The Japan News by The Yomiuri Shimbun

Home > Campus Now > Trend Eye (October)

Campus Now


Trend Eye

Can Politics Sketch Education for the 21st Century?

This section is a serialized section from Shunsuke Yamagishi, who is active as an education journalist, about education problems.

Yosano’s Separation from Koizumi

It seems that writing a book is something which is absolutely necessary for those who are called scholars or people of culture. Shigeru Yosano ran in the General Election for the Liberal Democratic Party, and while his intentions were unknown, his book “Dignified Politics”, which was written for Shinchosha Publishing, is the reason that he was able to establish his position in the world of politics after running.

Yosano, the representative chairman of the Liberal Democratic Party's Policy Research Council, is reported to have said “The small government spoken of by Takeuchi (Heizo Takeuchi, Former Minister of Public Management, Home Affairs, Posts and Telecommunications) is apparently for real.” “He is really of a mind to throw away public welfare and busily whittle away at benefits.” When reading Yosano’s discussion of the “danger of market fundamentalism without a national perspective”, it can only be inferred that he is raising Takeuchi up for criticism. However, Yosano does not write this explicitly, which is irritating to the reader. At that time, the inferences of the reader are justified when the reader becomes aware of statements made by officials of the Liberal Democratic Party's Policy Research Council.

Yosano has stated that the reforms made by Koizumi were correct. Since Yosano served as Chief Cabinet Secretary in Koizumi’s cabinet, we cannot say that the reforms were incorrect. Even so, attention should be given to the changes in his stance, which are such that he had to debate the “danger of market fundamentalism without a national perspective”. Yosano says that it is a great mistake to consider America as a country of market fundamentalism, and defines America as a country of market realism. He states that it is a mistake to chant the reforms made by Koizumi and to create pressure to sustain the reforms made by Koizumi. Yosano is steadily distancing himself from Koizumi.

The University of Tokyo is Capable of Nothing but Apology

During the reform of universities, it is clearly apparent that the University of Tokyo benefited the most among all universities. I thought that it was a mistake when Hiroshi Komiyama, President of the university, stood at the forefront and made a call for people in the university to perform their work with a sense of urgency. I suddenly felt that the University of Tokyo might collapse under his guidance.

As I feared, the University of Tokyo has “collapsed”. My writing this may cause surprise, but for the first time in the history of the university, its reputation has been quickly smeared through its own self-destructive actions. I am referring to the leakage of questions from the entrance examination. According to the announcement made by authorities at the University of Tokyo, it has become clear that a 37 year old Associate Professor revealed questions from the entrance examination to several examinees in the Master’s Program of the university’s graduate school. According to an article run in the The Nikkei newspaper, the Associate Professor advised a portion of the examinees to study the Kyoto Protocol and the Ramsar Convention.

The Associate professor was a member of the Committee for Examination Questions at the graduate school and was aware of the contents of examination questions. The examination of the graduate school was held over a period of two days and consisted of sections in English, specialized subjects, short theses, and interviews. 82 students took the examination and 56 passed. Within the section on specialized subjects, there was actually a question which required students to explain the Kyoto Protocol and Ramsar Convention in approximately 300 characters. The Vice-President of the University of Tokyo apologized for the “leakage of examination questions”. The Nikkei wrote that the Associate Professor, who had recently transferred to the University of Tokyo in the 2005 academic year “may have wanted to attract students to his own research laboratory”.

Citing concerns about the “identification of students”, the University of Tokyo made no announcement regarding the total number of students who were told of the examination questions, or how many of those students were graduates of undergraduate schools at the University of Tokyo. This kind of information was kept secret because its disclosure would reveal the number of examinees from other universities, as well as the situation of acceptance to the graduate school. The students who received advice were considered as “victims”, and there was no change made in the pass/fail results. In other words, nothing was done. Or should we say that nothing could be done even if someone wanted to. Be they good or bad, the history of the University of Tokyo until now has been established upon a series of these kinds of events. Confusion will occur if this history is broken. If it is undesirable to create confusion, then nothing can be done other than the issuance of apologize by the heads of the university. Can the President and Vice-President continue to serve even in this situation? The answer is “yes”, they can continue to serve if they simply throw aside their feelings of shame. This is all that can be said when viewing the current state of the University of Tokyo.

How to Operate the Central Council for Education

I have repeatedly written that politics are changing drastically. How do the Liberal Democratic Party, the Democratic Party, and the other political parties plan to support education in their plans for the 21st century?

This discussion would be different if each political group made references to the form of education and academics in their plans for the future. However, almost all of the political groups are ignoring this subject. Even if they include plans for the subject, they plans are not detailed or comprehensive. In such a case, when expressed through the conventional structure, such incomplete plans are considered to be sufficient because the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) has consulted with the Central Council for Education, or an answer has already been received.
Normally, consultation takes place with the Central Council for Education. During this consultation, there is the assumption of a judgment which is in line with the policies of the MEXT and the Central Council of Education until now. Therefore, I believe that there will be little change in the answer received. The commissioned intellectuals and experts are people who possess the same thinking as the MEXT. There is absolutely no commissioning of people with thorough knowledge of many different worlds and groups such as government institutions, people who are passionate regarding reforms, or people who are evaluated as being unique. In such a case, will it be possible to perform education to develop personnel that will create a rich 21st century and that overflow with desire? The feeling of despair towards this thinking of the MEXT is the reason for the bleakness outlook that citizens have possessed towards education until now. Apparently, the officials of this government organization have not noticed this fact. Are we happy or unhappy? It seems that the MEXT will never make the word “education” into a word which creates an image of energy and hope when heard.

Shunsuke Yamagishi

He graduated from the Niigata University's Faculty of Humanities law course in 1958. After working as a reporter at the Niigata Nippo and Asahi Shimbun, he was a professor at Tama University (education course). After retirement until last year, he was a visiting professor. In 1968, he was an honor student and member of the inaugural class of the Soichi Oya Tokyo Mass-communication Juku. In 1970, he won the Kikuchi Kan Prize for his newspaper serialization of "Ashita no Nihonkai" or "The Sea of Japan of Tomorrow." He is active as an education journalist and has authored many works including Daigaku Kaikaku no Genba-e (Tamagawa University Press).