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High School and Higher Education
After students complete elementary school (six years), they enroll for junior-high school which takes three years. As mentioned earlier, no student fails up to the ninth grade. High school is probably the first tough test for students, for it is in high school where students may fail if their academic performance is not up to expectation. I visited the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology of Japan and met Mr. Nehashi Hiroki, Deputy Director for Higher Education Policy/Senior Specialist for University Evaluation and one of his colleagues, who explained the high school and university system of education in Japan. I met them at 6 p.m. in their office. In Japan office working hours are from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. However, Mr. Hiroki and his colleague told me that they were going to stay and work up to 10:30 or 11 p.m. I had already been told by other Japanese government employees that they stay late in the evenings to work in the office. They are very hard working people. With their hard work and commitment, the Japanese have been able to compensate for their lack of many natural resources. Mr. Hiroki said that there were two types of high schools in Japan: “Technical or vocational high schools and usual high schools.” Those who enroll in the technical or vocational high school join the market after completing their high school; some students join two-year technical courses in college and then join the work force. About 50 percent of high school graduates enroll in four-year university programs; 30 percent enroll in two-year courses, and the rest join the market,” said Mr. Hiroki.
It is up to students to choose the subject of their interest; but if they need consultation, they are given the necessary advice.
There are different methods of admission to the university. Entrance exam, presentation of a proposal and recommendation letters from high school. There is a national university entrance exam, which is held for admission to state universities. The candidates interested in medicine and engineering fields must clear the entrance exam to be admitted to the university.
In some private universities, some students are admitted on the basis of high school recommendations if their academic performance is excellent, Mr. Hiroki said.
I was very curious to explore the relationship between the university and industry in Japan, as in our country there is a very weak relationship between these two sectors. Mr. Hiroki said those who graduate in technical courses join the industrial sector. In other words, the ratio of those who continue postgraduate programs is low in Japan. At the same time, he said, “There are joint industry-university research centers that undertake joint research projects. However, these centers are fewer in number compared to those in the United States”.
“Japan is very advanced in basic research,”
Mr. Hiroki said, but he added, “The expectation of industry from the university is very high.”
I thought I won’t be wrong if I concluded that the university is somehow in the service of industry in Japan. But, Mr. Hiroki added that big industrial enterprises in Japan have their own research centers besides cooperating with the universities. Regarding the focus of university activities, he said, universities concentrate on both teaching and research. However, Mr. Hiroki made a very interesting point: “In the long term, research for the sake of research will be useful even for the market and industry.”
In certain areas there is a close relationship between the university and other sectors, including industry and agriculture. Most research centers affiliated with big industrial enterprises attract university postgraduates, who conduct applied research for them.
There are exchanges between universities and industrial companies. Mr. Hiroki said that the universities are working on agricultural produce, from production to sales.
Given the situation, there is not much demand for Ph.D. holders in Japan, because those with doctorates can work only in academic centers where competition is tough. Hence, the industrial sector prefers to recruit postgraduates with Master of Science degrees and train them.
A question with which I have been obsessed regarding a country with such a degree of success is the training of talented students: whether the students are tested for their talent in a specific field?
Mr. Hiroki said, one of the duties of teachers in high school is to discover the students’ interests and, accordingly, guide and recommend them to select an appropriate course of study that matches their talents. If this task is done properly, then talents won’t be wasted.
Most junior-high schools and high schools are public, but there are private ones as well. However, the number of private high schools is much higher than private junior-high schools. Interestingly, private universities in Japan are large in number.
There are sufficient seats available for candidates in Japanese universities. Over 90 percent of candidates taking part in university entrance exams are admitted to universities.