Temple Japan Dean Stronach: universities, companies must work together to nuture capable graduates

Bruce Stronach recently in the Asahi Times (English).

[More in a bit.]

Here, Mr. Stronach is giving some good insight. The article is basically saying that the Japanese international higher educational system suffers from the same flaws that hold back Japan in everyday sorts of ways:

The “international” component of what most Japanese college students do isn’t very rigorous and doesn’t have standards. He feels that any exchange program should be at least a semester and have a grading component.

You who follow me about the English teaching issue know this. The reason Japanese (of all ages) struggle to get good at English is because they study, but there are no tests or quizzes, and no way therefore to force a recall of what was learned.

An overseas visit (vacation, basically) to a foreign campus is not “international learning”; so colleges should stop doing it. Nudge, nudge, I think the Dean is saying, you can also enroll in Temple and get the serious component via a semester in Philadelphia.

Colleges and businesses need not do all their graduating and hiring in March and April.

We know this. It’s just something stupid that the Japanese with power continue to do, as “tradition”, in order to keep whoever is not part of the club, OUT. So if you are on the elite college track, you defend this sort of system. If you are from this elite track and in a company, you vigorously defend it.

The Dean is very clear that colleges accept and graduate students throughout the year (meaning, I suppose, December, May and August?–I know community colleges do), and we all know that campus hiring is just a small fraction of how American companies get their workers.

(I just thought of another blog post on that one, but let me stay on topic.)

So the idea that somehow this artificial “cut” that happens when some college kids get a corporate offer and start work in April, and the vast mass who don’t even get Don Pardo to tell them what their consolation prize is for having played, is just some artificial construct, some elegant bullshit. It’s good that Mr. Stronach made that point, and it’s one that needs to be made again and again.

(Yes, of course, you can graduate from Temple Japan throughout the year, but that’s an aside . . . As someone who has used the community college system in New Jersey for adult education, I know that flexibility is really key.)

The Japanese higher education system operates with excess capacity. This is another point that I hope Mr. Stronach keeps bearing down on, because Temple Japan is paying that rent and keeping the number under wraps. Meanwhile, the Education Ministry could probably be hosting Temple Japan for free in space that is part of another university, but doesn’t do it, because they are happy with some landlord squeezing the Fat Gaijin for an oku (100,000,000) or two of yen every year.

It sounds to me, like if Temple really wants to have that “let’s be Japanese” component to its offerings in Tokyo, they really should get a piece of some struggling higher education school around the immediate region, and locate there. If this is just done with Temple alone, I really don’t see where it shakes up Japanese education in any great way, but you do know that that campus would immediately become something special, and probably force innovation on other campuses around the Kantou region.

If the Dean could do this, it would be quite an innovation. I am not confident he could pull it off, but I myself would give that a sold try.

The Dean also mentions how Korea innovated its higher education system in the last 10 or 15 years. The Koreans did get better at the international game, which is partly why Samsung is running ahead of Sony. I’m not sure that that message, though, persuades very many decision makers in Japan. It might intimidate them a bit (because it’s the truth), but probably cause them NOT to do something.

Overall, it’s an article worth reading. The original was in Japanese.