EDU WATCH: Recommendations-based admissions and AO exams to be introduced this fall for top universities; Gaishikei on the recruiting scene

Plum blossoms under an overcast spring sky
Plum blossoms under an overcast spring sky

Spring greetings to all our Edu Watch readers,

It has been fickle spring weather for graduating students as well as new school entrants heading to their respective school ceremonies, their rites of passage. Relief, disappointment or excitement are in the air as school exams end, and school acceptances are announced or as graduates head out in droves to hunt for jobs.

Below you’ll find our regular news roundup on the local educational scene.

The University of Tokyo and Kyoto University are slated to introduce recommendation-based admissions and admission office (AO) exams based on interviews and essays for the first time this autumn. The article below suggests that top universities are making room for talented creative students who may do not succeed via normal academic testing channels. Notwithstanding the new initiatives, top universities remain unlikely to ever spot most Einstein-like individuals, individuals who would be bored with the mindnumbingly unchallenging one-size-fits all public school curriculum and therefore likely show academic underachievement. Thus, even with the introduction of the miniscule AO exam, such students who would normally fly under the radar of high school teachers in the first place, would be thought of as under-achievers or unremarkable in the first place. They would be unlikely to enter special science classes or be nominated for International Olympiads. As such they would never be identified as talented individuals deserving of being recommended for AO exams. The whole school system including narrow International Science-Math Olympiad classes is geared towards left-brained, exam high-achiever set of students. All the new initiatives merely serve to do is to cream off the best and most creative individuals from the top percentile of academically high achieving student population…

New screening styles at top universities (The Yomiuri Shimbun)
The University of Tokyo and Kyoto University are scheduled to introduce recommendation-based admissions as well as so-called admission office (AO) exams based on interviews and essays for the first time this autumn.

Taken ahead of the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry’s planned reform of college and university entrance examinations, the move by the two universities reflects a sense of crisis that they will not be able to survive amid international competition if they stick to conventional knowledge-based exams.

“We want students who are able to present problems by themselves and are capable of taking on those problems,” University of Tokyo Vice President Hiroo Fukuda said at a study meeting in Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture, in early January. Fukuda was invited by the prefecture’s high school principals association, and about 90 second-year high school students attended the meeting.

Fukuda described the kind of achievements that will be well regarded in recommendation-based admissions, including winning a prize at the International Science Olympiads and scoring well on an English proficiency test like TOEFL.

To a female student who asked, “How will a student be evaluated if they have motivation and ability but no actual achievements?” Fukuda answered: “We cannot gain insight into students’ potential creativity through just a one- or two-hour interview. We want some evidence that shows the student’s ability and eagerness to learn.”

Fukuda has visited 15 locations across the nation since last year to publicize the university’s recommendation- based exams at high schools. Fukuda stressed the purpose of the new system, saying, “We want to vitalize our university by accepting talented people who can produce something new, and through friendly competition between new entrants and existing students.”

Each high school can recommend only one male and one female student. Many students at the University of Tokyo graduated from big city schools that combined middle and high schools. Under such circumstances, there have been growing calls within the university for greater diversity of students.

At an explanatory meeting held at the university in August last year, teachers from private high schools in Tokyo objected to the university’s move, with one teacher saying, “Recommendation- based admission is unfair to high schools that have provided students with academic abilities strong enough to pass entrance exams.”

Although local high schools are highly receptive to the recommen- dation-based admissions, the university’s requirements for recommendation are tough.

A 51-year-old vice principal at a prefectural high school in the Tokai region, whose students are aiming at entering high-ranking universi-ties, said: “The majority of students who represent Japan at the International Science Olympiads are students from noted schools that combine a middle school and a high school. Students at local public schools have no room to take on special activities.”

Kyoto University also plans to adopt recommendation-based admissions and AO exams. Kyoto University’s faculty of medicine admits students without graduating from high school if they participated in the International Science Olympiads.

Kyoto University President Juichi Yamagiwa said at a press conference in December last year that “assembling students with outstanding talent is the best environment for producing innovation.”

The Central Education Council has called for universities to change their entrance exam system to more multifaceted screening systems.

However, the quota for recommen- dation-based admissions and the AO exams at both universities is about 100 students each, only 3 percent of the total.

“Even if the number of students who enter the universities through the new system is small, it is symbolic that the two universities will launch the new system and they have significant influence,” said Hiroshi Kobayashi, head of Recruit Marketing Partners Co., an expert on university entrance exams.” …. More at

Ministry urges 253 universities to improve (NHK — FEB 23)
Japan’s education ministry has called on 253 universities and colleges to improve their academic standards.
The ministry released the results of its fiscal 2014 survey of 502 tertiary institutions on Sunday. It found the enrolment and study programs for new departments at 253 of these universities and colleges did not match the plans they had submitted.
31 institutions are being urged to correct the problems, which include some legal violations.

The ministry recommended that Osaka-based Taisei Gakuin University change its credit system. Students can earn credits for some subjects by obtaining outside certification instead of attending classes.

Officials also advised a department in the graduate school of Tokyo-based Hosei University to improve its research and teaching. The department has 4 times the permitted number of students for fiscal 2014.

‘Reunited’ Hachiko statue unveiled at Todai (THE JAPAN NEWS — MAR 10)

A new statue that depicts the faithful dog Hachiko being reunited with his owner has been unveiled at the University of Tokyo’s Faculty of Agriculture in Bunkyo Ward, Tokyo.
The statue re-creates the scene of a joyful Hachiko leaping to greet his owner, Hidesaburo Ueno (1871-1925), a pioneer of Japan’s irrigation engineering and rural planning.
Ueno was a professor in the agricultural department at the then Imperial University of Tokyo, now the University of Tokyo. About three years ago, volunteers – including Todai professors studying the relationship between people and animals – started collecting donations to erect the statue.

– See the unveiling of the statue at:

The Kibasen event is such an entrenched event at Japanese school Sports Days, on the one hand, the judgment will serve to make school authorities more cautious and aware of possible dangers of the sport, on the other hand, it would be a shame if the event were to be banned altogether by alarmed school authorities…

Man paralyzed in 2003 school sports day accident awarded Y200 mil damages (JAPAN TODAY — MAR 05)
The Fukuoka District Court has awarded 200 million yen in damages to a 29-year-old man who was paralyzed in a school sports day accident in 2003.
The accident occurred at Chikuzen High School during the annual athletic festival. The man, then a third year high school boy, was reenacting a mock cavalry battle by standing on the shoulders of other students (acting the role of a rider mounted on a horse), TBS reported. He fell and broke his neck leaving him paralyzed from the waist down.
Both the boy and his parents claimed that the accident had occurred due to a mistake in safety protocols made by the school, and joined with Fukuoka Prefecture in a joint lawsuit against the school, demanding reparations of 290 million yen.

– See more at:

See also other recent news on school sporting accidents:
16-year-old boy in critical condition after being hit in head by baseball
A 16-year-old Saitama high school boy remain unconscious in hospital on Monday after he was hit in the head by a baseball Sunday. (Japan Today, Feb 23, 2015)
– See more at:

Fear of missing out drives net addiction in Japan (ASTROAWANI.COM — FEB 16)
For Japanese teenager Sumire, chatting with friends while she sits in the bath or even on the toilet is nothing out of the ordinary.
An ever-present smartphone means she, like much of her generation, is plugged in 24-7 — to the growing concern of health professionals.
“I’m online from the moment I wake up until I go to sleep, whenever I have time — even in class,” the 18-year-old, who gave only her first name, told AFP.

“I’m always messaging friends on ‘Line’, even when I’m in the bath. I guess I feel lonely if I’m not online, sort of disconnected,” she said, referring to a Japanese chat app used by about 90 percent of high school students here, according to a recent survey.

While Sumire acknowledges that she probably uses her iPhone too much, she is far from alone in a country where young people are frequently glued to a screen.

High school girls in Japan spend an average of seven hours a day on their mobile phones, a survey by information security firm Digital Arts revealed this week, with nearly 10 percent of them putting in at least 15 hours. Boys of the same age average just over four hours mobile phone use a day, the research found.

The problem has become so grave a whole field of medicine has developed to ween them off their digital props.

“This is what we call the conformity type,” psychiatrist and leading net addiction specialist Takashi Sumioka said. “This type of obsession is caused by the fear that they will get left out or bullied in a group if they don’t reply quickly.”

– See more at:

Hays Recruitment on “shinsotsu-ikkatsu-saiyo” Recruitment practice and joining “gaishikei” foreign-affiliated conpanies

Hays Japan to hold job-hunting seminar in partnership with universities (Feb 27, 2015 JAPANTODAY)
Hays Specialist Recruitment Japan KK, a foreign affiliated recruiting company offering career support for specialist personnel, on Thursday announced that it will hold a “Seminar for Job-hunting in Foreign Affiliated Companies” in cooperation with major universities and educational institutions.

The seminars are part of Hays Japan’s CSR activities aimed at raising global career awareness among university students who want to work for a foreign affiliated company. As global companies’ presence increases, foreign affiliated companies or “gaishikei” are gaining an unprecedented level of attention as one of the options for new university graduates. Meanwhile, many companies are struggling to come to terms with the change of rules in Keidanren’s “Guidelines on the Screening and the Recruitment of Job Applicants”.

Now that Japan has entered a period of transition from the unique employment structure symbolized by “simultaneous recruiting of new graduates (“shinsotsu-ikkatsu-saiyo”), the seniority wage system (“nenko-joretsu”) and the lifetime employment system (“shushin-koyo”),” winning the battle for personnel, both new graduates and mid-career, has become the highest priority for organisations. Meanwhile, students (job seekers) have been forced to change their mindset from the conventional form of “job-seeking activities”, whereby they assume they can contribute to the organization as generalists, to a Western-style that requires honing one’s skills in order to achieve career progression.

Against this backdrop, Hays Japan has begun providing information and dispatching its recruiting experts to universities to help students rethink the meaning of “working in a ‘gaishikei’ company” and “being globally active”, while also raising career awareness for our future global leaders. This began by dispatching a recruiting expert to Tokyo University of Science to implement a seminar on the theme of “Working in a Gaishikei Company.”

The seminars share knowledge from recruiting experts on global career support service ranging from basic concepts such as what is a “gaishikei” company, how is it different from a domestic (“nikkei”) company and the definition of a global talent, through to the mindset for job-seeking in “gaishikei” companies, how to apply and the selection process. Hays Japan also provide specific advice on the basic structure of a resume for a “gaishi” and tips for interviews.

“Simultaneous recruiting of new grads (‘shinsotsu-ikkatsu-saiyo’) is a recruiting practice that companies follow, where they hire new graduates simultaneously and start employing them in April each year. This is a custom unique to Japan that has supported its rapid economic growth in the past,” says Jonathan Sampson, Managing Director of Hays in Japan. “On the other hand, the general recruitment practice in Europe or the United States is to seek talented new graduates periodically throughout the year. Many students also gain experience through several internships while enrolled in university, and it is not uncommon for them to be recruited in recognition of their work during this time.

“Our initiative is based on the belief that to provide the best match between career options according to individual objectives for students and job seekers, and the securement of quality talent for organisations, job hunting and recruitment activities should be conducted year-round. We hope to be able to contribute to the changes that should be made to the recruitment practices by conducting these seminars for new graduates in the coming months.”

Japanese Universities Intensify Recruitment Efforts in India

Japanese universities are looking to give their American and European counterparts a run for their money when it comes to recruiting from India, reports The Hindu. Their unique selling proposition: study in a top notch university in Japan for nearly half the cost of studying in the West.

And backing their efforts are a clutch of top Japanese brands, such as Sony, Canon, Toshiba and Mitsubishi, which are sweetening the offer by promising placements in Japan or in their Indian subsidiaries. More than 1,200 Japanese companies are operating in India today, but there are currently only 500 Indian students attending Japanese universities.

As a next step, 10 Japanese universities, led by the University of Tokyo along with Japanese businesses, will be holding a series of Japan Education summits in India. “We intend to double the number of Indian students in Japan from the current level of 500 in the next five years. Today even, Nepal and Bangladesh have more students in Japan than India,” Miki Matsuo, Project Coordinator, Japan International Cooperation Agency, told BusinessLine on the sidelines of the Japan Education Summit.

The new initiative gained momentum with the ratification of the Tokyo Declaration for Japan-India Special Strategic and Global Partnership by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe in September last year.

Japan’s high child poverty rate driven by increasing single parent families (ABC — MAR 02)
Japan is one of the world’s richest countries but one in six Japanese children now live in poverty – one of the worst rates in the industrialised world.
Poverty is largely hidden in Japan as most go without help for it is seen as a great shame, but the issue is now threatening the country’s economic revival.
Nana Kojima is a single mother bringing up two children and is part of Japan’s hidden but growing army of working poor.

“I struggle with the rent. Half my income goes on that and then I don’t have much left for food and bills,” Ms Kojima said.

In Japan more than half a million single mothers live below the poverty line, earning less than $12,000 a year.

Japan’s male corporate culture means single mothers mostly work in casual, low-paid jobs.

Ms Kojima works as a waitress for $10 an hour.

“In Japan, single, working mothers are discriminated against,” she said.

“We have little chance to progress as our needs are not understood.”

The increase in the number of single mothers is fuelling Japan’s record child poverty rates.

Community groups are starting to provide help, including volunteers dedicated to making sure children in need get a healthy meal and their mothers have a chance to connect.

The Children’s Network group in Tokyo was one of the first to be set up in the Japanese capital just two years ago and it has encouraged more to be established.

– See more at:



Elsewhere, what’s happening on the educational scene…

More than 1,000 requests from colleges and universities have come in to host screenings of “The Hunting Ground,” a new documentary examining how higher education institutions handle sexual assault on campus, the filmmakers told The Huffington Post on Tuesday.

Fifty-two higher education institutions already confirmed with RADiUS, the film’s distributor, that they will host screenings on their campuses. That list includes several colleges under federal investigation due to concerns with how they’ve handled reports of sexual violence, including Brown University, the University of Virginia, Iowa State University, Dartmouth College, Johns Hopkins University, the University of Colorado-Boulder, the University of Kansas and Columbia University.

“The Hunting Ground” examines several college student sexual assault cases, including that of Erica Kinsman, who reported Florida State University quarterback Jameis Winston for rape in December 2012. The film then tracks how Annie E. Clark and Andrea Pino, two University of North Carolina graduates, worked with other activists to file federal complaints accusing universities of mishandling rape. The U.S. Department of Education is currently investigating how 97 colleges responded to sexual violence reports.

“With more than 1,000 invitations to screen ‘The Hunting Ground’ on college campuses across the country, it’s a promising sign of leadership and courage inside the ranks of higher education,” filmmakers Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering wrote in a statement to HuffPost… Read more from the Mar 7 Huffington Post article

Last but not least, WHO objects to the young plugging into loud music…

One billion young at risk of hearing loss from loud music– WHO

More than one billion young people risk damaging their hearing through listening to loud music, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Friday.
The WHO estimates that around half of those between the ages of 12 and 35 in middle- and high-income countries are at risk due to unsafe levels of sound on personal audio devices or smartphones.
Another 40 percent are at risk from damaging audio levels at concert venues and night clubs.
More and more young people are exposed to unsafe levels of sounds. Young people should be aware that once you lose your hearing, it won’t come back, said Shelley Chadha, a WHO specialist on hearing impairment.
The UN health agency considers a volume above 85 decibels for eight hours or 100 decibels for 15 minutes as unsafe.
Exposure to traffic noise at peak hours can reach 85 decibels.
The vuvuzela, a popular wind instrument used in stadiums during the football World Cup in South Africa in 2010, has a sound intensity of 120 decibels and over nine seconds of exposure could result in irreversible hearing damage.
It is something we can live without, Chadha said referring to the vuvuzela.
To counter the risks, the WHO recommends that personal audio devices should not be used for more than an hour a day, at reduced sound levels.
The use of ear plugs in loud conditions and regular check ups were part of the recommendations as well. More here
[Good luck getting any of our young to limit their music listening to an hour a day!]

That’s it from me today.

Digitally yours,

Aileen Kawagoe


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