'm coming home now." (his test was supposed to last all day.)
"What! Why? Where are you?"
"I'm right outside the front door. I didn't want you to faint if I just walked in the door. I'm calling from my cell phone." (such a considerate son.)
He'd gone to the wrong testing district! His friend was testing in one part of town and Takumi was supposed to be testing in another part of town. So much for that test.
Although I had taken a blase view of my motherly roles in preparing Takumi for his test, I was furious that he hadn't had enough sense to check about the place he was supposed to go! He couldn't understand what the problem was. He'd already made the decision to go to the States. The test wasn't important for his own college entrance. But to me, I was sending this kid off to America in a couple months to live on his own in another culture and he wasn't even responsible enough have the wits to get to the right place in his own language!
Ah, memories of the almost taken Center test...
Takumi has turned into (or maybe he always was) a very responsible son and if there have been any similar incidents while he's been in the States, I certainly haven't heard about them!