EDUCATIONAL RENAISSANCE / Meijo Univ. helps fast-trackers mature
Koichi Yasuda / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff Writer
The following is an excerpt from The Yomiuri Shimbun’s Educational Renaissance series. This part of the series, continued from last week, focuses on the nation’s early admission entrance system for universities.
NAGOYA–There are many concerns about what sort of emotional or developmental impact young students will suffer if they are admitted to university without completing high school.
Meijo University–the second school to adopt the fast-track program, after Chiba University–has taken these worries into consideration, and offers a number of measures to counteract the effects these students may feel.
For example, the university–which began its early-admissions program for mathematics majors in 2001–encourages such students to act as teachers whenever the school holds science programs for primary and middle school students.
At this year’s “Jr. Science” program, held in March, then sophomore Tomoyasu Yoshimura was asked to serve as keynote speaker for the attendees–about 60 pairs of students and parents.
On that day, the children would try building electromagnetic motors. Yoshimura, only 19 years old, was nervous at first, stuttering through the introduction to the lesson: “Do…do you know…what the inside of motors are like?”
The kids in attendance were unresponsive at first, but soon started to become enthusiastic about building their motors. As the class progressed, Yoshimura also began to relax and feel comfortable with the children.
“Wind the enameled wires tightly around the battery to make a coil,” he said, demonstrating as he spoke. At this stage the battery was simply being used for its shape–any cylindrical object would have been as good–but the young teacher discovered that his students became excited when Yoshimura took a freshly made coil and connected it to the battery and the coil began to revolve.
“I’m uncomfortable talking in front of people, and it was hard teaching kids,” Yoshida said with a forced smile. “But, the experience helped me feel confident.”
Parents were appreciative of the support programs. “Although it didn’t always go so well,” one parent said, “the children enjoyed their experiments very much.”
The Jr. Science programs are part of the university’s community outreach program. At the same time, however, it aims to provide those who have skipped years on their way to university with teaching opportunities to develop better communication and social skills–the very attributes parents and educators worrying they are missing out on.
Fast-track students end up spending less time in high school than normal. Moreover, they tend to feel isolated at university because they are part of only a handful of such students. At Meijo, for example, there are currently only three such students.
“These students are exceptionally outstanding in one field or another, but they may be less so in other areas, likely things such as social skills,” said Hiroshi Kawakatsu, director of the university’s Comprehensive Science Education Center, which is in charge of special programs for these students.
“If we only help them develop their strengths, they may end up becoming self-righteous,” the 63-year-old professor continued. “We need to give them a chance to connect and interact with others so they can broaden their experience as human beings and develop confidence.”
Jr. Science programs are held twice a year. The students assigned to teach the children are responsible for developing their own experiments and lesson plans, as well as securing the necessary supplies.
“We’ll be teaching kids, so we need to make the experiments easy for them,” said Takashi Hoshino, now a 20-year-old senior. “To help them enjoy the lesson, we need to think carefully about the words we use and the way we talk.
“It’s also hard to decide who does what and to stay under budget. But we are learning something through this program that we can’t get from a lecture.”
In addition to the Jr. Science program, Meijo invites guest speakers from various fields about eight times a year to talk with the fast-track students in an effort to help broaden their perspectives.
(Jun. 11, 2009)