Monday, May 14, 2012

In Japan - Test Papers

The meanings of cross (X) and circle (O) in Japan are a little different than those in most countries. I noticed it a long time ago, back in elementary 3 when PlayStation entered Indonesia: in Japanese games, O button means confirm and X button means cancel, and in English and English-translated games, X button means confirm and O button means cancel.

The first time I received my test paper back in class, I thought "OH MY GOD I MADE THAT MANY MISTAKE!?" and I kept looking at parts being circled, wondering why they were wrong. I was panicking at first, wondering if I entered the wrong level. Well, it turned out that circled parts mean correct answers. Wrong answers are left unmarked, but wrong parts will be underlined.

Not trying to brag about the test result here but I want to show how teachers in Japan make a spiral-looking thing across your test paper if you got everything right. And yes, on the right side, a cute Totoro stamp that says "taihen yoku dekimashita" (you've really done well). You'd think that this kind of thing only exists for elementary graders, but nope. Most of us here are either high schoolers or at the very least high school graduates. I've met students who are in their late 20s, late 30s, or even late 40s.

But I really love it. I mean, it breaks you away from the boring routine of taking the test, getting the test back, and looking at your grades and judging your own performance. The stamp wasn't the sole motivation of doing my best, but it's a good extra reward, don't you think? :)

Normally as a teacher / grader you could just look at the answer key, put some marks on it, calculate the points, hand them back to the students and that's it. To me, giving an extra effort to put cute stamps or drawing a spiral or sometimes even a huge flower on your test paper leave the impression that your teacher is also doing his/her best to grade your test. Or as if you had a good, silent communication with your teacher / grader.

I guess this is another cultural difference between Japan and other countries' grading system. I wonder if there are other ways to grade test papers. In Indonesia, I believe check marks mean correct answers. There's another mark that looks like a loop of string similar to a capital "R" shape (and I don't know how to call it) that indicates correct answers, but wrong answers are indicated by X's. I believe in Singapore check marks also indicate correct answers and X's indicate wrong answers. In the US, as I previously mentioned, teachers would highlight certain parts you got wrong by circles and mark wrong answers with X's.

After about a month, I'm still used to seeing O's on test papers as "this is where you got wrong" but at least I didn't get too shocked to see those circles anymore. I think I will enjoy my time seeing those circles as "good things to see on test papers" while I'm in Japan! :)


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