When Japan was hit by a 9.0-magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami in March, casualties at the nation’s universities were mercifully low. The reason: Campuses were mostly empty as thousands of students were at home till April, when Japan’s academic year begins.
That’s been one of the few times when Japan’s educational reformers have applauded the spring start, which is widely seen as causing headaches. It puts the nation’s universities out of sync with most of the planet, hugely complicating exchanges, the hiring of foreign faculty, and the recruiting of overseas students.
Fewer than 3 percent of students at Japan’s most prestigious higher-education institution, the University of Tokyo, are from abroad, a long way behind top Western colleges. Increasing that percentage requires bringing the academic calendar into line with elsewhere, says Masako Egawa, an executive vice president at the university. "Internationalizing education and research is a very, very high priority for us, and we must bring Japan in sync with other countries to achieve that."
Read the rest of the story: Japan Mulls Shifting Its Academic Year to Get in Step With the West.