3
University Entrance Issues

SUMMARY POINTS

  • U.S. and Japanese practices concerning university entrance are quite different, with major implications for other aspects of engineering education.

  • For a number of historical and institutional reasons, university entrance and the entrance examination play a major role in determining the future employment and career prospects of Japanese young people. Therefore, the entrance exam is a major focus of effort and competition. Conditions in the United States are different. Although university entrance is a major event for young people, competition and effort are less intense than they are in Japan..

  • Although the Japanese entrance exam system has a number of advantages for all concerned (students, universities and companies), the disadvantages of the system are increasingly apparent. The major disadvantages identified by the Japanese working group are: (1) The focus on entrance examination scores in Japan encourages students to find the quickest and easiest way to answer examination questions, often to the detriment of deeper understanding, (2) This emphasis on finding the “right answer” tends to stay with Japanese students even after they enter university and embark on their engineering careers, and (3) Since Japanese students who enter prestigious universities are assured of being hired for a lifetime position at a top company, they tend to be less diligent as university students.

  • A number of very worthwhile technical reforms have been undertaken over the years, such as establishing the National Center Test for University Admissions. However, the underlying problems of the Japanese entrance exam system are more fundamental, and have not yet been adequately addressed.

EDUCATIONAL AND SOCIAL CONTEXT

The main reason for devoting an entire chapter to the process and consequences of university entrance is that some of the most important contrasts between the U.S. and Japanese systems appear in this area. The importance of university entrance examinations in Japan, and the “examination hell” undergone by students preparing for the exam, are fairly well known in the United States and elsewhere. However, the tight linkage between the entrance examination system and other institutions and practices in Japanese education are less widely appreciated. Debates in Japan on reforming aspects of engineering education, and education in general, often center on the impacts of the examination system.

In view of the importance of this topic for the Japanese engineering education system, most of the discussion in this chapter will concern Japan, with information and data on the United States introduced for the purpose of comparison.

As pointed out in Chapter 2, an engineer's education in Japan begins before university, with an emphasis on group work and a good grounding in fundamentals of math and science. Between high school and job, the universities are officially supposed to teach fundamentals. In fact, the universities also perform the vital function of “quality screening” for employers, through their entrance examinations.



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Engineering Education Tasks for the New Century: Japanese and U.S. Perspectives 3 University Entrance Issues SUMMARY POINTS U.S. and Japanese practices concerning university entrance are quite different, with major implications for other aspects of engineering education. For a number of historical and institutional reasons, university entrance and the entrance examination play a major role in determining the future employment and career prospects of Japanese young people. Therefore, the entrance exam is a major focus of effort and competition. Conditions in the United States are different. Although university entrance is a major event for young people, competition and effort are less intense than they are in Japan.. Although the Japanese entrance exam system has a number of advantages for all concerned (students, universities and companies), the disadvantages of the system are increasingly apparent. The major disadvantages identified by the Japanese working group are: (1) The focus on entrance examination scores in Japan encourages students to find the quickest and easiest way to answer examination questions, often to the detriment of deeper understanding, (2) This emphasis on finding the “right answer” tends to stay with Japanese students even after they enter university and embark on their engineering careers, and (3) Since Japanese students who enter prestigious universities are assured of being hired for a lifetime position at a top company, they tend to be less diligent as university students. A number of very worthwhile technical reforms have been undertaken over the years, such as establishing the National Center Test for University Admissions. However, the underlying problems of the Japanese entrance exam system are more fundamental, and have not yet been adequately addressed. EDUCATIONAL AND SOCIAL CONTEXT The main reason for devoting an entire chapter to the process and consequences of university entrance is that some of the most important contrasts between the U.S. and Japanese systems appear in this area. The importance of university entrance examinations in Japan, and the “examination hell” undergone by students preparing for the exam, are fairly well known in the United States and elsewhere. However, the tight linkage between the entrance examination system and other institutions and practices in Japanese education are less widely appreciated. Debates in Japan on reforming aspects of engineering education, and education in general, often center on the impacts of the examination system. In view of the importance of this topic for the Japanese engineering education system, most of the discussion in this chapter will concern Japan, with information and data on the United States introduced for the purpose of comparison. As pointed out in Chapter 2, an engineer's education in Japan begins before university, with an emphasis on group work and a good grounding in fundamentals of math and science. Between high school and job, the universities are officially supposed to teach fundamentals. In fact, the universities also perform the vital function of “quality screening” for employers, through their entrance examinations.

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Engineering Education Tasks for the New Century: Japanese and U.S. Perspectives As explored more fully in Chapter 5, Japanese companies play a more active role than U.S. companies in imparting an understanding of actual engineering methods and practice through in-house classes and institutes, and apprenticeship-like on-the-job training. “Examination hell,” while often a subject of humor (and much tension) for its own sake, is also responsible, in large degree, for the style with which Japanese engineers pursue their profession. The “best” students in Japan will want to attend the most prestigious university, and work for the “best” companies (or government agencies). In turn, the best companies prefer to hire graduates of the most prestigious university. The quality strata in both universities and companies roughly match up. The class stratification of jobs and universities makes it relatively simple to match the best students and the most prestigious companies. Several historical and institutional factors have contributed to the development of Japan's university entrance system and its far-reaching impact on future opportunities available to Japanese students. In the late 19th century, Japan built its secondary and higher education systems at the same time, in order to support rapid economic development. At first, the new universities generally accepted any student who could certify completion of secondary school and afford to attend, but soon secondary schools produced more graduates than universities were able to accept. The most prestigious universities, particularly the national universities, established their own exam systems as a result.1 The basic structure of the current Japanese system, in which companies and government agencies hire new graduates based on the selectivity of the universities they attended, predates World War II. With the much wider availability of secondary and higher education in Japan in recent decades, a much higher proportion of the high school population has become subject to the incentives and pressures of the university entrance exam system. Attempted reforms undertaken during the U.S. Occupation aimed to lower the emphasis on entrance exams, but these did not take hold.2 Table 3-1 provides an overview of the higher education systems of Japan and the United States. At the top of the hierarchy of prestige in Japan are the national universities, with several selective private universities also seen as highly desirable by students and employers. 3 Farther down on the hierarchy are less selective private and public universities. With a few exceptions, this informal but very stable prestige and desirability ranking holds across all fields. TABLE 3-1 Four-Year Institutions   Japan United States Total institutionsa 565 1,809 Institutions awarding engineering degrees 187 390 Public 72 211 National 61   Local 11   Private 115 179 a Japanese institutions as of 1995; U.S. institutions as of 1992. SOURCES: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics; Japan Ministry of Education, Science, and Culture.

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Engineering Education Tasks for the New Century: Japanese and U.S. Perspectives The Japanese context differs from that of the United States in several significant respects. First, the United States does not have national universities, but does possess a wide range of public and private institutions. Because cost, quality, and selectivity of institutions vary widely by state, the choice available to students in different locations, especially those who cannot afford more expensive private or public out-of-state tuition, varies as well. The historical development of these institutions and the lower regional concentration of universities and economic development in the United States compared with Japan has mitigated against the emergence of a rigid national rank ordering of prestige and selectivity. Although selectivity clearly varies among U.S. universities, because lifetime employment is not institutionalized, the importance of the employment decisions of new graduates is less far-reaching for both the graduates and the employers. In the United States, there appears to be a lower correlation between attending a specific university and later success in life. The costs of a “wrong” decision being relatively lower for U.S. graduates and employers than it is for their Japanese counterparts, the importance of a screening device like the university entrance exam is correspondingly less. Further, there is considerable variation in the perceived quality of U.S. universities according to the particular field of study, as well as a significant amount of subjectivity involved in student preferences, depending not only on the expected field of study but on the learning environment and other factors. Finally, as discussed in more detail below, U.S. universities do not have entrance examinations, and standardized tests are among several criteria evaluated by U.S. universities to determine who should be admitted. In some respects, there is a weak parallel between the Japanese undergraduate education admissions process and that of U.S. professional schools, such as business and law schools, where there is a fairly high correlation between getting into a top school and the desirability of initial job offers. The U.S. test preparation industry, to be discussed further below, focuses a great deal on the LSAT and GMAT, standardized tests used by law and business schools, respectively, as a result. Still, even among the most selective U.S. professional schools, standardized tests are just one of a number of factors evaluated in admissions decisions. It is also interesting to note that institutional structures similar to that surrounding the Japanese entrance exams have appeared in other rapidly developing Asian countries in which the initial hiring decision after graduation secures lifetime employment at a prestigious government agency or private company. UNIVERSITY ENTRANCE PROCESSES AND CRITERIA Although our discussion will mainly deal with university entrance, it is important to note that parental concern in Japan about the high school entrance examination process has increased dramatically over the past several decades as entrance to universities has become more competitive, and as admittance to a highly selective high school appears to be closely linked to the prospects for entering a prestigious university. In fact, a number of the most prestigious private universities also run high schools, and graduates of these affiliated high schools do not have to take the entrance exam in order to be admitted to that particular university. Although there are no national statistics on utilization of these “escalator” schools, this route appears to be increasing in popularity. Admission from affiliated high schools accounts for about 10 percent of the total admissions at Keio University and Waseda University, two of the most selective private universities. 4 At some universities, admissions from affiliated high schools may be close to 20 percent. Graduating from high school qualifies a Japanese student to take the college-entrance examinations, although it is possible for non-graduates to apply to a college if they pass a special qualifying examination. Data for 1998 indicate that if only four-year universities and colleges are considered, approximately 55 percent of the high school graduates applied and 30 percent were enrolled. Before students are allowed to apply to a university they are expected to have

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Engineering Education Tasks for the New Century: Japanese and U.S. Perspectives completed at least the equivalent of a high school education and are expected to be at least 18 years of age by the time they enter the university. To meet the first requirement, individuals need to graduate from a high school or an equivalent educational institution or to pass an annually held University Entrance Qualification Test. This test covers the material taught at high school. Some students who are applying for admission to the nation's top universities may stay at home during part of their senior year or earlier in order to have the free time they believe is necessary to prepare adequately for the entrance examinations.5 In the pre-1979 system, each of Japan's national universities gave its exam on one of two dates, and the exam was generally used by all of its departments. Private universities, by contrast, were free to set the date for their own exams, and various departments within the university often gave separate tests. Students were therefore limited to applying to two national universities, but were free to prepare for and take the examinations of as many private universities as they wished, so long as the examination dates did not overlap. As the burden on students and families to prepare for examinations grew, Monbusho and the universities sought to make reforms in the system. The National Center for University Entrance Examination was established in 1977 to develop and administer common scholastic aptitude and scholastic achievement exams that could be utilized by all national and public universities. In 1979, the first common examination for university entrance was given. In 1990, the National Center Test for University Admissions (NCT) was established, in which private as well as national and public universities could participate. Table 3-2 shows the basic outline of the National Center Test. At the present time, all 95 national universities and 61 public universities use the National Center Test to supplement their own entrance exams, and the number of private universities utilizing it has gradually increased to 217 in 1998. The advantage for students is that utilization of the National Center Test reduces the number of specific subject tests that need to be taken for each university to which they are applying. From the standpoint of the universities, the National Center Test has the additional merit of establishing the fundamental competence of the students, which allows universities more scope to utilize essay exams, interviews and other means to evaluate advanced achievement and other capabilities of applicants. In addition to reform of the entrance examination system itself, there has been movement in Japan in recent years away from an exclusive focus on entrance examinations and toward diversifying the criteria utilized in admissions decisions. One example is the utilization of TABLE 3-2 University Entrance Examination System in Japan Since 1990   Exam Number of Subjects/Type of Exam National, public, and some private universities National test of the “National Center of University Entrance Examinations” Tests in 1–5 subject areas   Individual university entrance examinations (additional exams) Tests in 2–3 subject areas, essay, interview, skill test, single test consisting of several subjects Private university Individual university entrance examinations Tests in 1–3 subject areas   SOURCE: Japanese working group.

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Engineering Education Tasks for the New Century: Japanese and U.S. Perspectives affiliated high schools, discussed above. In addition, students may be accepted by a university through the recommendation system, in which teachers may recommend an especially outstanding student for admission. The recommendation system currently accounts for nearly 30 percent of admissions in four year institutions nationwide.6 The recommendation system is especially beneficial for students who do not perform up to their capacity in highly competitive examination settings. The fact that admissions are announced in the late fall rather than in the spring after the examinations are given is also helpful to students because students who are not accepted at their top choice through the recommendation system have the option of sitting for examinations. The recommendation system is not utilized by the most highly selective national universities such as the University of Tokyo. In general, the higher prestige universities rely most on their own entrance examinations in evaluating applicants, and less selective universities rely more on the NCT or other criteria. Japanese experts have raised several issues about the recommendation system. For example, middle tier universities are able to attract better quality students through the recommendation system than they could through entrance exams, since there is an incentive for students to apply by recommendation at a somewhat less prestigious university in the autumn and avoid the risk of failing to gain admittance later to a more prestigious university through the entrance examination. In order to prevent universities from utilizing the recommendation system exclusively, Monbusho has reportedly issued guidance that no more than 30 percent of students should be admitted in this manner. In some cases, the recommendation system also involves complex social obligations. For example, a student accepted through the recommendation system to a given university who later decides to attend a more prestigious university will discredit his or her high school. The university that accepted the student through the recommendation system would be less likely to accept students from that high school in the future. Table 3-3 shows statistics on the 1995 entrance quotas, number of total applicants and successful applicants at a range of leading Japanese national and private universities. While the top universities shown in Table 3-3 have a very high “yield,” only about half of the accepted applicants of lower prestige universities finally enroll, since Japanese applicants are generally accepted at two or more universities. Due to a number of factors, including differences in the social and historical context surrounding the development of universities, entrance procedures for U.S. universities are much different from those of Japan. As is the case in Japan, U.S. universities encompass a range of types, with varying levels of selectivity. In contrast to Japan, the most selective U.S. universities are generally private. Table 3-4 shows admissions and other data for several representative U.S. universities with leading engineering programs. Each U.S. college or university determines its own admissions criteria. Most selective schools utilize a number of criteria, which are weighted and evaluated by admissions office staff and faculty admissions committees. Since the process is more complex, U.S. universities have larger admissions office staffs than Japanese universities.7 Taking a standardized test, either the American College Testing exam (ACT) or the Scholastic Aptitude Test I (SAT I) of the College Board is generally a requirement.8 The ACT is more widely utilized in the Midwest. The SAT I consists of seven sections, three Math, three Verbal and one experimental section that does not count toward the student's score. The SAT I Math and Verbal sections are each scored on a 200–800 scale, and the test takes three hours to complete. In 1995 the College Board “recentered” the SAT I scores, which means that the average score will be higher than it was prior to the recentering. The SAT I and ACT are given several times a year. Students can take the tests multiple times, and have the scores sent to the schools they intend to apply to. In addition to the SAT I verbal and mathematics tests, the College Board also gives a series of specific subject tests in mathematics, English and various areas of science, collectively known as the SAT II. In addition to standardized tests, U.S. universities examine high school grades, taking the quality of the high school and level of coursework into account, the personal statements that are

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Engineering Education Tasks for the New Century: Japanese and U.S. Perspectives submitted with the application and other aspects of the student's high school achievements, such as participation in sports or other activities. Some universities require a personal interview. Besides ensuring the overall quality of the incoming freshman class by evaluating the academic and personal achievement and potential of individual applicants, U.S. universities pursue other goals through their admissions policies, such as increasing the number of students from traditionally underrepresented groups.9 TABLE 3-3 Admissions for Selected Japanese Universities, 1995   Quota Applicants Acceptances Public/National       Hitotsubashi University 1,140 3,755 1,189 Hokkaido University 2,487 8,966 2,634 Kyoto University 2,921 11,360 2,980 Kyushu University 2,521 7,165 2,693 Nagoya University 2,213 6,918 2,386 Osaka University 2,825 8,098 3,001 Tohoku University 2,549 8,033 2,757 Tokyo Institute of Technology 1,277 5,688 1,419 Tokyo University 3,526 10,885 3,587 Total 21,459 70,868 22,646 Private (Tokyo area)       Hosei University 4,890 60,022 10,409 Keio University 4,010 48,362 10,697 Meiji University 4,548 65,262 11,889 Nihon University 7,735 109,719 22,065 Rikkyo University 2,150 33,187 5,986 Sophia University 2,045 25,820 4,145 Tokyo Denki University 1,510 16,626 4,070 Waseda University 6,820 102,049 14,405 Private (Kyoto/Osaka area)       Doshinsha University 3,083 34,461 10,434 Kansai Gakuin University 2,470 35,355 9,497 Kansai University 5,190 79,974 15,652 Kinki University 3,708 70,184 13,973 Konan University 2,050 14,273 3,289 Kyoto Sangyo University 2,760 25,274 6,728 Ritsumeikan University 5,430 92,620 17,610 Ryukoku University 2,015 40,943 9,851 Total 60,414 854,131 170,682 NOTE: The discrepancy between quotas and acceptances for private universities results from the practice of accepting a larger number of students than are expected to actually enroll. SOURCE: Japan Ministry of Education, Science, and Culture.

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Engineering Education Tasks for the New Century: Japanese and U.S. Perspectives TABLE 3-4 Overview of Admissions and Other Information for Selected U.S. Universities and Engineering Schools   Status Engineering Majors 1997–1998 Admissions 1997–1998 Entering SAT Scores Class Rank in Top Quarter 1998–1999 Expenses The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art private 63% 2,173 applied 290 accepted 25th percentile: 1320 75th percentile: 1500 100% $500 tuition 8,000 room/board Massachusetts Institute of Technology private 47% 7,836 applied 1,938 accepted 25th percentile: 1390 75th percentile: 1560 99% $24,050 tuition 6,750 room/board University of Maryland, College Park public 11% 16,182 applied 10,458 accepted 25th percentile: 1100 75th percentile: 1320 77% $4,699 tuition in state 11,221 out of state 5,848 room/board University of Michigan public 18% 19,114 applied 13,099 accepted 25th percentile: 1160 75th percentile: 1360 89% $6,063 tuition in state 18,629 out of state 5,486 room/board Purdue University public 22% 17,256 applied 15,394 accepted 25th percentile: 980 75th percentile: 1220 60% $3,500 tuition in state 11,720 out of state 5,032 room/board Georgia Institute of Technology public 69% 7,676 applied 4,702 accepted 25th percentile: 1230 75th percentile: 1410 N/A $2,991 tuition in state 9,921 out of state 5,700 room/board University of Texas, Austin public 11% 14,974 applied 11,708 accepted 25th percentile: 1080 75th percentile: 1300 74% $3,004 tuition in state 9,394 out of state 4,537 room/board California Institute of Technology private 39% 2,389 applied 540 accepted 25th percentile: 1420 75th percentile: 1570 100% $19,166 tuition 5,881 room/board   SOURCE: U.S. News & World Report, “America's Best Colleges,” August 31, 1998.

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Engineering Education Tasks for the New Century: Japanese and U.S. Perspectives For many major U.S. universities, the various constituent schools or colleges may have different admissions criteria, although they will typically use the same application process and forms. Engineering schools are often more competitive and difficult to enter than liberal arts colleges of the same university. In evaluating engineering applicants, U.S. universities often pay particular attention to the SAT I math score, to ensure the minimum capability necessary to perform up to standards. THE EXAM PREPARATION PROCESS AND INFRASTRUCTURE Any discussion of the Japanese educational system requires that attention be paid to juku and yobiko, two out-of-school academic institutions. Both of these institutions have gained great popularity in recent years and represent a multi-billion yen industry that provides supplementary education for Japanese students.10 Juku offer special tutoring lessons in a wide variety of subjects. Children attend juku during elementary school to learn such things as calligraphy, use of the abacus, and music. By the time they are in high school, most of the students who attend juku do so to prepare for the college entrance examinations. Many parents do not believe that the high school curriculum prepares students for the rigorous university entrance examinations. This is especially true of parents of students at public high schools, where Monbusho sets the number of hours required for each subject more strictly than at private high schools. As a result, it is difficult for teachers to find adequate time to prepare students for the college entrance examinations. Attendance at juku during high school varies with the grade level of the student, the size of the city in which the student lives, and the family's income. In some locations only a small percentage of high school students attend juku; in other locations, more than half of the students in the second and third years of high school study academic subjects at juku. Juku offer a wide variety of subjects, and attendance at academic classes accounts for only a moderate percentage of the total percentage attending juku. Figure 3-1 shows national trends for juku attendance at various grade levels. The increase in juku attendance is a relatively recent phenomenon, but even more recent is the upsurge of interest in studying at yobiko. The original purpose of yobiko was to prepare students who wished to re-take the college entrance examinations after an initial failure. These students are popularly known as ronin, or masterless samurai. Currently, students are more likely to attend yobiko for a year or two to enable them to be more adequately prepared for their first effort at taking the college entrance examinations.11 The sole purpose of yobiko is to prepare students for the college entrance examinations. An increasing number of high schools are even providing juku or yobiko classes to their students by satellite, as Figure 3-2 shows. Although this mostly reflects the fact that the leading yobiko are located in the middle of cities and are not accessible to students in outlying areas, in some cases high schools and individual teachers are introducing the classes in order to increase the rate at which their students are accepted at leading universities. In conjunction with the juku and yobiko industries, publishers put out guidebooks for individual universities that contain general information about the university, the examinations given in recent years, strategies and “countermeasures” for the exam, and rankings of how selective the university is compared with peer institutions. The United States also has growing supplementary education and test preparation industries, but these are much smaller and have somewhat different roles than their Japanese counterparts. For example, while for-profit educational companies have traditionally provided remedial training for students who have fallen behind their peers, there is a strong shift toward academically successful children being enrolled in summer and other enrichment programs provided by single-storefront schools or regional and national chains. In addition to providing additional opportunities to learn math, computer skills and grammar, these schools also serve a

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Engineering Education Tasks for the New Century: Japanese and U.S. Perspectives Figure 3-1 Percentage of children attending juku for supplementary lessons, 1995. SOURCE: Japan Ministry of Education, Science, and Culture. Figure 3-2 Number of schools that have introduced satellite Kawaijuku classes. SOURCE: Japan Ministry of Education, Science, and Culture.

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Engineering Education Tasks for the New Century: Japanese and U.S. Perspectives social function of occupying the children of families in which both parents work during the long summer vacation. One for-profit educational chain that is expanding rapidly in the United States is Kumon USA, an affiliate of a large Japanese operator of juku.12 Several U.S. companies have also grown considerably over the past decade by providing classes and published materials aimed at helping students to prepare for the SAT and other standardized tests. Classes are generally provided in a series, taking place during the evenings or on weekends. While there is no U.S. equivalent to the Japanese ronin or gen-eki, students who are spending an extra year or two after high school studying for the entrance exam, the U.S. test preparation industry also provides students with information about various universities, so that they can more accurately assess their chances of being admitted and find attractive alternatives to their first choices. Increasingly, test preparation and other university admissions-related materials are provided on-line, through CD-ROM and other computer-ready formats. In Japan, the National Center for University Entrance Examinations provides information on universities and their examinations on-line through its HEART system, while universities, juku and yobiko are rapidly increasing the amount of information provided on the internet and through CD-ROM. ISSUES Notwithstanding the positive reforms made in the Japanese university entrance examination system in recent years and the numerous positive impacts, the disadvantages of the system are becoming increasingly apparent. The Japanese working group took the lead in articulating a number of these disadvantages from the standpoint of engineering education, and in identifying areas to develop reforms in the future. The institutional context surrounding the university entrance exam has deep roots and has developed over many years. Still, Japan's national government has significantly greater responsibility in education, including areas related to university entrance, than does the U.S. federal government. This implies at least the possibility of implementing significant nationwide reform. Declining Interest in Math and Science. As noted in Chapter 2, Japanese agencies and experts have noted a declining interest in mathematics, science and engineering among young people. There is good reason to think that the current university entrance exam system is at least partly responsible for this trend. In particular, Japanese task force members point out that because the entrance examination does not test knowledge and skills related to experiments, problem solving and other hands-on learning techniques, there has been a tendency to deemphasize these techniques in high school education and at juku. This lowered emphasis on hands-on learning and problem solving may in turn be partly responsible for declining interest among young people in science and engineering. The Japanese task force members believe that this negative impact can be at least partly addressed through the development of entrance examination questions and problems that explicitly test experimental and hands-on learning. Problems that test knowledge across several areas of science and technology in an integrated way and better measure student creativity and problem solving ability could be developed by the National Center for University Entrance Examinations and individual universities. However, the nature of the large entrance examination industry that exists in Japan is an obstacle to this. The Japanese group believes that juku and yobiko will continue to respond by teaching students refined methods of passing particular examinations. A related issue is the role of the entrance examination in maintaining standards. Overall, the system has the positive effect of contributing to high standards among Japanese high school students and teachers. However, Japanese working group members believe that it is necessary to

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Engineering Education Tasks for the New Century: Japanese and U.S. Perspectives expand the pool of young people who are able to enter the engineering discipline. For example, graduates of technical high schools often have significant hands-on experience in engineering-related fields, but would not be able to do well enough on the entrance examination to enter one of the elite engineering schools. Japanese universities, particularly the second and third tier engineering schools, could perhaps do more to attract these students. Currently, technical high school graduates tend to be hired by companies, which provide them with extensive training. Opportunity Costs of Time and Resources As pointed out above, preparation for university and high school entrance examinations in Japan involves a large expenditure of time and financial resources for a large proportion of the school-age population. Although this effort should perhaps not be judged too harshly, particularly when compared with what many U.S. students spend time and resources on, in many cases it appears that the future development of Japanese students is sacrificed in the all-consuming focus on entrance examinations. To some extent, this problem can be addressed through further technical changes in the system, but for the most part progress will appear as the result of larger, more evolutionary systemic changes, including changes in the attitudes and behavior of employers, students and parents. The Entrance Examination System and the Academic Environment in Universities Another issue that has been raised with Japan's university entrance examination system is the emphasis of Japanese employers on which university students attend and the exclusion of other possible hiring criteria such as grades or performance during internships. This often results in students not having an incentive to study hard during their university years. The Japanese working group believes that this is a serious issue, and the situation will only be changed if companies and government agencies in Japan move toward diversifying their human resource needs. There have been indications in recent years that this is occurring to some extent, and that Japanese companies are placing some value on factors such as international experience gained through overseas study. However, as long as the lifetime employment system continues for a significant percentage of the Japanese working population, it will be difficult to change the incentives of Japanese employers. Because of the high level of commitment to the employment contract by employers and employees implied by lifetime employment, employers prefer to hire highly capable but inexperienced young people who have been screened by the entrance examination or similar system. There is a further impact of the entrance examination system on university education that should be raised in this context, that is especially relevant to science and engineering. Because it is necessary to take a limited number of subject tests on the NCT and individual university exams, high school students tend not to take subjects that will not be tested. As the high school curriculum has become more flexible in recent years, this means that some university students studying medicine might not have taken biology in high school. Private universities, however, are decreasing the number of subjects because many students now simply do not apply to schools requiring many different subject areas on entrance examinations. The Japanese working group believes that universities should respond to this trend by offering remedial science courses that cover some high school material. Other New Approaches In addition to intensified efforts to develop examination questions that better test student creativity and problem solving ability, and long-term actions by universities, companies and

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Engineering Education Tasks for the New Century: Japanese and U.S. Perspectives government to alleviate the negative impacts of the entrance examination system, the Japanese working group believes that Japanese universities should utilize information technologies more aggressively to benefit potential applicants. Ensuring that all universities have a home page on the world wide web that provides information on the university, admissions procedure and the entrance examination is an important task for the next several years. PRIORITIES FOR THE FUTURE Based on this discussion of the Japanese university entrance examination system, the Japanese working group has identified a number of tasks that might be tackled by Japan in order to improve the system by alleviating the negative impacts. These tasks include: Alleviating the negative impact of the examination system on the high school curriculum and learning environment by developing testing methods and questions that allow scope for students to exercise creativity and enable universities to assess problem-solving capabilities of applicants. Alleviating the negative impact of industry hiring practices on the university learning environment by encouraging universities to further diversify their criteria for admissions, and by encouraging industry to diversify and raise the expectation level of skill and experience profiles of new hires. Encouraging universities to aggressively utilize information technologies to disseminate admissions and other information to potential applicants and parents. NOTES AND REFERENCES 1 Ikuo Amano, Proceedings of the International Conference on University Admissions for the 21st Century, The National Center for University Entrance Examinations, July 1995, p. 5. 2 Ibid., p. 8. 3 Although the context includes the role of two-year institutions, the discussion here and in Chapter 4 is limited to four-year institutions. 4 Amano, op. cit., p. 11. 5 Although no statistics are available, members of the Japanese working group believe that the number of such students is very small. 6 In two-year institutions, the recommendation system accounts for about half of all admissions. 7 Japanese universities do have small admissions office staffs, but the main admissions-related work in Japanese universities is compiling and grading the exam, which is done by faculty on a part-time basis. The impression of U.S. and Japanese Joint Task Force members is that Japanese faculty members spend much more time on admissions-related work than do U.S. faculty members. 8 The College Board is a nonprofit organization comprised of member institutions of higher and secondary education. The College Board sponsors a range of standardized tests used in university admissions that are developed and administered by Educational Testing Service (ETS). ETS is also a nonprofit organization, with a budget of $350 million per year, and is headquartered in Princeton, New Jersey. 9 Japanese universities often give special consideration to working adult applicants and applicants who have lived much of their secondary school years outside of Japan. 10 Although juku and yobiko could be clearly distinguished in the past, Japanese task force members report that companies that have traditionally run one or the other type of school are increasingly expanding

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Engineering Education Tasks for the New Century: Japanese and U.S. Perspectives into other markets. Kawaijuku, which despite the name, has traditionally focused on operating yobiko, is one example. 11 According to Japanese working group members, it is difficult to find hard data on this trend, but their impression is that the percentage of students taking this route, known as gen-eki, or active duty soldiers, is rising, but that the total number of such students has been stable recently because of the decline in Japan's 18-year-old population. 12 Sarah Lubman, “Summer school is no longer just for kids who fell behind,” The Wall Street Journal, August 8, 1995, p. B1.