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Japanese Universities Enforce Quotas to Boost Females Enrollement

clock iconCreated At:30 April, 2023
write iconCreated By:Allaa Ashraf

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Japanese national institutions are now adopting quotas to address the gender imbalance and increase the number of female students, a move not previously common among public universities. For instance, the Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech), which is one of Japan's top universities and has only 13% of its bachelor's degree students who are female, will reserve a certain number of positions across its schools for female candidates sitting the entrance exams. 

The goal is to ensure that women constitute 20% of the total student body admitted, which marks a significant shift towards gender equality in the institution.

As Japan aims to encourage more women to pursue careers in STEM fields, several national institutions, including Tokyo Tech, Nagoya University, Shimane University, and the University of Toyama, have recently introduced quotas to increase the number of female students they admit. 

The Japanese government plans to raise the number of STEM students from 35 to 50% and has considered offering subsidies to incentivise universities to produce more science graduates. 

Last autumn, the education and science minister, Keiko Nagaoka, addressed the gender bias preventing women from choosing sciences and pledged to overturn it. Despite the potential increase in the number of female students majoring in STEM fields, Ginko Kawano, a professor of sociology of education and gender equality adviser at Yamagata University, noted that not all universities applying for government grants would necessarily introduce quotas for women.

It was noted that quotas have been used for a while in several engineering departments at private institutions like Daido University to attract more female applicants. Still, there are more long-term solutions to the problem than this measure. The issue begins at the high-school level, where students are divided into groups based on their choices of humanities or science subjects, with most schools making students choose.

This leads to even boys who need to improve in science subjects choosing science courses for their perceived coolness and future job security. 

Masami Iwata, a Japanese sociologist and professor emeritus at Japan Women’s University, stated that while the current attempt to increase female STEM students could be seen as groundbreaking, it was likely driven by industry demand rather than a desire for gender equality within academia. She cited the 2018 Tokyo Medical University incident, where the institution favoured male applicants in admissions, as an example of the country's gender inequality problem.

According to Akira Mori, a professor at the Research Centre for Advanced Science and Technology, University of Tokyo, the changes made by Japanese universities towards increasing the number of female students are likely due to the "increasing demands from other nations" putting pressure on Japan to improve in terms of gender issues.

Although he shares scepticism about the motivations behind these changes and doubts the seriousness of senior male politicians on gender issues, he believes that the intention to help under-represented groups and those busy with family responsibilities is well placed. If the effort is truly realised, it would not only increase the number of female students but also signal a shift towards a more inclusive society.


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