1
Introduction

This report is the product of a joint study by the Committee on Japan of the National Research Council and the Committee on High Technology and the International Environment (Committee 149) of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS). The project had its origins in a 1991 meeting between JSPS and the National Academies on growing U.S.-Japan interdependence in science and technology. The Joint Task Force on Engineering Education is one of three U.S.-Japan committees that were subsequently set up to explore aspects of the bilateral science and technology relationship.1

The U.S. and Japanese working groups interacted a number of times from the time the task forces were formed in early 1994 through 1996 (see Table 1), and exchanged draft materials. The report was completed in 1998. The work of the U.S. working group was supported by the United States-Japan Foundation and the National Academy of Engineering. The work of the Japanese working group, like other Committee 149 activities, was supported by member dues.

The members of both working groups were familiar with key aspects of both the U.S. and Japanese systems for engineering education at the outset. It took careful planning to develop an agenda of issues that would result in a rewarding, reciprocal exchange, due to the significant differences between the U.S. and Japanese systems. One of the most important differences involves the “phase shift” in where engineers in the two countries receive critical elements of their overall training. For example, the key features in the education of Japanese engineers are excellent K-12 preparatory work in mathematics and science, and the extensive on-the-job training and continuing education programs provided by large Japanese companies. In the United States, undergraduate and graduate training in universities plays a relatively more important role, while K-12 education is not as consistently thorough and in-house training by companies is generally less extensive.

In addition, it was noted that some topics of special interest to the Japanese working group were not particularly interesting to the U.S. working group, and vice versa. Furthermore, structuring a productive exchange was difficult even on issues of clear mutual interest, such as the need to attract talented young people to engineering careers, due to the breadth of those topics and the disparities between the two education systems.

In order to overcome these challenges, the joint task force adopted a “lifelong learning” approach to the issues of engineering education. Chapters 25 of the report deal with K-12 preparatory training of future engineers, university entrance, undergraduate and graduate education, and continuing education. In these chapters the joint task force compares the structures and functions of the U.S. and Japanese systems. Particular attention is paid to the expected competencies of engineers, the institutional mechanisms in the two countries that influence the definition and development of those competencies, and the public and private resource inputs along the continuum. Chapters 6 and 7 cover global engineering and the role of the Internet in engineering education, two issues of special interest that emerged during the



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Engineering Education Tasks for the New Century: Japanese and U.S. Perspectives 1 Introduction This report is the product of a joint study by the Committee on Japan of the National Research Council and the Committee on High Technology and the International Environment (Committee 149) of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS). The project had its origins in a 1991 meeting between JSPS and the National Academies on growing U.S.-Japan interdependence in science and technology. The Joint Task Force on Engineering Education is one of three U.S.-Japan committees that were subsequently set up to explore aspects of the bilateral science and technology relationship.1 The U.S. and Japanese working groups interacted a number of times from the time the task forces were formed in early 1994 through 1996 (see Table 1), and exchanged draft materials. The report was completed in 1998. The work of the U.S. working group was supported by the United States-Japan Foundation and the National Academy of Engineering. The work of the Japanese working group, like other Committee 149 activities, was supported by member dues. The members of both working groups were familiar with key aspects of both the U.S. and Japanese systems for engineering education at the outset. It took careful planning to develop an agenda of issues that would result in a rewarding, reciprocal exchange, due to the significant differences between the U.S. and Japanese systems. One of the most important differences involves the “phase shift” in where engineers in the two countries receive critical elements of their overall training. For example, the key features in the education of Japanese engineers are excellent K-12 preparatory work in mathematics and science, and the extensive on-the-job training and continuing education programs provided by large Japanese companies. In the United States, undergraduate and graduate training in universities plays a relatively more important role, while K-12 education is not as consistently thorough and in-house training by companies is generally less extensive. In addition, it was noted that some topics of special interest to the Japanese working group were not particularly interesting to the U.S. working group, and vice versa. Furthermore, structuring a productive exchange was difficult even on issues of clear mutual interest, such as the need to attract talented young people to engineering careers, due to the breadth of those topics and the disparities between the two education systems. In order to overcome these challenges, the joint task force adopted a “lifelong learning” approach to the issues of engineering education. Chapters 2–5 of the report deal with K-12 preparatory training of future engineers, university entrance, undergraduate and graduate education, and continuing education. In these chapters the joint task force compares the structures and functions of the U.S. and Japanese systems. Particular attention is paid to the expected competencies of engineers, the institutional mechanisms in the two countries that influence the definition and development of those competencies, and the public and private resource inputs along the continuum. Chapters 6 and 7 cover global engineering and the role of the Internet in engineering education, two issues of special interest that emerged during the

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Engineering Education Tasks for the New Century: Japanese and U.S. Perspectives study. Chapter 8 includes conclusions and recommendations, both recommendations by the respective working groups to their own countries, and joint recommendations to both countries. The task force also recognized that examining all fields of engineering in the context of the approach described above would not be feasible. Instead the group used the knowledge and experience of the individual committee members as a basis for specific discussions in the report. As a U.S.-Japan joint study, the project and resulting report have inevitably focused on U.S. and Japanese issues. The joint task force believes that many of the issues and challenges raised in the report are relevant to a wider international audience interested in improving engineering education and engineering cooperation worldwide. Hopefully, this report will provide a useful input to a broader discussion. TABLE 1-1 Interactions of the Joint Task Force on Engineering Education December 1992 Japanese working group holds planning meeting in Tokyo May 1994 U.S. working group holds planning meeting, Washington, D.C. June 1994 Joint task force meeting and U.S. working group study mission, Tokyo November 1994 Joint task force meeting, Tokyo July 1995 U.S. working group chair meets with Japanese working group, Tokyo November 1995 Joint task force meeting in Washington, D.C. January 1996 U.S. working group chair meets with Japanese working group, Tokyo May 1998 U.S. working group chair meets with Japanese working group, Tokyo July 1998 U.S. working group chair meets with Japanese working group, Tokyo November 1998 U.S. working group chair meets with Japanese working group, Tokyo Winter 1998 Report finalized NOTES AND REFERENCES 1 See National Research Council, Global Economy, Global Technology, Global Corporations (Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press, 1998), and New Strategies for New Challenges: Corporate Innovation in Japan and the United States (National Academy Press, 1998).