Higher Education in Japan
The Japanese higher education system can be distinguished as an example of diversified mass higher education in a highly industrialized country. Higher education system consists of various categories and types of institutions that are different in their missions, functions, academic standards, prestige, status, and financing methods. After World War II, especially from the 1960s to the 1980s, the increase in higher education institutions was very striking. The number of students going on to universities or junior colleges also increased. In 1955, the percentage going on to higher education was a mere 10.1% of the age cohort (15.0% of boys, 5.0% of girls). By 1960, the figure had reached 10.3%, having hardly changed at all and showing that entry to higher education was still tinged with a select elitism. But by 1970, the figure had rapidly climbed to 23.6%. By 1980, the figure had risen still further, to reach 37.4%. In 2004 the figure eventually exceeded 50%. In the same way as in the United States, universal higher education was seen as having become a reality. Japanese higher education is in the mature stage. However, with the changing global environment such as an aging population and increasing international competitions, Japanese society faces significant new trends that will have a major impact on its higher education system and affect the mode of its operation. Some radical reforms such as the incorporation of national universities, initiating the certified evaluation system, expanding competitive resource allocation, and the promotion of internationalization are proceeding. 1.
Development of Higher Education
The first attempt to establish a modern university based on the European model was made following a political revolution in 1868, known as the Meiji Restoration. In 1877, the government established the University of Tokyo by consolidating and restructuring several of the westernized institutions of higher learning. In that time, Japan felt an urgent need for well-educated government officials and professionals to lead the newly born vulnerable nation that was struggling desperately to protect its independence from the external powers. Several Western-style technical and professional colleges set up by the government and private individuals followed. In 1886, the University of Tokyo was transformed into the Imperial University of Tokyo. Drawing on Continental models, the Imperial University consisted of faculties of law, letters, science, and medicine. By 1891, faculties of engineering and agriculture were added, making the Imperial University a unique institution in the world granting university status to both these practical disciplines. By 1940, seven imperial universities had been established in various parts of Japan and crowned the prewar system of higher education. Under these imperial universities, in hierarchical order, there were other official universities that provided single disciplines, such as medicine, engineering, commerce and education; locally
established public universities; private universities; non-degree granting technical and professional colleges; and separate women’s colleges. The entire higher education system served only select members of the population, whose number did not extend beyond 5% of the relevant age group.
Following defeat in World War II in 1945, Japan was occupied by the Allied Forces. During the occupation period, as one element of the democratization of Japan, education reforms were carried out. Based on the American model, the old prewar multi-track school system was transformed into the single-track of 6-3-3-4. The hierarchical higher education system was also reformed. All previous higher education institutions including former imperial universities and private ones, were grouped under the same status as “daigaku” which is generally translated as “new university”. Most of the former non-degree granting technical and...
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