Asia Minute: Are More Japanese Medical Schools Discriminating Against Women?

Nov 9, 2018

Tokyo Medical University Hospital
Credit Rs1421 / Wikimedia Commons

It’s been about three months since one of Japan’s leading medical schools admitted that it discriminated against women candidates. Tokyo Medical University said it altered test scores for years – favoring male applicants. Now government investigators say other medical schools may have done the same.

Japan’s Ministry of Education is in the midst of a national investigation of medical schools. The ministry is checking to see whether more schools have discriminated against women, and the preliminary findings are pointing in that direction.

Last month, Education Minister Masahiko Shibayama told reporters there is a “strong suspicion” of bias against women at more than a third of the country’s medical schools. The most common practice is handicapping test scores — penalizing female applicants solely because of their gender.

81 schools have been surveyed about their admissions practices.

Kyodo News reports government officials have followed up with on-site investigations at about 30 universities that have had “significant disparities” in pass rates between men and women in the past six years.

Tokyo Medical University is the only institution to admit to such a practice.

An internal report found school officials wanted to keep the level of women at about a third of the student body — in part because the officials believed women would tend to resign or take long leaves of absence after getting married or giving birth.

The school’s managing director apologized, telling reporters “I suspect there was a lack of sensitivity to the rules of modern society, in which women should not be treated differently because of their gender.”

The Ministry will release a final report on the situation by the end of the year.