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The Japan Association for Language Teaching
PALE 特別分科会
Journal of Professional Issues
Professionalism, Administration and
Leadership in Education
Special Interest Group (SIG)

Volume 6 Number 1 Spring 2000
The Japan Association for Language Teaching (JALT)
Professionalism, Administration and Leadership in Education (PALE)
Special Interest Group


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Editor's Note





IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT: PALE now has a discussion mailing list so that people can be updated and contribute in real time. To subscribe, visit, or email To post messages to the list, email, and to read message archives, see

Editor's Note

As always, I will open with a "welcome to the latest issue of The PALE Journal", and as always, I will make an apology. Your editor has developed a nasty habit of taking on too many projects and then ruthlessly prioritizing and backburnering. That's what happened to this issue. We at PALE will be doing our best to fulfill the promise of three fat issues a year, but bear in mind that due to time and budgeting concerns, every now and again we may have to settle for a website issue instead of a print version.

Now for the next habit: A Journal editorial on signs of the times. If readers are following the media both in and on Japan, there has been a perceptible shift towards seeing non-Japanese as a social bane, rather than the labor-force and taxpaying boon that they are. Miwa Lock advertisements in February created fear of "foreign crime gangs" to hawk its security systems (, private enterprises in Hokkaido and Shizuoka have excluded foreign patrons for up to six years now (, police reports on the "quick rise" in crimes by foreigners were reported in newspapers (Sankei Shinbun, May 1, 2000, Front Page) with no statistical comparison with crimes by Japanese, and even an April 9 speech by Tokyo Governor Ishihara alerted the Self-Defense Forces to potential riots by "illegal foreigners who repeat atrocious crimes" (Japanese: 外国人の凶悪な犯罪が繰り返されており) in the event of a natural disaster--despite diametrically-opposed historical precedent. Developments like these make our unflagging coverage of discrimination by nationality in one sector of Japanese society--education and academia--almost pale in comparison, pardon the pun.

However, there are silver linings. People--Japanese and non-Japanese both--have not been silent on these matters, and the domestic and international press (including the New York Times) has reported in turn on these events for the record (see Issho BENCI website above). Your editor is proud to be personally involved in promoting awareness of one of the issues (exclusionary private enterprises), and happily adds that the growing website archives on academic discrimination from PALE ( and NPO Issho Kikaku ( have likewise been noticed internationally. There is much work to be done, and as always PALE is doing what it can to contribute to the creation of a more equitable academic job market regardless of nationality.

So let's get started. We kick off this issue with an article from Bern Mulvey, on recent develop-ments at the National University level: "Dokuritsu Gyousei Houjinka", proclaimed by the Japanese mass media as a move towards "privatizing" bureaucratic institutions, has the downside of proposing reforms so dramatic they invite abuses of authority. Admittedly, the controversy elicited is heartwarming to PALE (constantly derided for not taking "a Japanese approach" towards addressing unfair employment disputes), because once the shoe is on the other foot, it becomes clear that Japanese educators also resort to the same arguments and tactics (if not even more so) as the non-Japanese to protect their livelihoods.

On that subject, this issue we update cases previously covered by PALE which are still on appeal: The Gallagher Case in Asahikawa University (She lost her appeal in February in a irresponsible decision based upon, inter alia, educator freshness lost by marital status and length of stay in Japan. This not only goes against Japan's Labor Standards Law, but also has odious ramifications for the job security of all long-term educators in Japan.), The Prefectural University of Kumamoto Case (In April, the two teachers dismissed in 1999 without legally-tenable cause officially lost their jobs. They are taking the case to the courts, instead of labor-board mediators, for an injunction), and The van Dresser Case in Miyazaki Women's Junior College (In a provisional disposition (karishobun), the judge ruled this an unfair dismissal without cause, but the university has appealed and snarled the case up in the courts.).

Then we turn to reprocussions. Joe Tomei also talks about the future of National Universities, but in terms of effects: Schools which keep foreigners disposable and indifferent towards the welfare of curricula will have competitive educational disadvantages in future. Last is a brief by the AP on the damage done--Japan's ignoble position as laggard in TOEFL measurements of English language abililty.

As we at PALE continuously state, the systematic treatment of non-Japanese as second-class educators does nobody any good, least of all Japan. Now it becomes clear to the world that this treatment of foreigners and their lack of protection by the law are not only in matters of employment.

Internationalizing and aging Japan is again at a crossroads. The PALE Journal will continue its habit of keeping concerned educators regardless of nationality posted on domestic developments, in hopes that Japanese society will break one of its own bad habits--of keeping extranationals disenfranchised.

Dave Aldwinckle, PALE Journal Editor

By Bern Mulvey, Associate Professor, Fukui University

This past summer, the Japanese government made public the specific details (and proposed timetable) of its plans to reform the National University (Kokuritsu Daigaku) system. Referred to in Japanese as "Dokuritsu Gyousei Houjinka" (独立行政法人化--literally "Autonomous Administrative Managementizing") and/or "Dokuritsu Gyousei Houjin Tsuuzoku Hou," these reforms would result in sweeping changes to the way National Universities are organized and administered. Indeed, if fully implemented, these proposals would effectively end the privileged status of these institutions, placing them under the care of overseers with broad powers -- including the ability to cut funding to wayward schools and/or remove ineffective teachers.

As is perhaps to have been expected, the government's proposals have sparked strong negative reactions from faculty and administrators throughout Japan. Over one hundred anti-reform webpages have sprung up on the internet, while protests of the more traditional variety have occurred (according to documents distributed at the Zengaku Setsumeikai held at Phoenix Plaza in Fukui on October 22) at every National University in this country. Furthermore, while the manner and virulency of this opposition varies by institution, it is becoming increasingly apparent that these protests are neither isolated incidents nor aberrations; on the contrary, and in fascinating contrast to the commonly-held conception that Japanese seek to avoid confrontation at all cost, it is clear that many National University faculty members and administrators have joined together into an increasingly organized protest movement, the goals, strategies, and actions of which are becoming more and more confrontational.

The issues involved in this debate will have a direct impact on all teachers, foreign and Japanese, working at National Universities in Japan. This paper provides a summary in English of the proposed reforms and examines the reasons behind the opposition of many Japanese National University employees to their implementation. It also analyzes the methods of protest being employed in an attempt to gain a better understanding of the endlessly-promulgated but never defined (see Dillon, 1997; Johnson and Sower, 1996, etc.) "Japanese method of doing things" -- the alleged ignorance of which having long been a lightning rod for criticism of PALE SIG activism.

What Exactly Are The "Dokuritsu Gyousei Houjinka" Reforms?1
Beginning as early as the spring of 2001,2 each National University will become "independent" (hence the use of the term "dokuritsu"). In other words, they will no longer be directly under the thumb of Monbusho, gaining greater say in, for instance, setting curriculum and deciding areas of specialization.3 However, this new-found independence will come at a stiff price: each university will still be administered by someone with ties to the Japanese government, in this case a manager (referred to as "houjin no chou") to be chosen by an as yet unnamed cabinet minister. Furthermore, a national advisory committee (with the somewhat Orwellian-sounding name of "Hyouka I-In Kai" or "standards committee") will also be established at this time, with the responsibility of evaluating both the performance of these various managers and the institutions under their control.

These university managers will in a sense replace the gakuchou (school president) at each university. They will have both greater powers and more duties than the current gakuchou, including the responsibility for, among other things ensuring a more "results orientated efficiency" (kouritsuteki katsu koukateki ni)4 in the running of the institutions under their control. Indeed, the government's desired emphasis on efficiency (and hence a better return on its financial investment) is readily apparent through even a cursory examination of the Dokuritsu Gyousei Houjin Tsuusoku Houan -- the Japanese term "kouritsu" (efficiency) is repeated therein no less than 20 times in the 7-page document.

However, by far the most important responsibility of these university managers will be their ensuring that the institutions under their control satisfy mid-term goals (chuuki mokuhyou) set for them by the cabinet minister after consultation with the standards committee. Specifically, universities will be asked to produce 3- or 5-year plans for achieving improvements in the following areas (condensed to three categories below for sake of brevity):

1) education and research5
2) community service
3) spending

(by far the longest section, with many sub-categories denoting specific areas to be improved)

and then achieve tangible results in a cost-effective manner. Performance with respect to the above objectives will be evaluated at the end of each 3-5 year period by both the standards committee and the cabinet minister, who will take appropriate action (shoyou no sochi wo kouzuru) where necessary, including possibly issuing direct orders for change (henka meirei).6

This idea of greater accountability -- i.e., requiring universities to satisfy mid-term (i.e., 3-5 year) achievement objectives in order to avoid possible penalties -- is a central element of the proposed reforms. As delineated quite clearly in the introductory sections of the proposals, Monbusho is hoping that the implementation of these periodic checks will help stimulate universities towards a renewed commitment to world-class research (seikaiteki suijun no kyouiku kenkyuu wo tenkai suru), as well as prod them to be more cost-effective and results-orientated (kouritsu teki katsu kekka teki ni okonawaseru koto) in their efforts.7 While the exact form any punitive actions might take for noncompliance is still under discussion, some of the possibilities suggested so far -- including the power to fine (and even terminate) employees and/or cut funding to schools8 -- would mean a sharp broadening of the government's powers vis-a-vis the various National Universities. Indeed, despite Monbusho's assurances that any actions taken would seek to respect the newly granted "independence" of each institution (kaku daigaku no jishuusei/jiritsusei ni toku ni hairyo suru), the Jokoukai Nyu-su and the Dai Ichi Jouichi I-In Kai predict that both funding and faculty cuts are likely (okonawareru koto ha yousou sare you) under these new provisions, along with other dire consequences for those universities judged in need of change.9 Finally, the determination of individual teacher salaries, heretofore solely a factor of age, will under these new laws also take into account the skills, duties, and accomplishments of each employee as well. Individuals judged as not producing adequately -- even if they can avoid job termination -- will still face the possibility of lower salaries and/or decreased opportunities for promotion as compared to their more productive colleagues.10

In many ways, the proposed changes delineated above mirror similar reforms already enacted in Britain and in Australia. The motives -- i.e., the Japanese government's desire to control university spending and gain a greater say in personnel decisions -- behind these new proposals are similar as well. In exchange for greater freedom with regards to research and curriculum development, Japan's National Universities will instead be placed under various new constraints. As careful budget maintenance becomes more and more prioritized under these new laws, faculty and administrators will be forced to become more "bottom-line" conscious, juggling research and educational priorities with the need to reduce overall costs. When one factors in the government's additional education, research, and community service objectives, the challenges posed by these new reforms should be clear.

Why Japanese Teachers and Administrators are Against These Reforms11
In order to understand the reasons for Japanese teacher and administrator opposition to these proposals, it is necessary to understand the recent historical context in which these latest guidelines were laid down. Back in 1997, Monbusho announced that, because of the low national birthrate (and resultant decrease in the number of applicants for university entrance), it would seek a 10% reduction in the number of full-time faculty over a ten year period beginning in 2001. This directive initially met with resistance, but once it was realized that these reductions could be carried out without mass-firings (i.e., through natural attrition as Japan's aging faculty finally begin to retire over these next ten years), these new policies were reluctantly accepted.

However, in the summer of 1999, Prime Minister Obuchi announced that he would prefer to see an additional 20% reduction (i.e., on top of the initial 10%) to the faculty workforce over this same ten-year period. Moreover, his cabinet recently came out with an even more drastic call for a 35% (total) reduction -- i.e., far more than could possibly be satisfied by natural attrition. In other words, suddenly Japan's National University professors and administrators are being confronted with something most of them thought they would never face in their lifetimes: the possibility of layoffs and even mass-terminations. As the Jokoukai Nyu-su (Mori, 1999, p. 2) asks, what will happen to their rights (to guaranteed raises, lifetime employment, etc.) as national employees?

Given this background, it is easy to understand the opposition to these latest proposals. Below is a summary of the most important objections:

1) As written, the proposals will drastically reduce the independence of National Universities, as well as deaden creativity and effectively end regional specialization. Indeed, note Japanese educators, despite the use of "independence" in the title to the reforms, and despite the government's stated commitment to nurturing and promoting greater school and research independence and autonomy (daigaku no kyouiku no jishuusei to jiritsusei wo tanpou suru), the final result will be an education system where all must bow to the authority of government overseers -- not to mention a standards committee and, ultimately, a cabinet minister. Furthermore, because all National Universities will have to satisfy mid-term goals set by the cabinet minister and/or the standards committee, these institutions will, in effect, have to give up their independence and individuality in order to survive.

2) What exactly is to be the composition of the so-called standards committee? In other words, who will be entrusted with the all-important power to judge the institutions? Also, with regards to these judgements, will the universities in question be allowed feedback into the process? Indeed, considering the somewhat vague nature of the goals proposed (How does one evaluate success in meeting the needs of a community?), what is to prevent the committee from using this ambiguity against the universities (e.g., as an excuse to hasten faculty reductions)?

3) Regarding the mid-term objectives -- why are so many of them non-education and/or non-research-related? Also, how realistic is it to expect institutions of higher learning to satisfy short- and mid-term "efficiency" goals anyway? Aren't such goals antithetical to education and research, the fruits of which are often not recognizable outside the long-term, if at all?

4) Regarding the selection of the university managers (houjin no chou) -- why is experience in education not listed as an essential prerequisite for hiring? As now written, only "superior knowledge and experience in management" (Jimuu to jigyou ni kansuru koudona chishiki to keiken wo yuusuru mono), as well as the ability to run an institution properly and efficiently (jimuu to jigyou wo tekisei to kouritsu teki ni unei dekiru mono), are considered necessary. How can a person lacking experience in education possibly understand the needs of educators and/or run a university successfully?

Indeed, if there is a common thread to the above objections, it is the shared distrust in the government's intentions. If these new proposals become law, ask many Japanese faculty and administrators, what will happen to their traditional privileges as Japanese national-level public servants (under the Roudou Jouken Kanren Kitei and the Koukka Koumuin Hou)? Are not these "reforms" just an excuse for the government to close poorly attended schools and/or fire unneeded instructors?

How The Universities are Resisting These Reforms
In response to the government's proposals, National Universities in Japan have formed various study groups (such as the ponderously named "Dokuritsu Gyousei Houjinka Mondai ni Kansuru Kentou Sho I-In Kai") researching ways to best resist the proposed reforms. Meetings between different regional groups (such as the one in Fukui in October) have also been held, at first secretly (out of fear of retribution -- see Dai Ichi Jouchi I-In Kai, 1999a, pp. 1-3), and more recently openly to discuss opposition to these reforms. Actions taken so far include disrupting important events with posters and flyers, holding public rallies (complete with speeches) on campus, conducting fund-raising on campus for an aggressive ad campaign (to be launched in the spring of 2000), and delivering flyers and giving anti-reform lectures to students at the beginning of classes.

The protests can be extremely confrontational. At Fukui University, on "Open Campus Day" (a day when parents and young children are invited onto campus to attend various exhibits and activities designed to show the university in the best light possible), hundreds of gaudily colored posters were plastered to walls, trees, windows demanding the rescinding of the dokuritsuhou reforms. In November, preparations for the 50th anniversary of the founding of Fukui University were disrupted by the placing of huge banners in protest of the reforms, announcing the faculty's resolve to resist their implementation (these banners remained up throughout the 5-day celebration). Requests for money and/or notices announcing additional meetings regarding this issue appear in boxes of the Japanese faculty twice a month. Finding anti-reform flyers strewn about (obviously distributed to students by the preceding instructor) as one enters one's classroom is not unusual, nor is it unusual to hear a loud speech (delivered by microphone from directly outside the school cafeteria) through one's office window.

Ironically, a major slogan of the Japanese protestors is one that will seem very familiar to most foreign readers of this article: the inhumanity of placing people on a short-term contract system where workers may be abruptly terminated -- regardless of performance -- at the end of a fixed contract period. The unfairness of such a system is emphasized repeatedly. A poster hung up on Open Campus Day in Fukui, for instance, suggests that this would be akin to treating people like animals or like garbage. Another asks about the long-term effects of this type of system on educational quality, suggesting that resultant job insecurity -- not to mention the inevitable staff turnover -- would invariably disrupt the formation of student-teacher relationships, as well as put a cap on curriculum development. As many readers will note, this is what PALE activists have been arguing all along, only to be told how selfish and/or how "un-Japanese" their arguments were; how ironic it is, indeed, that our Japanese colleagues, when faced with the possibility of similar constraints, have responded with these same arguments.

Ramifications -- and Opportunities -- for Foreign Faculty
Perhaps in anticipation of faculty and administrative protests, the Japanese government recently moved up the desired starting date for these proposed reforms. Originally scheduled to begin April 2003, some of these new directives may be instituted as early as April 2001, with the time allocated to the various National Universities to raise objections and/or come up with counter-proposals being correspondingly shortened as well. Indeed, according to Joukoukai Nyu-su, the Japanese government hopes to end all debate on this issue by the summer of the year 2000 (Mori, 1999, p. 1).

Considering the nature and extent of protests so far, whether the Japanese government will get its way in this or not is still unclear. However, for foreign faculty, the years 2001 and 2003 stand out as being especially important. Regular full-time employees (e.g., sennin koushi, jokyoujuu, etc.) whose contracts (or visa renewals) come up in either of these two years face a stronger than usual possibility of non-renewal, as their terminations would count towards the 10-35% faculty-cuts sought by both Monbusho and Prime Minister Obuchi's cabinet. Moreover, due to these cutbacks, National University-level full-time positions for foreigners -- already at a premium -- will necessarily become even scarcer; in other words, those who lose their jobs will have an even harder time than usual finding new employment elsewhere.

Gaikokujin kyoushi, historically immune to these kind of issues (they are not considered full-time faculty, so their termination would not count toward the required faculty cuts), have their own problems. Already at some schools, they are being asked to take pay cuts (at Fukui University, almost 15%), as well as accept greater administrative scrutiny over the usage of their already meager (usually less than half that of "regular" faculty) research allowances. Considering the government's emphasis on greater financial restraint and/or spending efficiency, this trend will only continue. Hence, the biggest selling point -- the comparatively high salaries -- to this position notoriously lacking (with its standard one-month notice termination provisions and no retirement benefits) in long-term prospects and job security would appear to have been removed.

Still, while these proposed new laws would severely impact upon Japanese and (to a lesser extent) foreign employees at all National Universities in Japan, it is difficult to argue against their necessity. In eleven years of experience in Japan, this author has seen reform-minded schools (names -- there are several -- have been omitted) hamstrung by their inability to terminate teachers (including one memorable case where a teacher had been absent from class for over 10 years after being institutionalized for schizophrenia). This author has seen teachers who consistently fail to show up for classes, who pad their research records by plagiarizing (including one individual who copied an essay I'd read in high school and submitted it as his own work!) or by having their names attached to studies in which they'd never participated (a Chinese student at one school I've worked at once came to me with a paper he'd written in English which had the names of 11 Japanese faculty -- none of whom had assisted or even met the author -- attached to it as co-authors), and who use government funds for dubious research purposes (only to return with extensive picture travelogues depicting their various overseas adventures).

These people are, of course, exceptions. By far the majority of faculty (whether they be Japanese or non-Japanese) and staff at Japanese universities are extremely diligent and professional, passionately committed to helping their students and working with them towards a better future for the Japanese people. However, the problem remains that, as the laws stand now, there is little the government can do regarding those few malingerers whose presence saps both the financial resources and the morale of the universities in question. The reforms proposed would change this situation, forcing universities to become more budget-conscious and results-orientated in the process. Indeed, if anything, the implementation of these reforms would result in a more level playing field, for Japanese professors would, for the first time, be placed under the same constraints, and receive the same level of scrutiny, that foreign professors now receive as a matter of course. While the current proposals as now written place perhaps too much emphasis on budgetary concerns (expecting National Universities to turn themselves overnight into profit-orientated businesses is unrealistic) to be ideal, they represent a good first-step towards finding a solution to the problems described above.

Considering the resistance of many Japanese nationals to the government's proposed reforms, an opportunity would also seem to exist: could not we (foreigners and Japanese nationals) work together in order to achieve a more balanced deal with the government, thereby improving long-term prospects for everyone? Movement towards the recognition of this opportunity is apparent on the Japanese side. For example, in a meeting regarding the Dokuritsu reforms held between the "LDP Educational Reform Research Group" (Jimintou no Kyouiku Kaikaku Jisshi Honbu no Kenkyuu Chi-mu) and an action group made up of former National University presidents, one of the few areas of agreement was that employment conditions between Japanese nationals and foreigners should be made the same (Fukui Shinbun, February 25, 2000). Specifically, both sides agreed that hiring foreign faculty under conditions inferior to their Japanese counterparts is both counterproductive to workplace unity and hamstringing efforts to get (and keep) high quality foreign employees.

Will foreigners living in Japan be able to make anything of this opportunity? Certainly, the answer to this depends on whether they will be able to put aside their differences and work together for a common cause; recent history does not suggest this will be possible. Too often, foreigners let internal divisions prevent them from forming a united front even in defense of their common interests. Moreover, there is the attitude of "If I don't rock the boat, maybe I will be different" among many foreigners living in Japan, a belief egged on and excused by the perpetuation of certain myths of cultural difference (see Dillon, 1997; Johnson & Sower, 1996; for examples of this phenomenon). And while one can only shake one's head at the irony of the growing list of long-time advocates of non-confrontational, so-called "Japanese approaches" to solving labor issues who ended up suing their former universities for unfair termination, the net result is that nothing is done in a united fashion.

Bottom line: many long-term foreigners here -- whether because of age, marriage and/or family situation, etc. -- cannot easily pack up and return to their own countries. For better or for worse, they are Japanese in all but name and blood. Some are experienced and professional about what they do; some, however, are not. The travesty is that all, professional and unprofessional alike, are treated the same: e.g., no job security, broken contracts and promises, lack of retirement benefits, etc. This is the current situation. Now, as residents of Japan, should not we set about continuing to redress these issues in what is now clearly also a Japanese fashion?


Thanks go to Minashima Hiroshi, Tachi Kiyotaka, and Mulvey Eiko for checking my Japanese, and to Charles Jannuzi for looking over my English. All mistakes are my own.

1. The discussion in the following sections is a distillation of information from the following sources: "Dokuritsu Gyousei Houjin Tsuusoku Houan," "Kokuritsu Daigaku no Dokuritsu Gyousei Houjinka ni Tsuite," and "Kokuritsu Daigaku no Dokuritsu Gyousei Houjinka no Kentou no Houkou" (all three from Monbusho), "Kokuritsu Daigaku no Dokuritsu Gyousei Houjinka Mondai ni Kansuru Zengaku Setsumeikai no Kansei ni Tsuite" and "Dokuritsu Gyousei Houjinka Mondai ni Kansuru Iken Oyobi Shitsumon" (both handouts prepared and distributed by the Dai Ichi Jouchi I-Inkai), and "Dokuritsu Gyousei Houjinka ni Hantai Suru" (Jokoukai Nyu-su [faculty newsletter]). To avoid the readability problems associated with multiple citations for each sentence, specific citations are included only for points where there is some disagreement among these 6 sources.

2. See Jokoukai Nyu-su, p. 1.

3. Monbushou (1999a), dai 1 jou (2), dai 3 jou (3), dai 5 jou, dai 8 jou (2); Monbushou (1999b), p. 3; Monbushou (1999c), p. 1.

4. Monbushou (1999a), dai 2 jou. See also, dai 14-26 jou for a more detailed description of responsibilities.

5. Interestingly, there is no direct mention of research- and/or education-orientated goals in the original Hoan (an oversight which has led to its criticism B see Jokoukai Nyu-su, pg. 1; Dai Ichi Jouichi I-In Kai 1999a, 1999b). The supplementary documents later provided by Monbushou (Monbushou [b] and Monbushou [c]) redress this oversight.

6. Monbushou (1999c), pg. 4. See also, Monbushou (1999a), dai 34-35 jou.

7. Monbushou (1999b), pg. 2; Monbusho (1999a), dai 1 jou (2).

8. Monbushou (1999a), dai 23 jou (2), #1 & 2; dai 46 jou; dai 66 jou; Monbushou (1999c), pp. 6-9.

9. Jokoukai Nyu-su, p. 1; Dokuritsu Gyousei Houjinka Mondai ni Kansuru Iken Oyobi Shitsumon, pp. 1-7.

10. Monbushou (1999a), dai 57, 59 jou; Monbushou (1999b), p. 4.

11. The following discussion is a distillation of arguments presented in the following: "Kokuritsu Daigaku no Dokuritsu Gyousei Houjinka Mondai ni Kansuru Zengaku Setsumeikai no Kansei ni Tsuite" and "Dokuritsu Gyousei Houjinka Mondai ni Kansuru Iken Oyobi Shitsumon" (both handouts prepared and distributed by the Dai Ichi Jouchi I-Inkai), and "Dokuritsu Gyousei Houjinka ni Hantai Suru" (Jokoukai Nyu-su [faculty newsletter]).

Dai Ichi Jouichi I-In Kai. (1999a). Koukuritsu daigaku no dokuritsu gyousei houjinka mondai ni kansuru zengaku setsumeikai no kaisai ni tsuite (About the all-university meeting regarding National Universities and the concerns they have with the dokuritsu gyousei houjinka). Handout.

Dai Ichi Jouichi I-In Kai. (1999b). Dokuritsu gyousei houjinka mondai ni kansuru iken oyobi shitsumon (Opinions and questions regarding problems with the dokuritsu gyousei houjinka). Handout.

Dillon, Ken. (1997). Acceptance. The Language teacher, 21 (9), 107.

'Kokuritsudai Houjin' mo kentou. (Another look at the 'National University managers'). Fukui Shinbun, February 25, 2000, p. 3.

Johnson, K. and C. Sower. (1996). Job hunting in Japan: Cross-cultural issues. The Language Teacher, 20 (12), 26-29.

Monbushou. (1999a). Dokuritsu gyousei houjin tsuzoku hoan (The dokuritsu gyousei houjin amendment proposals). Explanatory mailer provided to all universities by Monbushou.

Monbushou. (1999b). Kokuritsu daigaku no dokuritsu gyousei houjinka ni tsuite (About National Universities and the dokuritsu gyousei houjinka). Explanatory mailer provided to all National University employees by Monbushou.

Monbushou. (1999c). Kokuritsu daigaku no dokuritsu gyousei houjinka no kentou no houkou (The dokuritsu gyousei houjinka at the National Universities: An examination of directions). Explanatory mailer provided to all National University employees by Monbushou.

Mori, Touru. (1999). Dokuritsu gyousei houjinka ni hantai suru (Opposing the dokuritsu gyousei houjinka). Joukoukai Nyu-su, 4, 1-2.

Bern Mulvey is an Associate Professor at Fukui University.

(for more background, see PALE Journal August 1998 at
By Joseph Tomei and other concerned parties

(NB: This letter appeared in the May 2000 issue of JALT's The Language Teacher as a paid advertisement, but for the sake of follow-through on past reporting, the PALE Journal hereby reprints it for the record.)

An Open Letter of Protest
Concerning the Asahikawa District Court decision in the Gwendolyn Gallagher Case

On February 1st, 2000, a ruling against a foreign teacher, Gwendolyn Gallagher, was issued that could have ramifications not only for all language teachers in Japan, but also for the educational system of Japan.

In March 1996, Professor Gallagher was dismissed from her job as full-time lecturer, despite having worked 12 years without incident or complaint. Though legal precedent based on the Labor Standards Law requires employers to give adequate and justifiable reasons for dismissal, the university gave no official or unofficial reason for her dismissal. In response, Ms. Gallagher took the university to court, demanding that she be reinstated.

In December 1996, the court issued an injunction and in March 1997, a settlement was reached where the university would continue to re-employ her and pay back wages. As a gesture of reconciliation, Ms. Gallagher waived demands for monetary damages or reimbursement of legal fees.

At the end of this subsequent year of employment, the university refused to renew her contract, falsely claiming that the settlement made the contract a terminal one. She then took the university to court again.

In this second lawsuit, the university did present reasons which the judge accepted, quoting the following:

"As the plaintiff has been living in Japan for about 14 years and is also married to a Japanese, she lacked the ability to introduce firsthand foreign culture found overseas, as is required of a teacher of level 3 classes ."

The judgement shows how arbitrary dismissals of foreigners can take place despite:

i) the long standing Japanese legal precedent that multiple renewals of contract constitute a binding agreement between the parties which cannot be broken without a valid reason

ii) Japan's signatory status to the International Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD)

We believe in this case no valid reason was produced for firing Gwendolyn Gallagher and that the university unfairly took advantage of its discriminatory hiring practice to dismiss a foreigner, which constitutes a breach of human rights.

We also feel that the accepting the university's reasoning completely contradicts not only to the expressly stated goals of the Ministry of Education, but also the basis of good language education.

In addition, it does great damage to Japan's efforts to attract talented foreigners to Japan and to improve the status of women in the workplace. Indeed, it runs counter to the goals expressed in the report of the Prime Minister's Commission on Japan's Goals in the 21st Century, which argue specifically for improving the status of women, opening a debate on making English as a second official language in Japan over time as well as calling for a permanent residence system to "encourage foreigners who can be expected to contribute to the development of Japanese society to move in and possibly take up permanent residence here." (from )

This decision should be recognized as:

We alert our Japanese and expatriate colleagues to the crippling precedent set by this case, which in effect makes all our jobs hostage to the whims of our administrators. While it is no coincidence that a foreign resident is the target of this decision, such a precedent will surely be employed to harass, punish, and discard 'inconvenient' native Japanese colleagues as well.

You can help by doing the following:

--Add your name to this letter by contacting
--Bring this matter to the attention of your colleagues and encourage them to add their voice in support of Professor Gallagher

The list of names is being maintained at

グウェン・ギャラガー裁判における旭川地裁の判決に関する公 開抗議質問状


 また、大学側の主張を認めることは、文部省が明確に掲げている目的に反するだけではなく、健全な言語教育の基本にも矛盾するものであると思われる。加えて、日本が才能溢れる外国人を日本へ招こうとする努力や職場での女性の地位向上のための努力に多大な悪影響を与える。実際、それは、政府首相の21世紀日本の構想の報告に述べられている目標にも反するものである。21世紀日本の構想では女性の地位向上や英語を第二公用語としていくかどうかの検討をはじめること、また永住権のシステムを導入し、「外国人が日本に住み、働いてみたいと思うような「移民政策」が求められる。当面、日本社会の発展への寄与を期待できる外国人の移住・永住を促進する明示的な移住・永住制度を設けるべき。 」( ) などの事柄が議論されている。



 1) にメールを送り、この手紙にあなたの署名を加えて下さい。

NB: Dave Aldwinckle has a website concerning this case at On the same page can be found a rebuttal by one of Asahikawa University's unions (now disbanded), a response by David Aldwinckle, as well as pegs of Asahikawa University's original affadavit, jpegs of relevant portions of the judge's ruling (in Japanese), a brief message from Gwen concerning this second dismissal. In addition, an email exchange on the problematic nature of AU's definition of culture between Bob March, currently a visiting lecturer at the University of New South Wales, and Gwen Gallagher, may also be found at gwen/margal.htm

Joseph Tomei is a tenured Assistant Professor at the Department of Foreign Languages, Kumamoto Gakuen University.

(for more background, see PALE Journal April 1999 at
By Kirk Masden, Tenured Assistant Professor, Kumamoto Gakuen University
and then Farrell Cleary, Gaikokujin Kyouin, Prefectural University of Kumamoto

What follows is a brief summary of some points in an article published in the Kumamoto Nichinichi Newspaper (Feb. 24, 2000):

On the 23rd of this month (February 2000) two foreign teachers at the Prefectural University of Kumamoto were told that their employment will end in March. They were also told that they would have to vacate their (university-owned) apartments. On the same day, the teachers sent a formal document calling for stable employment and the revocation of the demand to vacate their apartments.

The battle is expected to continue in the courts, with the teachers filing suit against the university.

The entire article (in Japanese) can be read at kiji1_0000001567.html, and we reproduce it here for the record:

県、打ち切り通告 県立大学の任用更新問題


A very important point, which doesn't come out clearly enough in the article, is that the university has attempted, on the one hand, to use the two teachers as full-time (_sennin_) staff, even sending documents to the Ministry of Education declairing them to be full-time (_sennin_), while, on the other hand, arguing that they can dismiss the teachers whenever they like because they are "part time." I don't think the university should be allowed tohave it both ways. They have declaired the teachers to be _sennin_, they have had them do _sennin_ work, so they should treat them as _sennin_. (In Japan, _sennin_ faculty cannot be fired unless they have made some serious mistake. The university is not claiming that the teachers have done anything wrong. They are just saying "We don't need you any more.")

This, I think, is the problem in an nutshell. If you want to know more, a wealth of information is available from the homepages (which I am doing my best to maintain) of the supporters of the teachers. Here are their addresses: (English) (Japanese)

Also, I think the following summary by Farrell Cleary is very helpful:


"Unlike their Japanese colleagues, all of the _senninkyouin_ foreign teachers have limited employment terms. Moreover, many of the full-time (_senninkyouin_) foreign teachers (eight out of thirteen in 1997) had been employed as Special Part-Time Irregular Foreign Teachers. Employing full-time teachers on part-time contracts is of course contradictory. [The Ministry of Education has since confirmed this.] None of the full-time (senninkyouin) Japanese teachers at the Prefectural University of Kumamoto are employed in this way. The teachers formed the Kumamoto General Union and submitted claims to the University and Kumamoto Prefecture in July 1997, asking for an end to the discriminatory practices, and for all the full-time foreign teachers to be employed in the same way as their full-time Japanese colleagues.

"Formal negotiations between the Union and the Prefectural University began in October 1997, and continued until broken off by the President of the University, Dr. Teshima Takashi, in February 1998. The University rejected all demands, repeating only that their employment practices were 'appropriate' (_tekitou_). The President said that this was a problem concerning appointment, and that it was a management matter which could not be the subject of negotiations. The University then imposed worse contracts on the Special, Part-Time, Irregular Foreign Teachers in an apparent attempt to crush the Union.

"The University and Prefecture refused repeated requests for negotiations and the union staged a one-day strike in June 1998. Rather than talk, the University then decided to get get rid of the problem by getting rid of both the contentious posts and the teachers filling them. All six teachers working on the one year contracts were given notice that their contracts would not be renewed at the end of March, 1999. As a result of a strong campaign of support for the teachers by their support group and union and fortuitous personnel decisions by Faculty hiring committees, five of the six were rehired in April 1999, three on three-year foreign staff contracts and two on the old, one-year contracts. (One had left for work at another university.)

"Promises of further talks made during a settlement brokered by the Regional Labour Commission have borne no fruit and the University has remained adamant that it reemployed the two teachers for one year, and one year only. The University has spurned opportunities to re-hire the two teachers, Cynthia Worthington and Sandra Mitchell, who are the President and Vice-President respectively of their union, the Kumamoto General Union.

"As of April 1, 2000, the two teachers are officially unemployed and are living off their savings. They are seeking a fast-track court injunction from the courts to help resolve this dispute.

Kirk Masden is a tenured Assistant Professor at private-sector Kumamoto Gakuin University.

Farrell Cleary
is a gaikokujin kyouin on a three-year contract at the Prefectural University of Kumamoto, having been rehired from his old position as a Special Part-Time Irregular Foreign Teacher in April 1999.

By Steve van Dresser
Miyazaki, December 23, 1999

I'll say the good news right away. We won the first round of our case against Miyazaki Educational Institution. The "karishobun" ruling went in our favor. On all matters of fact, the court saw things our way. On matters of law, we have a way yet to go. We go for the main court case within the next couple of weeks. For a few more details, check out my home page:

Masako and I are enjoying a three week vacation at our home in Miyazaki. We have spent the past three months in the town of Yamato Machi in Niigata Prefecture in northern Japan. I have been working as a Visiting Professor at the International University of Japan.

Meanwhile, the case over my dismissal this past spring has posted its first results. We won the first round. The Miyazaki District Court has ruled on several matters of fact in the preliminary hearings seeking temporary support. In the first ruling, the judge has found that I have continuing rights as an employee of the school. The court ordered the school to pay 100,000 yen per month from December, 1999 to March, 2000. The school also is ordered to pay all my legal expenses, to date. The court also found that allegations made by the school challenging my credentials were spurious. The court agrees with our position that I had not agreed to be dismissed and had a reasonable expectation of continuing employment.

The court ruled that my dismissal was not based on any objective, rational, or socially acceptable reason. The schools assertion that my dismissal was a necessary cost-saving measure was doubted. My qualifications and ability were also ruled out as a basis for dismissal.

On the other hand, the court expressed doubts over whether the school could have been prevented from forcing me to accept pay cuts or part-time employment, had they been offered to me. Although not ruling on any matter beyond the current school year, the court suggested that only the current year might be considered for any wrongdoing on the school's part since I was on a one-year contract basis and couldn't have expected to work more than one year at a time. We had been arguing on the other hand that as a continually- and repeatedly-employed contract worker, I had established some rights of tenure. This is matter to be reintroduced during the main court case which is expected to be filed within a couple of weeks.

In all points of fact over which there were disagreements between my story of what actually happened and the school's story, the court agreed with our presentation of the facts.

I would still like to see the court uphold my claim that Article 3 of the Labor Standards Law applies. That article states, "Employers are forbidden to engage in discriminatory treatment with respect to wages, working hours, or other working conditions by reason of nationality, creed, or social status of any worker." For the last four years, the renewal paragraph of my contract stated, "In view of the fact that Employee is employed as a foreign teacher by MEI, it is not contemplated that this agreement be renewed upon its completion." Since "working conditions" are defined to include such things as hiring, promotion, and dismissal, it still seems to me that the whole contract should be thrown out and I should be considered as a real person and a tenured faculty member, just like every Japanese faculty member is. I would hope to get retroactive pay and bonuses to the same level as my Japanese colleagues, as well.

Of course we are delighted with the results. The school's faculty/staff labor union which has supported me throughout was similarly pleased. It was the first legal victory of the union over the school.
Niigata, Jan 24 2000
(Courtesy of and excerpted from the Issho Kikaku Mailing List,

Some quick background. On Friday, February 5, 1999, I found a handwritten note in my mailbox from the English Department Chairman. It was scribbled on the back of an advertising flyer, and it invited me to a sayonara sushi party -- my own! Here is a brief history of what happened.

In April 1994 I began to work for Miyazaki Women's Junior College as a full-time contracted English Instructor with a one-year renewable contract. Later the same year, my wife found full-time employment at Miyazaki International College (MIC), a school belonging to the same Miyazaki Educational Institution (MEI). She was also given a one-year contract. The following year, my contract was renewed, but the language calling for renewal was deleted and replaced by an article which said that since I was a foreigner, my contract was no longer renewable. I was told that this provision was not negotiable. The new contract said that although the contract was not renewable, if it were mutually agreeable, a new contract could be agreed to in subsequent years. My wife's contract was also renewed, but it was renewed for only eight and a half months, to co-terminate with mine. Since we had just purchased a new home, a two-minute drive from our workplaces, we had little choice but to sign the new contracts.

My contract was renewed for a fourth time in February 1998, as was my wife's. I was told that my contract would not be renewed, as I have been told every year since 1995. I had also been told on prior occasions that although my contract would not be renewed, I could still get a new different agreement. I found out after I had signed, that although the English language contract was unchanged from the prior year, the Japanese contract language had been significantly changed. My wife knew that her contract had been changed, but she was told that the meaning was the same as in previous years. (She got this clarification in writing.)

My wife was told in July 1998 that she would not be renewed and she brought her case to the Regional Labor Council in January 1999. Her school's union is affiliated with Rengo, a large nationwide union. Rengo is helping her with her fight. Two weeks after my wife filed her complaint, I got my sayonara invitation.

I started with the courts, seeking a continuation of status and salary during the judicial process. My school's union is supporting me in this effort. We are both arguing that our dismissals are abusive, that is, unjustified, and they are arguing that we are leaving voluntarily at the expiration of our contracts. Although many have been dismissed before, and dozens more have left in disgust, this looks to be the first time anybody here looked them in the eye and said, "No!" Over fifty foreigners have left the Miyazaki Educational Institution schools over the past six years, mostly from the Miyazaki International College. Fewer than one fourth had planned to leave so soon when they had started.

The Miyazaki Educational Institution now claims that our dismissal was part of an overall restructuring. Somehow, the only people involved with the restructuring effort have been my wife and I. The Miyazaki District Court, in its provisional ruling, for the most part, agrees with us. The court ruled that my dismissal was not based on any objective, rational, or socially acceptable reason. The schools assertion that my dismissal was a necessary cost saving measure was doubted. My qualifications and ability were also ruled out as a basis for dismissal.

The Miyazaki Women's Junior College, where I worked, has already hired three new foreign teachers, one full-time and two part-time. Every other full-time contract teacher quit last year, and the school has replaced everyone. Even the so-called part-time teachers are teaching more classes than full-time Japanese faculty.

Our case was printed in short articles in the "Japan Times" and "Mainichi Daily News" and the Miyazaki local newspapers. My picture was flashed on Miyazaki TV. It will probably keep me from getting another full-time job anywhere, but maybe a blow can be struck for foreigner civil rights. Hopefully, I will win something, or at least the school will end up with enough in legal fees to avoid repeating their mistreatment of English teachers. I will post more as things develop.

For a brief primer on Japanese Labor Law as it relates to repeatedly renewed contract workers, check out my short paper on the subject, published December 1998 in the PALE Journal of Professional Issues ( rights)


Miyazaki, January 7, 2000, 12:00 noon

Steven van Dresser

I would much rather be at work, teaching English, than before you here today. But I didn't have that choice. A little less than one year ago, I received a handwritten memo from my Department Chairman inviting me to a Sayonara Sushi Party. I was to be a guest. What a surprise! I wasn't even given a reason. Other teachers were hired to teach my courses. My students, friends and colleagues were as surprised and shocked as I was. With their support, I brought this suit in hopes of continuing my employment and ending the unfair policies of the school.

My contract ended on March 31, 1999. On the same day, the same Miyazaki Educational Institution terminated my wife, who is Japanese, from her employment at Miyazaki International College. Her case is still being heard at the Regional Labor Council. Neither of us has been able to find more than temporary work since. Many other foreign teachers have been dismissed by the Miyazaki Educational Institution in the last six years. Most of them had to leave the country after losing their work visas and couldn't fight for justice. For various reasons, at least 50 foreign teachers have left MEI in the last 6 years, a very high number.

I was hired by the Miyazaki Educational Institution to teach English at the Women's Junior College about six years ago. I was told that the contract was renewable, the work was steady and I turned down offers from other colleges. My wife and I bought a house two minutes from campus. My wife is from Miyazaki and for most of the past 14 years I have lived in Miyazaki; it's my second hometown.

I have permanent residency. I am a good teacher. I only missed one day of classes in five years. (I was sick.) Although my employment was on one-year contracts, I had been repeatedly renewed and had worked continuously for five years. I had received no complaints about my teaching, my courses were still listed with my name in the Heisei 11 course descriptions and I had no doubt that I would continue teaching at the college until my retirement in three years. Then, suddenly, and with absolutely no justification I was dismissed.

During the time I worked at Miyazaki Women's Junior College, all full-time foreigners at the college were hired on one year contracts. On the other hand, no Japanese teachers under retirement age were hired full-time on limited term contracts. The Japanese teachers expect to work as long as they want, up to retirement age, and they do. Foreign teachers are treated like tissue paper, use once and then throw away. As a contract teacher, I taught more classes than Japanese teachers, got less pay than Japanese teachers, with no bonuses and no retirement funds.

The Miyazaki Women's Junior College doesn't treat its foreign employees fairly in its hiring and employment practices. This has not always been the case. The Founding Trustee hired foreigners on the same basis as Japanese.

The International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination calls upon every signatory nation, including Japan, "to prohibit and to eliminate racial discrimination in all its forms and to guarantee the right of everyone, without distinction as to race, color, or national or ethnic origin, to equality before the law, notably in the enjoyment of ... the rights to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favorable conditions of work, to protection against unemployment, to equal pay for equal work, to just and favorable remuneration." This is the international standard to which all developed nations are expected to conform.

As we start the new millennium, Miyazaki will be in the forefront of Japan's internationalization efforts. In a few months the Foreign Ministers of the world's most developed nations will be coming here to discuss the future. Will Japan be a leader in the free world? Or will Japan remain a first world economic powerhouse with third world attitudes towards human rights? This could be decided in Miyazaki.

I know that bringing this case to court will make it difficult for me to get a good job in the future. I never intended to be in the forefront of any battles, much less to be a martyr to the cause of promoting the internationalization of Japan. I am not here before you because I want to be here. I am here because I was given no choice. I would rather be teaching English, work I do well. Miyazaki is my home and I still want to make a living here. I can only hope that my case will bring Japan closer to a real understanding of international issues.



平成12年1月7日                  スティーヴ・ヴァンドレサー



Miyazaki, May 10, 2000

My case is now proceeding along three fronts. The original "karishobun" was submitted by the school to a further review by the Miyazaki District Court. The review sustained the findings in my favor on all important matters. The schoolhas now appealed the ruling to the Fukuoka High Court, Miyazaki Branch.

The main case is proceeding ahead slowly from its start on January 7, 2000. Witnesses for the main trial will decided on May 22; I will testify first in June or July. There were already witnesses who testified under oath at the provisional hearing and they will probably not be required to testify again. (The gakucho and his translator testified earlier. Based on their testimony and affidavits filed by lots of people, mostly on the side of the school, the provisional order was ruled in our favor.)

The third case is a new filing of a "karishobun" for continued support. The original order provided limited support through March of this year when, through a combination of unemployment insurance and a six-month temporary position, I was able to provide most of my own support. The new request will substantially up the ante.

I am doing a little free-lance editing and final check of Japanese to English translations. I am sending resumes around, looking for private Eikaiwa students, and playing a poor role as househusband. My wife remains very busy with translation and interpretation work. We're not starving, yet.

Steve van Dresser (and his wife) does not currently have a full-time affiliation with any university.



By Joseph Tomei, Tenured Assistant Professor, Department of Foreign Languages,
Kumamoto Gakuen University

The purpose of this article is to try and discuss the role of the foreign teachers at National Universities. Most readers may know of this issue through the fact that a number of teachers who had previously been told informally that renewal was a mere formality were forced from their positions by Monbusho. Their cause was taken up by a number of people, most notably then-ambassador Mondale, and detailed in Ivan Hall's Cartels of the Mind. As virtually all of those teachers have moved on, the problems of teachers reaching retirement age cut off from their pensions has gradually faded, though not through any arrangements by Monbusho. What I'd like to discuss is the system that has come to replace that.

First, a bit of background on myself. I worked as a gaikokujin kyoushi at Hokkaido University from 1995 to 1998 and subsequently moved to a tenured position at Kumamoto Gakuen Daigaku. While this may color my conclusions, I believe that it also gives me a measure of insight into the problems that the current conception of the foreigner's role at National Universities brings.

When I came to Hokkaido University, I was told clearly and directly that Icould stay a maximum of five years and I took the job with that understanding. This policy was instituted to avoid the previous controversy of unclear renewal conditions. Some of the teachers said that they thought the policy was short-sighted and hoped that it would change in the future, but as things stood, five years was the maximum. The maximum term varies from National University to National University, but the vast majority of National Universities set a term limit on their gaikokujin kyoushi.

In a sense, what has happened is probably exactly what Monbusho had hoped for: A constantly shifting group of foreigners to teach foreign language skills to students. My own feeling is that this proves the axiom that the worst punishment can be getting what one wants.

In comments on a previous draft of this essay, Hiro Sato perceptively noted that for tenure, in the US, residency is the key while in Japan, it is nationality. All of the discussion has centered around the fairness of using nationality as a requirement, with some arguing that Japan as a nation is well within its rights to make nationality a requirement. The question I would like to ask is does this requirement produce the best education for the students of National Universities? My own feeling is that it does not.

Imagine if this were a hospital. Would you be happy if the hospital claimed that a constantly changing set of doctors was somehow better? Would you think it was a good thing that the number of viewpoints on what should be your course of treatment be limited to a specific group that had never been outside that system? Because education, unlike medicine, cannot be backed up with the certainty of scientific research and because the students are not limited to one 'treatment', it stands to reason that one would be even more eager to have as many viewpoints as possible. In the US, this is acknowledged explicitly, in that 'academic inbreeding', where people who take their terminal degree from a university, are discouraged from taking positions at the same university. In fact, US accreditation boards mandate a certain percentage of outside graduates. This is certainly not the case in National Universities, where the vast number of faculty are graduates from the very same university.

I left Hokkaido University after 3 years, even though I could have stayed for 2 more years. I took a considerable cut in salary and a considerable increase in administrative workload, work that must be conducted in Japanese. Why would I have forsaken 2 additional years of being highly paid and able to avoid administrative responsibilities? The reason is quite simple. I feel that if I want to educate my students, it is necessary for me to have some say in larger context of what goes on at the school. It is important for me to view my classes as part of a larger curriculum that seeks to give a well rounded education. That was denied, by virtue of my nationality, at Hokudai.

Thus, when National Universities set out to place foreigners in term limited positions, with no possibility of moving to regular positions, they are ensuring that no new blood enters the system. Indeed, with schools facing an unprecedented decline in the number of students, it would seem that having new ideas would be vitally important. Generally, if you assemble a group of people with the same basic backgrounds, they are likely to come up with the same solutions. It usually takes someone with an 'outsider's view' to see outside the box.

So what does the current system promise the students of National Universities? First of all, they are encouraged to regard their foreign instructors as people with no stake in the system and to discount the value of what they have to offer. Secondly, they lose any benefit of new ideas that those teachers could bring, ideas for curriculum changes, connections for exchanges, suggestions that might not occur to an insider, but be rather obvious to the outsider. Third, the motivation of the teachers who take such positions may vary quite a bit. Finally, the students' Japanese teachers lose the opportunity to interact and work with foreigners as colleagues and peers, because the foreigners are basically in a gilded cage, never asked to contribute in any meaningful way to the system they are working within.

My own prediction is that if National Universities continue to treat foreigners as a separate and unequal group, we will see the slow decline of these Universities. Employers will realize that the graduates of private schools, where foreigners have been integrated into the faculty, will be more at ease dealing with foreigners and exhibit more self confidence and begin to favor them over their national school counterparts. I don't believe that this will happen overnight, but I think it will, perhaps within the next 20 years. Then we will see these proud institutions, whose physical facilities are already in incredibly poor shape, lose their greatest asset of all: their students. Impossible? More unimaginable things have come to pass. Who would have predicted that 15 years ago, that Japanese young people with dyed hair and pierced noses and lips would barely merit a glance?

Joseph Tomei is a tenured Assistant Professor in the Department of Foreign Languages in Kumamoto Gakuen University.


"Japanese Struggle With English"
By JOSEPH COLEMAN Associated Press Writer
Thursday, February 10, 2000 3:22 PM ET

TENEIMURA, Japan (AP) - Akihiko Koike is obsessed. Every two months, he journeys into the mountains north of Tokyo to a fake British castle where he spends $400 to play snooker, quaff pints of Bass ale and feed his habit: speaking English.

"Until this, I only studied grammar, reading and writing - so I couldn't speak at all,'' the 47-year-old Tokyo eye doctor said of his classes at the British Hills school, where he has studied for three years.

Koike's quest - and his frustration - are at the core of a heated national debate in Japan over the country's decades-long crusade to boost its English-language skills.

The fretting has reached fever pitch since a government panel last month staked Japan's future as a leading industrial nation on mastering English.

"Achieving world-class excellence demands that all Japanese acquire a working knowledge of English - not simply as a foreign language but as the international lingua franca,'' the committee said, even broaching the possibility of making English an official second language.

A look around Japan would suggest folks are trying hard already.

Teaching English is a billion-dollar industry in Japan, where most Japanese study the language for six years before they even graduate from high school. Japanese seem to barrage Westerners with English every chance they get.

But all the work has not paid off.

Year after year, Japanese students take the Test of English as a Foreign Language, used by U.S. colleges to screen foreign applicants. And year after year, Japan ranks near the bottom.

The scores are a perpetual slap in the face for one of the world's wealthiest and best-educated countries. Ahead of Japan are China and even impoverished North Korea. Japan last year made some strides - but still placed ahead of only Afghanistan, Cambodia and Laos in Asia.

"Considering the amount of resources they put into it, and into the teaching of English, they should be doing better than they are,'' said Gregory Clark, president of Tama University in Tokyo and a frequent commentator on Japanese language teaching.

There are some good reasons for that.

First, few languages are as different as English and Japanese. Word order is often reversed and the consonant combinations of English are devilishly difficult for native Japanese speakers.

But there's more to it. The Japanese education system, with its emphasis on rote memorization, is ill-suited to foreign language study. Students spend their time drilling arcane grammar rules, but do not learn how to communicate.

"We read and write English a lot in school, but we don't have a chance to speak and listen to English,'' said Kazumi Shimodate, 22, a college student from outside Tokyo. "So if I want to do that, I have to do something outside of school.''

For Shimodate, completing a six-day course at British Hills filled in the gaps.

Located in Teneimura, 115 miles north of the capital, the institution - completed in 1994 for $70 million - teaches English with a heavy dose of atmosphere.

Students live in Tudor-style accommodations and have the opportunity to speak English while hanging out at the Falstaff Public House.

Students pay for the extras. Prices for a weekend of classes run around $400, while longer or more elaborate courses - including gourmet food - can run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Not everyone in Japan backs the growing emphasis on English.

Some critics say young children should master good Japanese before being taught foreign ways. Others worry that English study will take time more important subjects.

And some Japanese say the fevered attention to English is unhealthy.

Yukio Tsuda, the author of "Invasion of English, Counterattack of Japanese,'' says Japan's fascination with English is a symptom of the American and Anglo-Saxon cultural domination of the world.

"Japanese are obsessed with learning English, and that has to be eliminated,'' said Tsuda, a professor of international communications at Nagoya University who suggests children should study Chinese or Korean instead.