The university admissions system, which perpetuates a strict hierarchical ranking of schools and students, has a pervasive impact on K-12 education, the university experience itself, and subsequent hiring and career growth. While the system has helped Japan maintain high educational standards, the Japanese working group members believe that greater simplicity and flexibility would enable Japanese students to receive a richer educational experience.

In general, Japan needs to promote greater flexibility in its regulation of education to promote innovative approaches, while maintaining standards and stability in the society.

Specific action items for Japan include:

  • Redoubled efforts to promote computer education for Japan's K-12 students.

  • A more simple university entrance system.

  • Improved quality in engineering education, including a more rigorous undergraduate curriculum, introduction of new requirements for thesis doctoral students to ensure their broad mastery of the field, and more extensive competitive funding of university research.

  • Expanded industry-university cooperation in engineering education through visiting lectureships, internships, continuing education, and global engineering training.

ISSUES, FINDINGS, AND RECOMMENDATIONS FOR THE UNITED STATES

The United States has also developed an outstanding system of engineering education, which has been able to adapt to changing circumstances over the years. In particular, U.S. undergraduate and graduate engineering education attracts superior students from around the world, many of whom stay in the United States and contribute to the U.S. research and innovation enterprise.

The primary long-term challenge for the United States is to redouble efforts to improve the quality and consistency of K-12 education, particularly in mathematics and science. This has been a national focus for some years, and achieving significant progress will require substantial additional time and effort. In undertaking K-12 reforms, the United States should continue to learn from international models, including Japan. In particular, the United States has much to learn from Japan about the practice of teaching and teacher training.

The United States also needs to make special efforts to ensure that continuing education for working engineering professionals receives adequate investment. In Japan, lifetime employment at large companies creates incentives for industry to make these investments, while individuals must take greater responsibility in the United States.

Specific action items include:

  • Expand efforts to learn and apply international educational best practices, such as Japanese approaches to the practice of K-12 teaching and teacher training.

  • Through the National Science Foundation and other agencies and partnerships with industry, increase opportunities for U.S. engineering students and younger professionals to gain the skills and expertise needed to become effective “global engineers.”

  • Renew public-private efforts to increase investments in continuing lifelong engineering education.



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