Doraemon, the robotic cat of a popular manga series, is a product of cutting-edge technology. But he will never be recognized as a "living being." Why?

This question was asked in a private junior high school entrance exam some years ago, and I understand it became a topic of conversation back then.

The answer seems obvious. But trying to explain it adequately in words isn't easy.

According to a website specializing in information related to school entrance tests, the suggested answer is, "Because Doraemon can neither grow on his own nor reproduce." But I personally think there also are various other acceptable answers.

What if there really are multiple answers, but the school giving the test insists there is only one correct response?

On Jan. 6, Osaka University admitted to making errors in its February 2017 entrance examination in physics, which resulted in the rejection of 30 students who should have passed the test and enrolled in the university's medical, science, engineering and other faculties in April last year.

The university announced those 30 students will be accepted, albeit belatedly.

Back in June and August last year, some outside parties pointed out errors in the test question, only to be rebuffed. But it was not until the university was challenged for the third time in December that it finally took the matter seriously and looked into it.

I am appalled by the slowness of the university's reaction.

Daizo Sakurada, a political science professor at a private university, once wrote: "Making entrance test questions is a truly formidable but thankless task that requires tremendous concentration, time and labor--it literally drains you."

The greatest challenge is coming up with new questions without going beyond the level of senior high school education, Sakurada explained.

Naturally, perfection cannot be expected at all times. But given how hard candidates study to pass the tests, it is unconscionable to drag one's feet in correcting errors that need to be corrected.

Some good questions end up being talked about for years.

Starting with the National Center Test for University Admissions coming up this weekend, the university entrance test season is about to begin in earnest.

It will not only be candidates who will be tested on their performance. Universities, too, will be tested on the quality of the tests they give.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Jan. 9

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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.