Abe apologizes for mess over private English test

The Japanese Prime Minister has apologized for the postponement of the planned introduction of private-sector English tests for university admission.

Shinzo Abe was responding to a question by the secretary general of the opposition Constitutional Democratic Party, Tetsuro Fukuyama, at the Upper House budget committee on Friday.

Fukuyama said that the plan to introduce private English tests as a part of standardized university exams has affected universities across Japan and been a source of anxiety for students.

He said that it is a serious issue which would normally result in the resignation of the education minister or the prime minister.

Abe said that the government is sorry for the trouble the postponement has caused to students who were preparing for the tests, and to officials concerned.

He said the government wants to fulfill its responsibility by making preparations that can satisfy test-takers.

He said that English is an important tool in globalizing Japan's workforce, and that the education ministry will look into the matter to solve the issues and come up with a university entrance exam system that will nurture such a workforce.

Meanwhile, Tomoko Tamura of the Japanese Communist Party asked Abe about an annual cherry blossom viewing party which the prime minister hosts.

Tamura noted that the number of guests and expenditure for the party have increased every year, and that spending this year was more than triple the budget.

She asked Abe if he had invited many supporters from his constituency.

Abe replied that he is not involved in the selection of guests, and only greets them at the party.

He declined to comment on individual guests, citing privacy concerns.