Regarding Takamitsu Sawa’s June 16 opinion piece “No end in sight to the debate over Japan's school year”, I agree with his idea to start the academic year after a long summer holiday. However, his idea to pay university teachers for only nine months seems to be rather immature.
Firstly, speaking as a university teacher with an experience of over 20 years, if I would have to look for new sources of income for the three summer months each year, my mind in the rest of the year would not be fully concentrated on my teaching and research duties, but on how to secure funds.
Secondly let’s look at some effects of not being employed by the university for the summer. If I would get my salary from outside sources, I would have to de-register myself and my family from my university’s kyosai (mutual insurance) each May, find a different insurance for the summer, and register again in September, causing a huge amount of administrative work. Would I be able to use the university’s facilities during the summer to conduct long-term research projects, if I would not be employed there? And who would be organizing the new academic year? This is currently done mostly in February and March for classes starting in April, but if no teachers would be working at their own universities from mid-May to early September, who would organize the classes starting in September?
Thirdly we must take students into account. Mr. Sawa’s suggestion that they only pay for nine months’ tuition sounds attractive at first glance, but that means that they would have no access to university facilities like libraries and laboratories during the summer. And study trips abroad that are now held during the spring or summer breaks and are headed by university teachers would have to be given up completely — there would be no time during the new compact semesters, and the teachers would be away at other jobs during the summer holiday — thus depriving students of such unique experiences. Therefore, if the schedule of the academic year will change, it must be to a system different of the one that Mr. Sawa suggests.
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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