I recently blogged about the situation in Japan. One of my friend’s wrote this piece in a private email. I persuaded her to let me post it here… I thought it was an interesting piece of writing on the situation in Japan from Michael J. Mullgrew who has been there for quite some time and has enjoyed a more than spectator’s view of the changing dynamics of Japan’s political and economic situation. In an email to me, he wrote:
It has been predicted that about 30% of Japanese universities will go to the wall in the next few years – and I can see the women’s university where I am employed as being one of them. I don’t know if you’ve been watching the news about what is happening to the conservatives in government here, but they are kind of a cliche for what is happening all over the country – a lot of corruption, fraud and just generally people getting caught with too many fingers in the pie – of course none of this is new – but the bottom line is that the public are slightly less than delighted with the governance of the neo-conservatives/fascists.
What we’re looking at is less than academically active departments in ‘bottom feeder mode’ to encourage enough students to apply – and as there is an ever declining student population, I don’t see that as a situation which can be turned around. What it means is departments being reinvented (but no new hiring), and an attempt to do circus performance tricks to entice the population. Naturally, the lack of real external evaluation in higher ed means the whole thing gets more and more wobbly, and the unemployment rate of graduates continues to rise (though the real figures are unknown because many graduates take part-time jobs ‘freeters’ until they find regular employment – then after a couple of years they are once again looking for a job). Not exactly convincing for the general public who fork out a great deal of money to put their children through higher education, only to have them ‘resting at home’ semi-permanently.
Statistics show that the Liberal Arts colleges are now accepting students with an average English language ability of those in junior high school here (one notch up on false beginners) – it has always been this way in Japan, but somehow it is more depressing when we understand the management side of things. And I’m kind of convinced that working in an environment where the contribution of foreign teachers is appreciated, rather than allocated the ‘ra-ra’ chorus for the main act would be a better option – especially for those committed to careers in EFL.
It’s anyone’s guess where the future is going, if dynamic young people insist on proportional representation in their workplace (and in the wider society) then we may see a brighter future than the one I envisage controlled as it is, at the moment, by ‘the Old Guard.” Mandatory retirement at 55 for all those professors not actively publishing (in print or on the web) or participating in academic conferences (enough already!) – and the administration of general university affairs can be done most effectively by the central university office staff.
PS. This post was edited to add the author’s name.