2014.02.16 stupid unis copy

A report last week from the Japanese Ministry of Education about the sorry state of some low-ranked universities, lovingly called “F-rank,” sent ripples through the country and reignited a debate about how to properly prepare students for “life in the real world.” While the Japanese government’s announcement sparked renewed interest in higher education reform, these low-level schools (and their terrible textbooks) have been the butt of jokes on the Internet for years. F-rank universities are notorious for their extremely lax entrance requirements, high student-to-teacher ratio and producing graduates who simply aren’t ready to enter the real world and join a company. Education advocates and people tired of dealing with incompetent co-workers all wanted to share their ideas about how to change the system to avoid a generation of poorly trained workers.

In the scathing report, the ministry pointed out how some schools were teaching junior high school-level English lessons. Since the Japanese education system requires at least six years of English classes before even entering university, the government seemed quite surprised to find out how many schools are spending time each week teaching topics like “how to read and write the alphabet” and “reviewing the verb ‘to be’.”

Japanese netizens were quick to point out that the almost laughable quality of these schools is hardly a secret on the Internet where the slang term “F-rank” was coined. And co-workers of these graduates were more than happy to share their experiences working alongside unprepared colleagues. Besides their overall poor work performance, netizens complained that F-rank graduates embarrass their companies when dealing with business clients and write barely legible emails filled with grammatical errors. 

While the government seemed keen to improve the schools and bring them up to proper academic standards, many on the Internet wondered if regulations should be even further tightened to prevent a “watering down” of university degrees. Some even wanted a strict limit on the number of universities allowed to exist in the country to prevent an over saturation of graduates. Others blamed Japanese companies that insist that all employees, even those in lower skilled positions, have a degree, further increasing the demand among the public to enter into higher education.

Another problem pointed out was the existence of “Black Companies” that hire many of these F-rank graduates when no other employer will take them. Since the companies know the workers cannot get a job elsewhere, management takes advantage of workers by forcing them to work long hours for very low pay. An employee at one such company posted on a Japanese job site about his experience, explaining that almost everyone who enters the company has a poor academic record. The 20-something man said everyone there would rather work somewhere else, but their educational background apparently prevents a better company from hiring them.

Twitter users debated back and forth about who is to blame for these untrained workers with some placing the fault on the ministry’s “loose” guidelines for higher education. Other blamed the F-rank universities for taking desperate people’s money without providing any appropriate education or training.

The ministry should coordinate and publish third party reviews of every university’s curriculum

It’s not the quality of schools, it’s the quality of the students that is decreasing in this country…

This is what happens when society dictates everyone needs a university degree. Academics turns into baka-demics. (baka= “idiot” in Japanese)

Ultimately the question about who is to blame seems to boil down to the classic principle of supply and demand. Should the ministry of education tighten restrictions on higher education and revoke the accreditation of the many low-level schools currently spewing out lousy workers? Or should Japanese companies (and society) let up on their insistence that all students enter a four-year university and focus on creating better specialized schools?

Feature Image: Flickr (Paul Bailey)
Source: Niconico news