Everything is Centered Around the Center Exam

Something called the Center Exam will take place at my high school this weekend. These exams in Japan are similar to the SATs in Northern America. So if you score high, you’ll have a better chance of getting into the school of your choice. And if you don’t do so hot, you’ll have to take them again.

I learned today that my school hosting the center exam is kind-of-a-big-deal. Most students travel to a university in their prefecture to take the exam. But since we are a faraway island school, the test administrators need to come to us.

So that means everyone has been very busy this week cleaning, organizing, and making preparations for the university people to come to our school. Everyone, except for me of course.

So this is what I observed from my desk that overlooks the entire crowded teachers’ room today… (I really do have the best seat for observing all of the happenings.)

After lunch (which was moved up an hour to 11:30 am), our cleaning time was extended from the usual 10 minutes to 45. Then all of the students were required to go home at 1 pm. Around 1:20, a sensei’s voice came on over the intercom and ordered all of the stragglers to leave school. (Afterwards, it was eerily quiet without their genki-ness infiltrating the hallways.) Then all of the senseis with a sheet of paper in hand huddled together in a section of the teachers’ room. They listened intently while one teacher talked, and then suddenly, everyone spilled out into the hallways and ran up the stairs to set up for the exam.

And I just sat there, awkwardly eating my pasta lunch because I didn’t realize I was supposed to eat at 11:40 like everyone else.

Because I left for Christmas on December 16th, I didn’t really know anything about the importance of these exams until I came back after the new year. So Last Friday was our Opening Ceremony of the third quarter. After all of the Japanese speeches ever, a group of male students performed Ōendan (Japanese cheer squad). At my school, Ōendan is usually reserved for undōkai (Sports Day) or before a major sports tournament, so I was surprised to find out that they were performing for the Center Exam of all things.

Since this year marks a decade since I graduated high school, I’m often reflecting on what school life was like for me back then (in the olden days…)

10 years might have been a long time ago for me, but honestly, I don’t remember anyone having this much ganbaru spirit for a test.

I wish all my students the best this weekend. Those sannensei students work so hard.

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