Last month Education minister Hakubun Shimomura issued a notice to all 86 national universities instructing them to make a draft for reforms over a six-year period beginning in fiscal 2016. It specifically asked them to scrap departments and courses devoted to humanities and social sciences, or shift resources more to areas “for which society has strong needs.” This reflects an idea contained in the latest version of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s economic growth strategy, which says that an important role of national universities is “to build a system to produce human resources that match the needs of society by accurately grasping changes in industrial structure and employment needs.”

The education minister’s move, which reflects his failure to understand the important role played by humanities and social sciences, will weaken the power of intellect not only of those universities but also the nation as a whole. The education minister should change his basic thinking.

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