SCHOOL LIFE AND STUDENTS IN JAPANESE UNIVERSITIES

SCHOOL LIFE IN JAPANESE UNIVERSITIES

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Each academic year begins in April and comprises of two semesters. Basic general degrees are four-year degrees, a feature adapted from the American system. Undergraduate students receive instruction via the lecture and seminar group method. [Source: Miki Y. Ishikida, Japanese Education in the 21st Century, usjp.org/jpeducation_en/jp ; iUniverse, June 2005 ~]

In Japan, the university years are often regarded as a four-year-long vacation between the grind of high school and a working career. Japanese students compare their university days with living at a country club. There are few tests or term papers. For many young people it is the first time in their lives they have time and the freedom to date and party. Japanese college students do not study much because almost everyone graduates, and because the GPAs do not matter in employment recruitment. It is difficult to enter competitive universities, but once enrolled, the vast majority of students graduate. For example, 78.7 percent of college students who entered four-year colleges in April 1999 graduated on schedule in March 2003. Also, 91.5 percent of entrants of four-year colleges in April 1995 had graduated by March 2003 (Monbukagakusho- 2004a). Most companies look at applicants’ alma maters, not their GPAs. Therefore, many students regard their college years as a “break-time” between the “examination hell” of high school and the working world. A 1995 survey found that 84.2 percent of male students and 76.4 percent of female students in junior colleges and specialized training colleges studied one hour or less per day. In addition 84 percent of male college and graduate students and 59.1 percent of female college and graduate students spent one hour or less per day studying (So-mucho- 1996:60-61). Most college students spend their time holding part-time jobs, participating in sports and cultural clubs, traveling, dating, drinking, and partying.

Students often spend more time partying than studying. One survey found that on week days university students spend an average of 90.9 minutes studying, 98.9 minutes watching television, 77.1 minutes playing sports, 76 minutes paying with a computer, 129.5 minutes doing a club activity and 224.2 minutes working at a part time job.

Students often devote a lot their attention to extracurricular activities such as such art, music or martial arts clubs. Engineering students often get absorbed in doing projects for their professors or competitions like making battery-powered cars, fighting robots or human-powered flying machines.

The main objective for students is take the required courses to do well enough in them to to pass them. There is no great need to get straight As. Many students write senior theses or do a senior projects and put a lot of energy into that. Students seem pretty passive and laid back about their classes and don’t really seem take much initiative. Many devote much of their time to a club or sport or “job-hunting activities.” Many students say they join clubs at school because they have difficulty making friends otherwise.

An important consideration is forming a relationship with a professor that can help you find a job. Students are organized into groups known as kozas. These are led by a full professor and a few assistants. They students are like glorified technicians. They are told what to study and their work is often published under the koza leaders name.

Some university require their students take etiquette classes in which they are told things like refrain from using a cell phone while riding a bike and don’t eat noodles while walking down the street. At one university in Akita Prefecture students are prohibited from dying their hair and piercing their bodies. Monitors regularly walk around the school to make sure the rules are followed.

University Costs in Japan

In 2004, the government set a standard tuition of national universities for the 2005-6 school year, 535,800 yen, but each national university can set its own tuition (AS December 15, 2004). In 2001, the average tuition of private colleges amounted to 800,000 yen, 1.6 times more than the tuition of national colleges, 497,000 yen (Chu-o- Kyo-iku 2001). [Source: Miki Y. Ishikida, Japanese Education in the 21st Century, usjp.org/jpeducation_en/jp ; iUniverse, June 2005 ~]

College costs, especially for private institutions, are quite high, as are living expenses for out-of-town students. Although there are some scholarships and student loans, most parents pay their children’s college expenses. Living expenses are much cheaper if college students remain at home. In the 2002-3 school year, students who attended private colleges and rented an apartment spent an average of 2.61 million yen (Monbukagakusho- 2004d). In the United States, annual prices for undergraduate tuition, room, and board for the 2002-03 academic year were estimated at $8,556 at public colleges and $23,503 at private colleges (NCES 2004a). ~

Many parents work hard to send their children to college. Many mothers say that one of main reasons they returned to work after child rearing is to finance their children’s college education. Tax exemption for college tuitions would help parents send their children to college in an era of recession. Need-based scholarships and student loans are available. In 2000, approximately 437,000 college students were receiving loans from the Japanese Scholarship Society. Students in public colleges received 41,000 to 47,000 yen a month in no-interest loans, while those in private colleges received 50,000 yen to 60,000 yen (AS June 8, 2000). ~

According to one calculation, the costs of college education (4 million yen) and four years outside of the work force (11 million yen) amount to 15 million yen. The lifetime income difference between high school graduates and college graduates is estimated at 75 million yen. If high school graduates saved 15 million yen at a six percent interest rate, they would make 75 million in their lifetime. Therefore, college education does not make much of a difference in lifetime earnings (Yano 1998:112-113). ~

University Students in Japan

In 2003, almost two-thirds (63 percent) of high school graduates went on to higher education, including colleges (44.6 percent) and specialized training colleges (18.9 percent). The number of college students, 2,804,000 (including 2,509,000 undergraduates) is the largest number on record (Monbukagakusho- 2004a), despite the fact that the number of 18 year-olds has been decreasing drastically from its peak in 1993 at 2.05 million, to 1.5 million in 2000, and an estimated 1.2 million in 2010 (Amano 1996:106).1 Almost all students who continue on to higher education ultimately obtain degrees. [Source: Miki Y. Ishikida, Japanese Education in the 21st Century, usjp.org/jpeducation_en/jp ; iUniverse, June 2005 ~]

The academic quality of college students will decline as many money-strapped colleges accept most applicants. In 1995, 64.8 percent of all applicants to four-year colleges were admitted, and five years later that figure had risen to 80.5 percent. An estimated 70 percent of high school graduates will proceed to colleges in 2010 (Kajita 2000:11, 114). By 2019, all of the estimated 707,000 college applicants (62.9 percent of an estimated 1.2 million population of 18-year-olds) will be accepted. Everyone can attend a college when the number of applicants matches admissions quotas (Okushima et al. 1998:118-119). This will result in lower educational standards for entrants. Therefore, colleges have to provide remedial courses for students who are not prepared for college-level work. In 1997, 42 percent of colleges offered remedial courses in high school subjects (Kuroki 1999:74). ~

College students are more likely to come from the households with higher incomes and higher occupational status. According to the 1995 Social Stratification and Social Mobility (SSM) survey, more than 70 percent of college graduates in their 30s had fathers in professional and managerial positions (Aramaki 2000:23). In 1990, almost half (47 percent) of students in national universities came from households whose incomes were in the highest 20 percent (LeTendre et al. 1998:291). Higher education demonstrates the “reproduction” of social stratification. ~

About 20 percent of university students say they would like to die, according to a survey carried out in Tokyo in the summer of 2013. According to the NPO Lifelink which conducted the survey, 122 university students were asked to fill out a survey. TBS reported that of the group, 26 students, around 20 percent of the total, answered that they would genuinely like to die. The NPO says it believes the statistics are related to job-hunting failures and rejections. Police statistics show that the total number of suicides in Japan last year dipped below 30,000 for the first time in 15 years. However, the number of suicides among people in their 20s increased and 149 people are believed to have committed suicide due to problems finding employment. [Source: Japan Today, October 19, 2013]

Majors of Undergraduate University Students in Japan

In 2003, college students majored in social science (39.0 percent); humanities (including history) (16.3 percent); engineering (17.8 percent); education (5.5 percent); science (3.5 percent); agriculture (2.8 percent); medicine and dentistry (2.5 percent); home economics (2.1 percent); and pharmacy (1.6 percent). (Monbukagakusho- 2004a) [Source: Miki Y. Ishikida, Japanese Education in the 21st Century, usjp.org/jpeducation_en/jp ; iUniverse, June 2005 ~]

Most humanities majors are women. Humanities majors without technical skills have a more difficult time obtaining jobs. More than half of education majors are women. Education majors must pass highly competitive prefectural examinations in order to find a teaching position. On the other hand, the number of female students in computer science and electronic engineering has risen, but male students vastly outnumber female students. ~

Majors of Undergraduates: 1) Undergraduate (percent, (percentage of female students in 2000)): A) Humanities: 16.3 percent (67.1 percent); B) Social Science: 39.0 percent (27.2 percent); C) Science: 3.5 percent (25.3 percent); D) Engineering: 17.8 percent (10.0 percent); E) Agriculture: 2.8 percent (40.3 percent); F) Medicine and Dentistry: 2.5 percent (33.2 percent); G) Pharmacy: 1.6 percent (40.0 percent); H) Home economics: 5.5 percent (95.1 percent); I) Education: 5.5 percent (59.0 percent); J) Others: 8.8 percent. [Source: Monbukagakusho- 2004a; Monbusho- 2000b ~]

Science degrees awarded in 1999 as a percentage of all degrees awarded: 29.36, compared to 41.8 in South Korea and 18.4 percent in the United States. New York Times- OECD]

Female University Students in Japan

Female students are 38.8 percent of the college student population (Monbukagakusho- 2004a). Majors of College Students by Gender in 2000: Male students:Humanities—8.7 percent; Social Science—46.1 percent; Science— 4.2 percent; Engineering—27.0 percent; Education— 3.6 percent; Health Care—4.2 percent; Others—6.2 percent. Female students: Humanities—30.2 percent (36.3 percent in 1998); Social Science—29.3 percent (17.7 percent in 1998); Science— 2.4 percent; Engineering—5.1 percent (2.4 percent in 1988); 2.4 percent in 1988; Education— 8.9 percent; Health Care—8.5percent; Others—15.6 percent. [Source: Miki Y. Ishikida, Japanese Education in the 21st Century, usjp.org/jpeducation_en/jp ; iUniverse, June 2005 ~]

According to the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, women accounted for 14 percent of the science and engineering students at Japanese universities, even though they represented 43 percent of college students over all, excluding medical and agricultural schools. In the humanities, they make up 66 percent. [Source: New York Times, June 17, 2013] Your article is very interesting, but it is inconsistent. You may have updated on paragraph, but not the other. For Japanese men the idea is to attend a good university to get a good job. For some women the idea still is to go to a good school to find a good husband. Women constitute 90 percent of Japan's junior college enrollment, majoring in things like food and nutrition or home management, but less than one-forth of its university enrollment. Only 10 percent of the students at Tokyo University are women. Women make up only 20 percent of the students at Tokyo University, and only 9 percent of the engineering students, and female teachers and professors there. One female engineer who went Tokyo University in the 1980s, said, “I used to be the only female student specializing in nuclear engineering. I was catching a lot of wandering eyes. However, when I’d go to matchmaking parties, the guys would scared off when I told them where I went to school.” Is it 10 percent or 20 percent?

Homogeneity and Lack of Motivation Among Japan’s Top University Students

The Yomiuri Shimbun reported: “Among those who entered Tokyo University in 2013, 56 percent graduated from high schools in the Kanto region, including 36 percent from Tokyo high schools. This is because of the tendency of the school to accept an increasing number of students from certain private schools in the Tokyo metropolitan area that offer integrated middle and high school education. On the other hand, students from overseas accounted for only 1.6 percent. In addition, only 72 Japanese undergraduates studied overseas in the 2012 academic year, clearly indicating the university’s “introspective” nature. [Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, April 16, 2013 =^=]

“Having spent their school life with the same classmates through middle and high school, an increasing number of our students apparently have no opinion on society,” an associate professor of the College of Arts and Sciences said. “Those who are good at exams, but who have no chance to interact with those with different characteristics will never grow into people who will be active in global society.” =^=

When it comes to the problem of declining motivation to study, Todai and Kyoto University students are no exception. “We’ve traditionally had an atmosphere where students would learn on their own [without instruction],” Kyoto University President Hiroshi Matsumoto said. He said many students at Kyoto University cannot keep up with classes as they lack the academic ability or motivation for subjects other than those required for entrance exams. “We need ambitious, knowledge-hungry students with comprehensive scholastic abilities acquired through studying a wide range of subjects at high school. We want to nurture such students into people who can actively participate in international society,” Matsumoto said. =^=

Japanese University Students ‘Remain Passive Learners’

In April 2013, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported: “A recent educational survey has shown university students prefer to take easy classes, despite efforts by universities to offer more challenging courses that encourage student debates and active participation. About 4,900 students at national, public and private universities across the nation responded to the online survey conducted by the Benesse Educational Research and Development Center in November. In the survey, 54.2 percent of respondents said they participated in classroom debates, up 7.5 percentage points from the previous survey in 2008. Additionally, 39.1 percent of students had classes involving firsthand activities and lab sessions, up 6.7 percentage points. [Source: Yomiuri Shimbun April 26, 2013 +++]

“Meanwhile, 54.8 percent of those polled said they favor classes for which they can obtain easy credits, up 5.9 percentage points from the previous survey. Furthermore, 43.9 percent of respondents said they want classroom instruction on study tactics, up 4.6 percentage points from 2008. The survey results suggest that university reforms aimed at promoting active learning have yielded few results. Although universities have introduced more interactive courses, students tend to be passive in their attitude toward learning. “There’s a perception gap between universities and students,” said Kobe University Prof. Tatsuo Kawashima, who supervised the survey. “It’s essential to develop an education system that helps students get accustomed to a more active learning approach.” +++

Money and University Students in Japan

According to a February 2011 Kyodo news report: “Spending by university students living away from their families has fallen to the same level as 1980, due partly to the prolonged economic downturn, according to an annual survey by the National Federation of University Cooperative Associations. Average monthly expenditure by such students, excluding rent, came to 63,130 yen compared with 62,100 yen in 1980, while the average monthly allowance they receive from their families was 71,310 yen.”

In April 2011, Jiji Press reported: “Monthly allowances given by parents to students who entered private colleges in the Tokyo metropolitan area last spring fell for the 11th consecutive year, a survey has shown. The average monthly allowance for freshmen attending school away from home was 91,300 yen, down 300 yen from the previous year, according to the survey released by the tokyo Federation of private University Faculty and Staff Unions. The amount dropped 26.9 percent from the peak level of 124,900 yen in fiscal 1994, while the average rent grew to account for a record 66.8 percent of the allowance. Living expenses, excluding rent, averaged 1,010 yen per day. Both the allowance and living expenses were the lowest since fiscal 1986. [Source: Jiji Press, April 11, 2012]

According to a nationwide survey on student living conditions conducted in October and November 2012 at 30 public and private universities, falling in 2012 for the sixth straight year. The Yomiuri reported that “Results showed that 4,256 students living away from home–excluding those who live in dormitories–received an average of 69,610 yen per month from their parents, down 170 yen from last year. About 10 percent of the students said they did not receive any money from their parents”. [Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, February 16, 2013]

Bad' Student Loans Hit 475 Billion Yen

In March 2013, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported: “With an increasing number of students taking out public loans to finance their university education in the past decade, the total amount of debt in arrears last fiscal year has tripled over the same period to about 470 billion yen. This situation has arisen mainly because an increasing number of borrowers are unable to repay their debts due to a drop in incomes amid the nation's extended economic slump. With one-third of current university students depending on public loans to finance their studies, education experts have called for reducing repayment amounts to ease their financial burden. [Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, March 18, 2013==]

“A 26-year-old woman who works part-time in Saitama lamented the situation, saying: "After graduating from a university, all I had left was debt. What did I go to university for?" She enrolled in a private university in Saitama Prefecture in 2005 to study psychology. But just before enrolling, her father's health deteriorated and he was forced to give up his job. Finding herself under increased financial strain, the woman borrowed about 2.4 million yen from the Japan Student Services Organization (JASSO). After graduating, she got a job with an insurance company, but quit after three months due to her boss' abuse of power. Since then, paying off her student debt has become a heavy burden on her. Currently, she earns about 110,000 yen a month working part-time in a supermarket. Nearly half of the money goes toward paying off the student loan and other debts. "Quitting my job was a big mistake. I'm very worried about the future," she said. ==

“According to JASSO, there were about 6.9 million high school, university and graduate school students in fiscal 2011. Although this figure is down 10 percent from a decade ago due to the chronically low birthrate, the number of student-loan borrowers jumped 1.7-fold to about 1.29 million. More than 330,000 students failed to repay their student loans in fiscal 2011, with the total amount in arrears at 475.5 billion yen, increasing mainly because of lower incomes amid the protracted economic slump. In February, the Japan Federation of Bar Associations surveyed people with outstanding student loans. Among 332 cases, about half said they could not repay their debts because they had lost their jobs or were earning less. ==

“A surge in university tuition costs has exacerbated the situation. According to the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry, the average yearly tuition for a private university is about 860,000 yen, and about 540,000 yen for public universities. These figures are about 160,000 yen to 220,000 yen more than what they were 20 years ago.Among about 2.57 million university students, about 960,000, or one-third, took out student loans. As some students do not repay their debts despite being able to, JASSO enhanced its collection efforts in October 2009. For example, if repayments are delayed by four months, JASSO entrusts the collection of the debt to private companies. After nine months without repayment, JASSO asks the courts to issue a repayment order. ==

In October 2010, the education ministry announced it would make volunteer activity a requirement for university loans. The move is intended to give students a sense of giving something back to society.

Japanese University School Year Begins in April

Japan begins its university school year in April. Colleges and universities in most nations, including the United States, China and Europe, start their academic year in autumn. Only seven countries begin the school year in April, including Japan and India. This means if Japanese students want to study abroad, they have to give themselves at least six months before they can start studying overseas, due to the admission "time gap" between Japan and other countries. The gap can also inconvenience foreign students who want to study in Japan. Japanese universities' failure to attract foreign students has often been pointed at as a major reason for their dwindling global status.

“Japanese universities used to follow the autumn enrollment system, but the change to the current system occurred in the Taisho era (1912-1926) to better synchronize with primary, middle and high school academic years.

“Kyodo reported: “University presidents have been given the freedom to decide when to admit students since the government-set rule of April enrollment was abolished in December 2007. In a fiscal 2009 survey by the education ministry, as many as 245 universities have undergraduate admission programs for non-April enrollment. But in reality, only 115 of them were recruiting under such arrangements and only 2,226 students were enrolled. [Source: Kyodo, January 19, 2012]

University of Tokyo Begins Starting the School Year in Autumn

The University of Tokyo has said it wants to shift from spring to autumn enrollment in about 2017. The university has also urged 11 other universities, including Kyoto University and Waseda University, to participate in talks regarding the change, in hopes that other universities will also adopt autumn enrollments. [Source: Yomiuri Shimbun]

In January 2012, Kyodo reported: “A University of Tokyo panel has proposed that the leading institution shift undergraduate enrollment from April to the fall in line with the international norm. Fall enrollment would help facilitate acceptance of foreign students, as well as study abroad programs for the university's own students. The report recommends introducing the change in five years. [Source: Kyodo, January 19, 2012]

“If realized, however, the change from April would also have a significant impact on the nation's current college admission and job recruitment practices, as the school and fiscal year begin in April. Many universities have programs to admit students in other months as well as April. Many business leaders are also hoping an increase in foreign students studying at Japanese universities will broaden recruitment opportunities. [Ibid]

“The Yomiuri Shimbun reported: “A shift in the University of Tokyo's admission period, however, does not mean its entrance exam period will change. The university plans to continue administering entrance exams in the spring. The University of Tokyo hopes that students will use the gap between spring acceptance and the start of classes to engage in volunteer and other extracurricular activities. According to Kyodo the panel recommended that the university's entrance examinations be held in February to March as usual, and that accepted students be encouraged to make use of the six months or so between their high school graduation in March and college enrollment in the fall to pursue hands-on experiences, such as volunteer activities, internships and international exchanges. [Ibid]

“Considering that students may also take time off to study abroad while enrolled, it is expected to take 4½ to five years on average to graduate, longer than the normal four-year curriculum. The panel suggested that flexibility be given to outstanding students should they seek early graduation or to enter graduate school. [Ibid]

“Still, the report said, many university and societal issues need to be sorted out before any shift is made. For example, students could face difficulties finding jobs since the timing of their graduation under the proposed plan would not match the current recruitment process. Corporate employment exams and the national examination for medical practitioners are currently scheduled to accommodate spring graduations. With this in mind, the University of Tokyo has said it will hold talks with various organizations, asking them to shift their exam schedules. [Ibid]

“Will the idea also lead to a change in primary school enrollment? So far, no one has proposed a autumn enrollment for primary, middle and high schools. [Ibid]

The University of Tokyo’s move, according to an Yomiuri Shimbun article, seems to reflect the top-notch university's desire to attract more foreign students while also encouraging the Japanese students on its roll book to study overseas.

Japanese Gap Term?

If the University of Tokyo and other universities to shift a school year that begins in the autumn students will have a six month gap term between the time they finish high school and the time they start university. Even if universities change its enrollment period from spring to autumn, it will maintain the current timing of its entrance exams and announcement of successful applicants in the spring. [Source: Yomiuri Shimbun]

The gap term is meant to be a hiatus between the time when applicants pass their entrance exams and when they enroll. During the gap term, they are expected to engage in such activities as volunteer programs and studies abroad, in preparation for studying at the university fruitfully, the school says. [Ibid]

“The term "gap year" was first used in Britain, where young people are allowed to put off their university enrollment one year to do such things as volunteer work or travel. Young Britons who take a gap year, however, account for less than 10 percent of prospective enrollees, as the gap-year program, unlike the University of Tokyo's gap term, is not designed to be uniformly applied. [Ibid]

“There are many doubts about the system in Japan. Some teachers at the University of Tokyo worry that students' academic abilities will deteriorate during the gap term, while others are afraid students of economically disadvantaged families will not be able to afford to study abroad. [Ibid]

University of Tokyo to Use Quarter System

In June 2013, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported: University of Tokyo President Junichi Hamada has announced the institution will introduce a quarter system by the end of the 2015 academic year by forgoing its plans to transition to autumn enrollment for the time being.“Our broad aim to switch to autumn enrollment remains unchanged,” Hamada said. “However, we’ve concluded that it would be unreasonable to simply change the timing of enrollment while some aspects of society remain unchanged, especially in regard to when certification exams are administered,” the president added. [Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, June 21, 2013 |~|]

“Hamada cited national qualification exams for medical practitioners, among other tests, which coincide with the end of the current academic year system in March. Hamada proposed switching to autumn enrollment two years ago, and the university set up an in-house panel in April last year to begin discussions on how to introduce the new system. The university also convened a conference with 11 other institutions that supported the idea, such as Kyoto University, Tokyo Institute of Technology and Keio University. However, the idea failed to catch on with other institutions and the central government did not move to review the period in which national qualification exams are administered. |~|

“Kyoto University President Hiroshi Matsumoto, who attended the press conference with Hamada, praised the proposal. “By proposing a switch to autumn enrollment, the University of Tokyo has raised the question of how Japanese universities can become more global,” Matsumoto said. “However, [changing] the timing of enrollment isn’t easy.”By adopting a quarter system, the university expects more students will be encouraged to study abroad as they would have four opportunities each year to start a new term. |~|

“We shouldn’t sit idly by before introducing autumn enrollment,” Hamada said. “We’ve decided [on the quarter system] as we thought we should swiftly take action now.” Presidents of other national universities expressed support for the University of Tokyo’s planned introduction of a quarter system. “A quarter system would be practical for students interested in short-term study abroad during the summer,” said Nagoya University President Michiharu Hamaguchi. Kumamoto University President Isao Taniguchi expressed his willingness to switch to a quarter system, saying, “We have to consider it if it’s an effective way to help make us more global.” |~|

In January 2013, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported: “The education ministry will soon allow Japanese universities, most of which use a semester system, to introduce a quarter system as well to help students study subjects more intensively, sources said. In most Japanese universities, classes are held once a week for 15 weeks in one semester, but the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry is planning to relax its university establishment standards so universities may also use a quarter system, in which classes are held twice a week for eight weeks in one term. Students commonly take about 10 courses a week in each semester. But some observers point out that they take too many courses in the same term to fully assimilate their contents. In the United States, university students usually take about five courses each term, and each class meets more than once a week. [Source: News On Japan via Yomiuri, January 3, 2013]

Autumn School Year Begins at University of Tokyo

In October 2012, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported: “A total of 515 undergraduate and postgraduate students, including 374 foreigners, attended an entrance ceremony at the University of Tokyo as their enrollment period started this month.The fresh batch of students included 27 participants in PEAK (Programs in English at Komaba), which the university started offering this autumn. The program, classes for which are given in English, mainly targets foreign students. However, 11 students, or about 30 percent of those admitted to the program, chose to go to top-tier European or U.S. schools instead. This shows that even Todai, which usually enrolls more than 99 percent of admitted students, is vulnerable to international competition for programs starting in autumn.[Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, October 5, 2012 \:\]

“According to Benesse Corp., a leading distance education and publishing company, 527 U.S. and foreign citizens, or 24 percent of those admitted, did not enroll in Harvard University last year, when 1,661 people entered. A total of 758 U.S. and foreign citizens, or 36 percent of the admitted, did not enter Yale University, when 1,351 enrolled. Only 13, or 0.4 percent, of those admitted to the University of Tokyo in spring through an ordinary entrance exam chose not to enroll, with 3,095 people entering the university. Benesse's Masanori Fujii said the commonly held belief in Japan that deviation value—an indicator of the difficulty of a university's entrance exam—is directly linked to the value of a university is unusual from a global standpoint. \:\

“The advantage Todai has over its foreign counterparts is lower tuition. The university's average annual tuition for undergraduate studies is about 500,000 yen, while Harvard University charges about 3 million yen. "Science courses at the University of Tokyo, in particular, are a 'great deal' for foreign students. The university will be able to attract more students if it accepts applications through the Internet like U.S. and European universities do," Fujii said. \:\

“Regarding Kyushu University, two out of 15 people admitted to the school for autumn enrollment decided not to attend after all. The university said most of those admitted chose to enter the school because younger students learned of its good reputation through word of mouth. Among private universities who accepted students this autumn, 228 people, or 39 percent, of those admitted declined to enroll at Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University in Beppu, Oita Prefecture, in which 355 people enrolled. Waseda University in Tokyo had 249 enrollments, with 120 students, or 33 percent of those admitted, declining to enroll. \:\

Tokyo University to Introduce Gap Year

In November 2012, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported: The University of Tokyo has decided to introduce a special leave-of-absence system for students who newly enroll in the 2013 academic year, which will allow them to do volunteer work, study abroad and engage in other activities for a year, it has been learned.The system is designed to allow students to reflect on or rediscover reasons why they are studying by deepening their experience in society, according to sources. During the special leave period, students will not have to pay tuition fees, and will be allowed to engage in activities usually not permitted during a regular leave of absence, such as overseas travel and paid internships. [Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, November 15, 2012 ***]

“The special leave period is equivalent to "gap years" at universities in other countries including the United States, in which young students can postpone enrollment for a year to expand their horizons by immersing themselves in society. The Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry says universities in Japan have been reluctant to introduce such a system because students who participate in it need five years to graduate. Students who pass the university's entrance exam and wish to use the system are required to submit applications when they go through the enrollment process in March. After screening the applications, the university decides in late April which students will be awarded a special leave. ***

“Akita International University in Akita launched a similar system dubbed an "entrance exam for gap year" in the 2008 academic year. Keio University introduced a system in its 2009 academic year in which most tuition fees are waived for students who take a leave of absence to engage in volunteer work or study abroad. However, newly enrolled students cannot apply for the system. ***

Image Sources:

Text Sources: Source: Miki Y. Ishikida, Japanese Education in the 21st Century, usjp.org/jpeducation_en/jp ; iUniverse, June 2005 ~; Web-Japan, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Japan; New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, The Guardian, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Global Viewpoint (Christian Science Monitor), Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, NBC News, Fox News and various books and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated December 2013

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