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The number of academic degree holders produced by universities is seen as a measure of the schools’ value. Therefore, universities may grant degrees to students even if they don’t deserve them.

18 Comments

University of Tokyo Prof Osamu Sakura, who specializes in sociology of science and technology, saying one reason behind the recent misconduct involving academic papers is the national policy of increasing the number of doctoral degree holders. (Yomiuri Shimbun)

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It's true - - The kids go through 4 years of, in a sense, "Being Present' . . .because attendance is important. (li is is in Elementary School in the States) - -and "performance" counts for almost NOTHING . . . . .The students learn very little , LEAST OF ALL, critical thinking . . . .. .For the most part, University Education at the Undergrad level is close to a parody.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

I am a university teacher in Japan. On one occasion I was pressurized by university authorities to give a passing grade to a student who had attended hardly any classes and turned in no work in my course.

I vehemently protested, refused and resisted. I pointed out that this was unfair to students who had worked hard and passed the course fairly. It also undermined the academic credibility of the university, which claimed and still claims to have high academic standards.

I asked, "Why do I come to work? Why do I work hard to prepare courses if students can not show up and still pass? Can you not see how this drastically undermines teacher motivation?"

In the end I was compelled by the university to prepare a special test which the student in question could easily pass. Thus the university were able to offer up the pretense that the student had satisfied the course requirements and they were given a passing grade.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Choosing quantity over quality has obvious ends and we see the where this has been going as we travel down the path.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Choosing quantity over quality has obvious ends

Crush Them -- so true. IMO it is not a surprise that big Japanese companies like Sony, and many others, are failing miserably in the global economy and having to resort to foreign acquisitions to increase their world-wide share. If you are only competing against other Japanese domestic companies, then basically you are competing against a similar "talent pool" -- folks like yourself who really did not learn anything in college. But once you have to compete overseas, the game changes entirely, and suddenly you are over-matched, because most top Western Universities actually require you to learn something to get a degree. Japan's education system is faling the country badly.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Anyone who works in the system here knows the "game". Very few universities here will actually support teachers who fail students outside of the 1/3 missing class rule - and seriously, when MEXT has a rule about how many classes students "may" miss before teachers are not questioned about failing students, you know there is an issue. Bums on seats, money in the bank. I once worked for a university that made teachers submit TWO exams - the first one and the make-up one that students got to take if they didn't get a high enough mark to pass the term the first time or missed the first exam. Teachers moan about the students there but need the work and don't want to deal with the pressure from the university if they try and fail students so show up for class, pass.

Japan is playing a very dangerous game for a country that needs skilled workers. Passing anyone and everyone through the system means crappy hires who can do very little. Very short sighted but nothing new in the land of "academia" in Japan. I won't even start in about academic morals, copying and pasting and handing in crap.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

And yet they hold that worthless piece of paper (degree) up as some kind of holy script that determines if a person is worth employing. In the case of foreigners, posession of a degree (ANY degree) is a requirement for a working visa.

I am lucky that i have one of those pieces of paper; but I have a lot of friends who do not, and yet they are both harder working and far more intelligent than your average university graduate. But their only option to work here in Japan is to marry a Japanese person.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

But once you have to compete overseas, the game changes entirely, and suddenly you are over-matched, because most top Western Universities actually require you to learn something to get a degree. Japan's education system is faling the country badly.

There are plenty of kids from top Western universities that still have no idea what to do when they graduate (especially in the case of kids with rich parents aka legacies,etc).

-5 ( +1 / -6 )

I am lucky that i have one of those pieces of paper; but I have a lot of friends who do not, and yet they are both harder working and far more intelligent than your average university graduate.

Maybe, but when it comes down to it, immigration policies are meant to enforce a base standard, and requiring a degree to get a visa ensures that the majority of foreigners who come to the country will be educated, which is more likely to bring up the overall standard of the country, than bring it down. Look at Thailand as an example of a country that pretty much lets in anyone (though granted they do it on back-to-back-to-back visas). The overall quality of foreigners in that country is way below the quality of foreigners in Japan.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Just because you go to a top university doesn't mean you know squat. I had friends who went to Ivy League schools, and they get a job working with their parents (as opposed to getting the job without nepotism). It's more about who you know than what you do in a lot of cases, especially nowadays. College degrees may still be a prerequisite in a lot of cases, but even that is not enough anymore.

-5 ( +1 / -6 )

Yes, but having been at Todai is great preparation for Japanese corporate life.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

luvjpfam - I do believe the topic at hand is the laxity in which degrees are granted in Japan - generally.

Bringing up another country's case is not to the point at all.

Those connected with the system here - as some have posted - know only too well how pathetic at times is the nancying of students here in order to create a positive spin on how good the uni is going.

There are some exceptions of course, but I've seen or known about too many weak passes to suggest it's not common.

Academic snowflakes.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Smart enough to get a piece of paper that makes you think that those who don't have one are dumber than yourself.

A degree only means you can memorise stuff, and for a fact some of the smartest people in the world don't have them and see know need for them.

and some of the dumbest people have degrees so kinda makes you really wonder doesn't it.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I sadly have to agree, but this is not just a phenomenon in Japan, but also internationally. Success in tertiary education (university or college) is becoming in many places a foregone conclusion - you pay your fees, you get your degree.

The generally accepted rule when I was a student was that a "normal distribution" rule applied to passing a class, i.e. that approximately half the class would fail, and you had to work your ass off to be at least in the top half of the class, because everyone else knew that the same rule applied and so everyone was clawing to be in the top half. A grade of 51% meant you worked harder and were brighter than more than half the students in your class... anything above 75% meant you were a flaming genius, because you were in top quartile of a very small and very elite group.

First year classes were a joke with hundreds of students in a class, but by third year the weaker students who didn't belong at university had been weeded out, and by fourth year you were sweating blood in very small classes of 20 or so students and we all knew that at least 10 of us would be repeating the course.

Sure, I boozed it up in first year, attended parties and had a great time, but by 3rd year I was pulling all-nighters in the library almost every night looking for some paper or book to cite in my assignments or examination that would prove to the lecturer that I deserved to be in the top 50% (or dare I hope, top 25%) of the class.

... and that's what a University degree is supposed to be. It isn't supposed to be a receipt for monies paid, it is supposed to be a sign that you are capable of doing research, motivated enough to get off your ass and show you're the best, and bright enough to comprehend the material presented and then take it beyond what's in the course material and show you understand and can apply it.

Frankly Japanese universities just don't get this, but this is an international trend. I find it irritating when some young pup arrives with triple doctorates and when I read them out of curiosity I find a mind so devoid of understanding or original thought that they wouldn't have been able to earn their undergraduate degree in my day.

And no, this isn't just an old man "in my day we walked up hill to school, BOTH WAYS" post. Things genuinely are pathetically easy at University these days. Bring back the old, "fail 50% of the class" rule and then we'll separate the wheat from the chaff, and having a degree will mean something.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I had friends who went to Ivy League schools, and they get a job working with their parents (as opposed to getting the job without nepotism).

luvjpfam -- Yup, and I went to one of those Ivy League business schools, and they flunked out the son of one of the top family-owned businesses in the states.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

I think this is totally true. Especiall because a failing student often is regard as a failure in teaching by the professor. However, sometimes people simply are not fit for certain tasks, or not motivated in enough to make the effort it needs in order to perform in a manner which would be worthy of passing. Just because you fail, you are not necessarily stupid, sometimes it simply is not your subject. It should be part of education to help to those people find what they are good at and what they can excel in. But failing them in unsuited subjects is part of the process as well. There is no point in people having a degree in a subject that they are totally oblivious to.

Though I dont think this is merely a problem in Japan. When I graduated in Germany from my high school I really felt like it wasn't worth anything after I saw that some people in my year managed to graduate as well although they simply did not deserve it.

I dont think having a rule like simply fail 50% of the class is a measure that is suitable in the long run. You need to assess it individually according to the subject and the students. If 50% fail then, ok ... If 10% fail, ok ... if 90% fail, ok! But this is a challenge for the education system.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Well said Frungy!

The only part I don't agree with is "First year classes were a joke with hundreds of students in a class, but by third year the weaker students who didn't belong at university had been weeded out, and by fourth year you were sweating blood in very small classes of 20 or so students and we all knew that at least 10 of us would be repeating the course." Our first year classes were 120 or so but it seemded like the weeding out started that year. Things, for me at least, got much easier as time went on - but this might be perhaps because the first year you have to take a whole bunch of classes you have no real interest in and the final years are classes you want to take.

Personally, I don't get the "push through" thing. If universities want more money, fail students. When students have to repeat classes, the uni gets more money. Not to mention their rep of being a "difficult" school increases which is what many want - screw the entrance exam and how difficult it is. Getting out with a paper should be the real bar of quality. But then I am opening up a huge can of worms by suggesting the entrance exam is worthless. It isn't - we all know it is a huge source of money.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Strangerland, perhaps that is so (enforcing a base standard). Still there should be an extra circumstances option for those without a degree but have the will and intelligence to make it here. Suppose that is a topic for another discussion though.

Anyway the culture here is that university graduates are still considered blank molds with virtually zero work skills or job aptitude. It just means they have fulfilled society's expectation of attending university. From there they are taken into companies and taught everything from the ground up. Art graduates becoming shinnyuushains at programming companies, IT graduates doing finance work etc.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

This happens in the US too.... that's why my high school did. Seniors graduated even though they didn't deserve to graduate, specifically the football players.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

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