In his Aug. 25 article, “Japan’s universities can’t win,” professor Takamitsu Sawa has once again written on the all-important topic of university education in Japan. He emphasizes that the noncompetitiveness of Japanese universities internationally is due to relatively poorer funding, especially by the government, but misses out on more substantial reasons.
I do not agree completely with the funding part. I believe there is enough competition for faculty positions in Japan at existing salaries. The scientific infrastructure is also sound due to research funding from government and industries.
I agree that the provision of dormitory accommodations to students can help substantially in their performance, particularly if there is a meal plan. In the absence of a meal plan, students will try to economize on every meal, or skip them. But providing dormitory accommodations close to a university seems difficult in Japan, as most campuses are in urban areas.
I attribute the low competitiveness of Japanese universities to their continued isolation from the rest of the world, especially when compared to other Asian countries such as South Korea, Singapore and China. Sawa’s second suggestion — to appoint senior foreign faculty — won’t reduce this isolation.
The mindset of “outsourcing” teaching (and research) to temporary foreign faculty has hindered progress in many areas, including English education.
Making an education system more competitive is not like winning a few matches in baseball. The system and the mindset of the existing faculty themselves must change in order to improve competitiveness.
Other Asian countries send a number of students to study abroad, then competitively appoint them in their own universities. Japanese universities only perpetuate inbreeding.
At a Japanese university, a junior faculty member must work long hours, and crucial years, as an apprentice (assistant or associate professor) under a full professor before being inducted as an independent faculty member. Such a system saps initiative from young faculty, ensuring the continuity of a rigid system that avoids competition.
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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