According to an Internet discussion, japanese universities have a low quality https://www.quora.com/Why-do-people-advise-against-studying-in-Japan Their international ranking is below the average, and foreign students who have attended a course are disappointed. The open question is, why are japanese universities so bad and how can it be fixed?
To understand the situation better an economy point of view make sense. The surprising information is, that the quality of the product is great. If somebody is interested in getting a course in japanese language, if somebody is interested in the traditions and if he is able to pay a lot of money, he will find in Japan the best environment for studying. There is no place in the world which also provides history lessons at university level in japanese. The problem is somewhere else, because most foreign student have no demand for such a high quality product. They are not interested in reading textbooks in japanese language, they are not interested in visiting a famous university or talking with local students in their mothertonque. What most foreign students are looking for is some kind of cheap, fast education. And there is a mismatch: what Japan is providing is a high-quality education for a high price which isn’t affordable to everybody, but on the other side the foreign students are asking for some kind of low-price education.
Let us describe who a cheap education system looks like. All the ingredients are optimized for the lowest possible standard with minimum costs in mind:
– language is English, because English is easy to learn for foreign students
– no real university with a real library, but only recorded lectures as youtube videos and textbooks as pdf file in the internet
– no curriculum, instead every student is learning what he is interested in
– no costs for studying, instead the content is provided for free
Such kind of low-quality education isn’t available in Japan. It’s also not available in the US. In most universities there the language is English, which reduces the costs. But at the same time, the university isn’t virtual which increases the costs. That means, the cheapest university worldwide isn’t located in a certain country, it is a virtual one.
With that background knowledge it is easy to define what is wrong with japanese universities. They are providing high-quality education. The assumption is, that such kind of service is needed. In reality most foreign students are not interested in such a high quality service, they are searching for something different which reduces their own costs. That is the reason, why they are disappointed from japanese universities.
At the same it’s possible to answer the question how the optimal university will look like. According to the definition, the best university is the cheapest one. That means, it provides everything for free, in English and all the content is virtual only. It is a combination of youtube lectures, Wikipedia articles, pdf files and discussion rooms in the internet. Against this kind of fast-food education, any real university will look like the past. That means, no matter in which country we are, no real university can compete in the domain of price and ease of access with Internet only universities.
The funny thing is, that japanese universities have recognized this trend. The University of Tsukuba is providing an e-Learning course for Japanese http://nihongo-e-na.com/eng/site/id696.html. It is mostly an online version of a classical course but with lower costs. The prediction is, that e-learning will grow in japan like everywhere in the world. It allows to provide cheap knowledge to everybody and transform the classical education system into something different.
The power of e-learning
How is a japanese e-learning website different from a classical japanese university? From an economical perspective the only difference is the price. That means, attending a real university is expensive. It takes 5 years, costs many thousands of US$, is hard to master for foreign students because they are not familiar with the language and many entry barriers are there for example bureaucracy. In contrast, it is very easy to attend an e-learning university in japan. He doesn’t have to fly to japan, he only opens a website in his browser. He doesn’t have to talk to anybody, instead he is playing the given lecture and if he fails the test at the end of the semester, nobody cares because everything is virtual.
The funny thing is, that the content is the same. But it’s a different kind of education system. Attending an japanese e-learning university is very different from attending a normal japanese university. In most cases, even the lectures are the same. That means, it’s the same teacher like in the real university but recorded as a video. For the student, everything has changed. He will understand the lecture much better, and he can even pause the course, if he want’s to eat something, which is forbidden in a real course. To answer the question of the post from the beginning: nothing is wrong with japanese universities, if they are providing their content online and for free.