With sufficient support, mentorship and development programs, the recent proposal to shift enrollment at the University of Tokyo to autumn could produce positive outcomes in three areas.
First, the shift will provide practical lifelong learning development opportunities for students during transition periods between high school and university (toward the creation of mobile learners). Students will have greater potential for multicultural experiences, exposing them to a larger range of perspectives. International volunteer programs should be encouraged.
For those who do not choose to engage in international activities, practical programs such as short-term internships and job-shadowing placements will offer life experiences applicable to university life. These practical life experiences expose students to transferable skills, such as autonomy, responsibility, active citizenship, communication and critical thinking.
In a similar manner, the transition period between university graduation and full-time employment offers graduates additional time to make informed decisions regarding employment prospects. This additional time will allow May graduates to effectively consider options as they plan for the traditional April job-hunting process. This transition period also will allow students to contemplate international or domestic job possibilities. Overall, this could improve job attainment rates. Utilizing the longer time period between graduation and official job offers (naitei), students gain more autonomy in the job search process. This could also reduce the burden of job-hunting responsibility on universities.
Second, it will provide greater lifelong learning and professional development prospects for university faculty. With academic years in-sync, conferences, symposiums and workshops will be more accessible for both foreign and Japanese faculty, thus stimulating research and international faculty cooperation.
With the potential for greater foreign student numbers, professors within the Japanese system will need to adapt to international university standards. Increased global standards at the student level will encourage teachers to take a more global mindset toward research and course development.
Last, this shift should eventually produce graduates with enriched and broadened internationalized learning perspectives for society. Positive outcomes are contingent upon higher education not only embracing a globalized spirit of kaizen (improvement), but also highlighting a synergy between all levels of Japanese society — from compulsory education through to the workforce.
Overall, Japan has a strong history of hybridizing international aspects to fit its society and citizens. Should other higher educational institutions follow the University of Tokyo’s lead, it will be key for Japan to explore measures to appropriately manage the integration of a new enrollment system into society.
The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.
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