In his Aug. 28 letter, “Why universities can’t compete,” Alok Singh challenges professor Takamitsu Sawa’s assessment (Aug. 25) that Japanese universities have failed to develop because of financial disparities in professors’ pay and status.
Both Singh and Sawa seem to see the problem as one of how to get better teachers and researchers directly into Japanese universities. They are missing important points.
If we look around Asia, the key to progress in higher education seems to be the integration of good foreign universities into society. The current leaders in the field are mainly Singapore, China and Malaysia, with more than 30 good-quality foreign campuses already and growing.
Japan is investing huge amounts of money into paying for its nuclear power mistakes and into remilitarizing. Perhaps with a better education system, the leadership would have seen years ago that both paths lead only to more national suffering at the expense of “humane knowledge.”
Another case in point is the use of the 2020 Olympics, which should be to promote internationalism. Yet, the ulterior motives for hosting the games in Tokyo are questionable.
Instead of short-term razzle-dazzle projects, Japan should reinvest in education by deregulating and actively promoting a quality foreign-university establishment with long-term prospects. Otherwise, Japan will continue to stagnate academically, and its research prospects will diminish in relevance.
A reputable foreign campus in every major city — Tokyo, Osaka, Hiroshima, Fukuoka, etc. — would prompt many Japanese universities to invite foreign professors to teach part-time at their institutions. That might reduce the student brain drain in which many Japanese, desperate over the lack of options at home, pay massive amounts to study abroad.
The whole process should begin with an audit of Japan’s bureaucracy. Japan’s coffers must be wrested from the hands of the self-serving few and redirected to benefit the legitimate contributors who have had little, if any, idea of how their taxes are used or why. That’s the first step toward true education.
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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