For those of you inside and outside Japan who don't know, TOEFL is an English language proficiency test for non-English speakers who want to study at colleges and universities in English-speaking countries.
It's basically a test to see if the prospective students can make conversations with classmates and teachers, read not-so-difficult textbooks and newspaper articles and write more or less grammatically correct sentences - English ability enough to get accepted at a college and enjoy a college life in English-speaking countries.
But as Tokyo Shinbun reports, the Japanese government under the Abe administration thinks it may be THE tool to select career bureaucrats who can battle it out with foreign counterparts in difficult and complicated international treaty negotiations, like the one for TPP.
I can't figure out whether Tokyo Shinbun is making fun, or they seriously believe what they've written.
(God save Japan. Or God demolish Japan ASAP...)
From Tokyo Shinbun (3/23/2013):
官僚は英語交渉力を 国家公務員試験にＴＯＥＦＬ 政府が義務付けを検討
Bureaucrats must have negotiation skills in English - government may make TOEFL test mandatory as part of Civil Service Examination
Wanted: People who can cross swords with foreigners. The national government is considering making TOEFL mandatory as part of the Civil Service Examination for the fiscal 2015. The government has formally expressed intention to participate in the negotiation of Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), and may be feeling an urgent need to promote bureaucrats with strong ability to negotiate with foreign countries.
TOEFL is an English proficiency test targeted at people whose mother tongue is not English, and it is used primarily when one applies to study in English-speaking countries. The idea of mandatory TOEFL [for Civil Service Examination] came from commissioners in the Industrial Competitiveness Committee set up by the government, and Tsuneo Hara, president of the National Personnel Authority, has agreed to consider. Details will be discussed later, including whether they use TOEFL only, or whether the TOEFL score become one of the criteria for hiring. According to the National Personnel Authority, only 16% of people who passed the Civil Service Examination (career) in the fiscal 2012 had TOEFL test.
However, as of now, there are already an increasing number of occasions where the bureaucrats [must] study the situations in foreign countries when planning [government policies]. The Japanese government intends to expand international economic alliance in addition to TPP, and the language capabilities, particularly that of English, are indispensable for the bureaucrats in charge of negotiating with other countries.
It is not likely that ability to negotiate can be acquired by making TOEFL mandatory, but there's a possibility that it will lead to the change in the way Kasumigaseki (career) bureaucrats think, who tend to be "inward-looking" and "hierarchical".
So they think TOEFL will prepare bureaucrats for the treaty text like this (US-Korea Free Trade Agreement, Article 11.2):
2. A requirement by a Party that a service supplier of the other Party post a bond or other form of financial security as a condition of the cross-border supply of a service does not of itself make this Chapter applicable to measures adopted or maintained by the Party relating to such cross-border supply of the service. This Chapter applies to measures adopted or maintained by the Party relating to the posted bond or financial security, to the extent that such bond or financial security is a covered investment.
I don't think so.
Besides, English language skills and negotiation skills are two totally separate things, but that apparently does not occur to most in Japan.
Japan has its own, strange English proficiency test called "Eiken". Native English speakers have told me they had a hard time understanding the questions.
They all say "communication", or "komyunikehshon" in Japanese in Japan. And that remains the most elusive thing in Japan, to communicate with others beyond their border. It will remain elusive as long as they think it is a matter of speaking English.