Global Competition Pushes University of Tokyo to Change Its School Year

March 1, 2012

Unlocking Word Meanings
Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

1. in sync (idiom) – to be moving or working at the same time
Example: Reading the latest women’s magazines keeps women in sync with the latest fashion.

2. institution (n.) – an organization established to pursue a particular cause
Example:  Educational institutions provide people with skills they need to get good jobs.

3. commence (v.) – to begin or to start
Example: The party commenced as soon as the dance music was played.

4. boast (v.) – to have a position or possession that someone can be proud of
Example: The city boasts of its beautiful architecture.

5. mull over (idiom) – to think deeply about something
Example: Most high school students mull over what course to take in the university.

Read the text below.

In order to compete better with international schools, the University of Tokyo—popularly called Todai—plans to shift the start of its school year to autumn, in sync with Western educational institutionsDue to this change, other Japanese schools are pressured to adopt the same school year shift.

If Japan’s most prestigious school pushes through with the proposal, its entrance exams will still be held in spring as usual. But instead of starting classes in April, the university will commence classes in September.

The change in school year will create a six-month gap between students’ acceptance into the university and the actual start of classes. Todai’s proposal, however, recommends that this time should be used by the students to gain international and volunteer experience.

Others fear that the shift in school year may have serious effects on high school education and the hiring of fresh graduates by employers. Under the new schedule, Todai students will be graduating later than other universities, and may have more trouble finding work.

But a Todai panel that has studied the proposal said the shift must be done as quickly as possible to keep up with international competition. The 2011-2012 Times Higher Education World University Rankings was dominated by US and British schools such as M.I.T., Harvard, Stanford and Oxford. Although Todai can boast about being the top school in Japan, it rests on the 30th spot in world rankings.

Todai believes attracting more foreign students and teachers could raise its rank. Todai hopes that this can be done by matching schedules with foreign institutions.

On the other hand, other major educational institutions in Japan such as Kyushu University, Kyoto University and Waseda University have been mulling over adopting autumn entrance. Keio University's head, Atsushi Seike, says that Japan's universities should make decisions on the major change as a community.

Viewpoint Discussion
Enjoy a discussion with your tutor. 

Discussion A 

     Do you think universities should begin their school year in autumn? Please explain your answer.
     Should universities in Japan have one policy concerning the start of classes? Why or why not?

Discussion B

     Is World University Ranking important? Please explain your answer.
     How do you think education in your country can be globally competitive? 


March 1, 2012