Curriculum Innovation, Testing and Evaluation: Proceedings of the 1st Annual JALT Pan-SIG Conference.
May 11-12, 2002. Kyoto, Japan: Kyoto Institute of Technology.

Strawberry picking in Japan:
Management, leadership, and change in a national university

by Neil Cowie (Saitama University)

This report describes, through the words of five Japanese teacher-informants, how one faculty in a Japanese national university is managed and led; how it is coping with a centralised educational reform process which may, in the most pessimistic scenario, result in the disappearance of the faculty; and how university teachers within that faculty view teaching. It is clear that the Japanese Education Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) wields enormous influence and power over the university, mainly through control of the budget; however at the faculty level there is a leadership vacuum which one informant describes as anarchy. This gives individual teachers tremendous autonomy to teach and research how they like. The disadvantage is that there is no strategic vision for the faculty-this would not, and did not, matter in more stable times but 'reform' is in the air and the faculty needs to adapt and change to survive. It is suggested that the current 'cultures' of the faculty are ones of 'individualisation' and 'balkanisation' (Hargreaves, 1992).
". . . staff need to move towards a more 'collaborative' culture in which sharing of teaching experiences and a willingness to reflect critically on teaching are the norm."

In order to improve the quality of teaching, I suggest that staff need to move towards a more 'collaborative' culture in which sharing of teaching experiences and a willingness to reflect critically on teaching are the norm.
This article concludes by suggesting that although the small number of 'foreign' teachers among the staff are isolated from day-to-day discussions about reform among other faculty, they too may be able to play a role in change. As they may have more of a professional background in teaching than their Japanese colleagues, who are usually more research-oriented, the foreign teachers' contribution could focus on sharing their experience(s) of teacher development in order to help improve teaching standards.


Saitama University, just north of Tokyo, is one of the 99 national universities in Japan. These are state funded and are considerably cheaper than the nearly 400 private institutions. This university has about 8000 students in five faculties: education, engineering, science, economics, and liberal arts. This report will focus on the liberal arts faculty where this writer is a full-time, yearly-contracted English teacher, gaikokujin kyoushi, employed on the 'British Studies' course. Although full-time, the position of gaikokujin kyoushi, literally 'foreign teacher,' is a slightly unusual and vestigial one established to attract foreign teachers to Japan at a time when relatively few came. As a result the salary is slightly higher than Japanese counterparts and administrative duties are lighter (Freeman, 1995). The teaching load is higher, six or seven 90-minute lessons a week as opposed to four or five for Japanese colleagues, but the teacher is not expected to do research. This is reflected in lower budgets for books and equipment. There are three other gaikokujin kyoushi in the liberal arts faculty teaching on the American, French, and German studies courses; about 60 Japanese full-time tenured staff; one Korean teacher employed on the same terms as the Japanese staff and about 100 part-time teachers. There are 800 students in the faculty who can choose subjects from 16 separate courses: as well as the four already mentioned others include anthropology, philosophy, and international relations. Students major in one course and take most of their credits in classes connected to that course. They also have to take a number of compulsory credits including a language, which is usually English.

[ p. 41 ]

Teachers have a great deal of freedom as to what and how they teach. They are assigned course titles such as: 'English Conversation 1', 'Writing 1' and so on, but beyond those simple labels it is entirely up to each teacher to devise and deliver a curriculum. One of the few administrative duties all teachers are expected to perform is to give the students a grade at the end of the year, but even this very important procedure is left to the individual to decide the ways and means.
There are no quality controls on individual teachers except perhaps student recommendations by word of mouth. An official system of student evaluations, however, was introduced in 2002.
It can be seen from this brief overview that there is a great deal of independence and autonomy for teachers; in fact it would be possible for the foreign teachers in particular to go through an entire year without any verbal communication with their colleagues at all as long as certain bureaucratic forms were completed and handed in on time.
This is also probably the case for Japanese colleagues except for two duties that foreign teachers are exempt from: one is the bi-monthly staff meeting (kyouju-kai) which teachers are expected to attend although they do not have to actively participate; and secondly, Japanese teachers are expected to do their share of routine 'committee work' such as devising and marking university entrance exams, or, employing and organising part-time staff. This kind of work can take up a great deal of time and energy. Although there is much independence for foreign teachers as they do not attend faculty meetings or work on committees they have, as a consequence, they often lack detailed information about how the faculty and university is organised.
Even as supposed 'insiders' it is difficult for foreign teachers to describe how a Japanese national university is managed and led at the local level, and even more difficult to describe the involvement of MEXT. This knowledge gap is important as Japanese national universities are currently at the beginning of a reform process, which will have major implications for all who work in them, including foreign staff (MEXT, 2001).
The rest of this report will describe how five informants perceive the management and leadership of the liberal arts faculty, how they interpret recent government calls for educational reform, and what effect this centralised change process is having at a local level. Finally, the issue of quality of education and the changing role of the university teacher will be examined with special reference to the place of foreign teachers.

Data collection and analysis

One professor and three associate professors in the liberal arts faculty, and one associate professor based in the affiliated international student center were given a list of e-mail questions, which formed the basis for a semi-structured interview. In addition to these interviews with Japanese members of staff, one unstructured exploratory interview was also conducted with a non-Japanese doctoral student in the liberal arts faculty. All the interviews were conducted in English, tape-recorded and transcribed, and then coded using a 'content analysis' procedure (see Cohen, Manion, and Morrison, 2000 for further examples).

[ p. 42 ]

Each informant was given a copy of the interview transcript and an initial report draft in order to solicit comments which were then used to re-draft this report (this form of 'triangulation' is called 'member checking' after Lincoln and Guba, 1985). As the participants, except for the doctoral student, were all given the same question schedule the content analysis was relatively straightforward with comments falling in to one of four main categories: influence of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, educational reform, leadership, and view of teaching. There was some degree of overlap, particularly between comments about the introduction of change and the current education reform process.
In the next section each of the four categories will be examined and illustrated with quotations from the interviews-these are anonymous to protect the identity of the informants. Rather than having a separate review, extracts from the research literature will be included where appropriate.

Results and discussion

1. Influence of the Education Ministry

McVeigh (2000), amongst many others (see Arimoto, 1997; and Cutts, 1997), writes that MEXT exerts a strong central control over universities through a system of taxes, grants, and subsidies. For four out of five of the teachers this claim was certainly true. One informant expressed this in apposite if very blunt terms:
It's king for us! We have to obey them. We cannot do anything against their will. . . the main reason is money.

But aside from direct financial control the Ministry also exerts influence through local self-censorship. The same informant continues:
Even if the Ministry itself doesn't say anything the university management always thinks about what the Education Ministry would think and do things in advance that might please the Ministry.

Though there was no disagreement that MEXT exerts strong financial control, there was one dissenting view which hinted at the intellectual independence many university teachers may feel is their right. One informant stated:
I don't feel any influence from Education Ministry. . . nothing, autonomy. Maybe someone feels such influence-in case of me I don't feel any influence and I am independent. . . maybe (those) who have to accept budget has to listen to opinion from Education Ministry but I have never been in that place.

As Handy (1993) describes in a discussion of the cultures of organisations this particular teacher would appear to fit the:
. . . stereotype of a person-oriented man (sic) operating in a role culture. He does what he has to, teaches when he must, in order to retain his position in that organisation. But essentially he regards the organisation as a base on which he can build his own career, (and) carry out his own interests.

And foreshadowing one of the issues that is touched on below Handy adds, "Individuals with this orientation are not easy to manage. There is little influence that can be brought to bear on them" (p. 191).
In sum, apart from one very independent minded teacher, all informants confirmed that MEXT wields tremendous power over national universities, either directly through financial control or through university managers anticipating what it is they feel will please the Ministry. This centralised influence can most obviously be seen in the hiring of new staff or the introduction of new procedures which must gain Ministry approval. Indeed the Ministry provides "senior administrative officers to each national university to mange their fixed line-item budget, staffing and other regulated business" (Arimoto, 1997, p. 202). This bureaucratic control is even more in evidence in the next section about reform of the national university system.

[ p. 43 ]

2. Educational reform - Dokuritsu Gyousei Houjinka (DGH) and the Toyama Plan

MEXT steers education reform through a number of permanent councils including the 'University Council' (Okana and Motonori, 1999). Since 1997 there have been a number of debates initiated by the council about how to reform national universities, which have been, at least in the eyes of the press, "long criticized for their closed nature and low international competitiveness" (Asahi Shinbun. Nov. 20th, 2001). The proposals, called dokuritsu gyousei houjinka (change to independent administrative institutions) include a plan, named after the MEXT Minister Atsuko Toyama, to focus funding on the top thirty national universities.
As has been the case with previous change, vague policy measures, in this case the 'Basic Law for Independent Government Agencies, July 1999' (Yamamoto, 2001), have been introduced but it may be some time before the 'intricacies of the system' are worked out (Fox, Shiozawa, and Aldwinkle, 1999, p. 13). These proposals are still unclear and as a result university managers and teaching staff are having to interpret what the reform plans may mean and are unsure as to how they should act.
In the section below are comments from the teachers as to what they think the reasons for this reform are, how they think the liberal arts faculty should respond, and some examples of practical measures that have already been taken. The discussion then focuses on the category that evoked the largest number of comments-the emotional reactions of staff to the reform proposals. These range from quite positive to ones of deep pessimism.

Teachers' interpretations of the Education Ministry's motives for reform

There seems to be a consensus that one of the main motives for reform, if not the main one, is economic:
Everything is very commercially oriented, very economic minded. DGH is the means to reduce the number of government officials. . . after the collapse of the bubble economy (the) Japanese government has been forced to reduce the national budget.

As well as being a way to save tax payers' money, reform may be seen as a way of changing the way university teachers do their jobs by, for example, weeding out 'lazy' teachers:
It is (a) general feeling in Japan that university teachers are so lax and. . . should be straightened or something like that. That's sort of similar what happened in the 1980s to the JR workers, railway workers, they were being bashed and exposed to media, quite critically, up to a certain amount quite unfairly.

One way in which budgets can be reduced and teachers improved is through 'liberalisation' and 'marketisation' of the national university system, as has been the trend throughout the 1980's and 1990's in many Western countries (Goodson, 2001):
. . . when Saitama University changes to DGH they can get budget from the Education Ministry as before, plus (the) university can earn money, can do business more frequently, more freely than before. . . can raise funds without any permission from the government. . . and based on the evaluation the government (can) change the financial support to the universities. . . when the performance gets good the finance will increase and (when) performance is bad so financial allocations will become less.

[ p. 44 ]

The focus of the Toyama plan is to allocate more funding to the 'top 30' national institutions than the rest-this will be based on three broad areas: research, education, and contribution to society. Although it is unclear what criteria will propel an institution into this top level it does seem that it is research results rather than quality of teaching that will be deemed more important, and that business and industry connected areas of study will take priority over others. One respondent commented:
There are ten areas - from the first to the seventh they have life science, mathematics, physics, chemistry, geology, information technology, mechanical science, civil engineering. These areas are divided into many compartments but they have only one human science and one social science.

University responses to the reform plans

One interpretation of the reforms is that universities will be encouraged to create partnerships with business and industry to raise funds, through joint projects, and to produce more graduates with skills that business and industry need. Satou, (1997, quoted in Fox et al, 1999) commenting on earlier proposals to limit the number of tenured teachers, sums up this attitude clearly, 'the country needs. . . less theory conscious scholars, more responsible engineers and practical businessmen' (p. 15). Saitama University has responded to these kinds of pressures by creating, as one respondent said:
a local collaboration research centre. . . to coordinate collaboration works between universities and private companies and organisations so they can do joint projects.

As Arimoto (1997) points out, it is interesting that serious student protest in the 1960s was one reaction to such cooperation as it was seen as compromising academic autonomy. Now such joint ventures are to be encouraged. Within the liberal arts faculty one response to the perceived need to improve research and to become more 'business-oriented' is the recent introduction of a post-graduate school of cultural design, which does have as one of its aims the education of professionals such as, for example, museum curators or environmental designers. In addition, there are a number of formal projects that staff have been involved in, such as a video advice system for linking doctors and ambulance crew, and a partnership with London University researching museum visitor behaviour. However, there is probably a limit to such potentially commercial or prestigious partnerships, and it may be difficult, if not impossible, for many liberal arts courses to create financial links with local businesses and industry. Instead the faculty may be wise to develop more examples of 'grassroots' cooperation in which teachers are collaborating both across faculties and with the local community on new creative projects, such as introducing an international student theatre group to the Saitama area. A respondent continues:
(Those) who are doing those collaborations are the young generation, young people, 30s and early 40s. We see the pressure from outside. I think this is (a) good opportunity to pioneer the new area, the new field, or to make the university more open to the local community, to cross the rigid old boundaries. . . those kinds of things have never happened before.

[ p. 45 ]

The impact of the DGH and Toyama plan is still unclear. Most informants felt that as the university became more independent, it was important to forge links with local communities, industry and residents.
It was felt that one of the main thrusts of the reforms was to generate funds and research through partnership projects, which are more viable for faculties such as science or engineering; but there is a role for liberal arts through collaboration and innovation. This interpretation sounds very positive, but there were also many wary comments about the impact of the proposed changes – some were at best cautious and many were extremely pessimistic.

Emotional reaction of staff

Fullan (1999) notes a number of common reactions to change including the inevitable accompanying anxiety; however, it seems there is little opportunity in the Japanese process of university reform for any anxiety amongst teachers or other staff to be acknowledged and contained. The informants noted some positive reactions from both themselves and their colleagues, but many remarks revealed that large numbers of staff are pessimistic or even in a state of denial that they need do anything, as these respondent comments reveal:
Their response are quite negative, very defensive ones and quite miserable and they just build up the walls and fortify themselves, digging a trench.

It's too late, I think it's too late for Saitama University to survive and many, many professors feel that.

I need not any help outside. I need not reach out to other world. I'm too old to do that (laughs).
Conversely there were many positive statements about the potential of reform because, particularly for younger teachers, this is an opportunity for real improvement of a rapidly stagnating system. Note the tone of these comments:
Of course there are quite a few teachers who view these reforms as positive things and we've got to do. . . these things.

. . . more than two thirds. . . are quite eager to change attitude(s) of university, of our faculty, both in research and in education. There is a group who are. . . holding meetings in which. . . they discuss how to improve education.

Now quite a few of us (are) interested in educational aspects, teaching aspects - that's been happening in (the) last few years.

Three informants described the existence of a small group of teachers within the faculty who had started to meet to discuss teaching issues, to exchange advice, and to give each other teaching tips. That may sound very normal practice in other educational cultures but actually it is extremely rare in Japanese universities for staff to even discuss their teaching informally, never mind do something as threatening as observing one another. One informant expressed this in a very colourful manner:
University professors are complete amateurs about educational skills so they must improve their teaching skills (but there) is no such kind of system. . . if I try to observe (an)other professor's class that professor will be very much nervous. . . and in extreme case will (think) 'he must be a spy!'

[ p. 46 ]

It is very encouraging to see that the threat of change is producing concern amongst some teachers to examine educational issues and this issue will be discussed again in the section below on views on teaching. But realistically this movement is probably very minor, as one forthright informant observes:
Some concerned professors are discussing about quality of teaching and education, but many professors are not so much interested, including me!

Overall it seems that many teachers are either cautiously positive or very negative about the impact of the reform proposals with some, of course, seeing both opportunities and problems, as this informant remarks:
I think there are things that should be welcomed in this plan because the budget system in national universities is so rigid. . . we can spend money. . . on facilities but we can't give scholarships. . . and if we become more independent and autonomous we can do that and actually I'm looking forward to that. . . but on the other hand if we become too free then the university professors have to spend more time on funding. . . on management. . . or recruiting students.

But whatever reactions teachers may have it seems that the emotional effect of these proposals is not being addressed yet. This may be a mistake in view of much recent scholarship on the importance of 'emotion' in professional growth and the need to understand the importance of 'emotional health' for the long-term welfare of teachers (Day and Leitch, 2001, p. 403).

3. Leadership

Kelly and Nobuhiro (1993) claim that the social organisation of Japanese universities parallels that of a family with increasingly smaller groups of sub-families, such as habatsu or gakubatsu, present at the faculty level. The ties that bind staff together in these small groups may be that they graduated from the same university, or that one particular professor has a number of 'disciples'. The existence of such cliques can benefit the university in giving a sense of cohesion and loyalty but can also lead to feuds and nepotistic 'old boy' (usually male) networks. Within the liberal arts faculty it is clear that, unlike other faculties, such cliques do not exist; however, for several informants this was viewed as a cause for regret as their existence might give some much needed direction to the faculty. Some voiced comments such as:
As far as the faculty of liberal arts is concerned there's no such thing as habatsu – that's why we are weak because we don't have any organisation.

So where is the leadership? Where are the individuals responsible for providing vision and strategy? The university has a President or Chancellor, but it seems that not for some time will this post-holder be able to exercise any real power. One teacher remarks:
At university level (the) Chancellor now has much more authority on finance. . . the Chancellor can decide how much he can give to which departments. . . but still (in) this university (the) Chancellor distributes money as he (has done in the past).

Each faculty also has a Dean, a position rotated amongst senior staff, but this post too appears symbolic. There are a few individuals among the full-time staff whose ideas are listened to with respect, but they seem unable to provide any strategic leadership perhaps, ironically, as a result of the extremely democratic nature of the faculty meetings and because of the lack of cohesion or sense of purpose amongst competing courses. Hence in the words of two teachers:
(the leadership is) chaotic! That's the problem. . . we cannot devise (a) systematic educational system, we cannot make consistent policy for the faculty's development or faculty's direction.

[ p. 47 ]

Anarchy! I don't feel any central power here. . . I don't feel any leading person. . . we have no opinion leader - always 'tasuketsu' majority against or for -democracy. . . democratic anarchistic!

This form of anarchy has caused problems in the past with at least one failed attempt to re-organise the faculty to overcome the disadvantage of the large number of small, diverse courses. One teacher observes:
Our faculty is quite complicated because there are sixteen courses and no specific focus. . . so we tried to re-organise into two parts or four parts. . . but at that time the area studies courses: British Studies courses, American Studies courses, French, German and Russian Studies they're not happy about those things and they objected - so the re-organisation is still going on. . . the conflict(s) are there, exposed, and everybody knows that.

The liberal arts faculty is by no means unique in its inability to change. Yamamoi (2001) claims that only 20% of faculties in Japanese universities had improved their management efficiency and effectiveness in response to the 1991 revised law on 'Standards for the establishment of universities'. Goodson (2001) argues that when contemplating change 'change agents' must look at the historical context in which the change process will take place and take account of the participants' 'story of purpose' otherwise any change is unlikely to be successful in the long term. However, it is unclear how even the most open and skilful change agent can overcome the bitterness felt by some, as this teacher-informant states:
(A teacher) proposed some plan but nobody listened to him, that he felt, and then he shut up and he said he wouldn't collaborate to any proposal – to any proposal, do you understand? To anything!

Such historical conflicts continue as teachers with less popular courses feel increasingly under threat. One informant continues:
. . . they do not want to reduce the researchers of literature. . . they feel much worried about their future. . . I think we have to get more English teachers in place of French teachers or Russian teachers but we cannot because they are resisting.

It may be useful to look at resistance from a theoretical view. Day (1999) summarises Hargreaves' (1992) model of school cultures in which there are four broad forms: 'individualism', 'balkanization', 'collaboration', and 'contrived collegiality'. Although based on schools in Canada, this model also seems applicable to other contexts. Day describes an individualist culture as reflecting "habitual patterns of teaching behind closed doors" (p. 78), but does not necessarily view this negatively, claiming such privacy can give teachers much needed protected time and energy. However, he warns that "some teachers' life histories, training, and organizational contexts teach them that privacy is a safe option. This is particularly so in reform contexts" (p. 79). Such a context of isolation may lead to resistance to change and can be exacerbated when individualist teachers also work in a balkanized school culture where, as one informant comments:
Teachers will identify with and be loyal to the group rather than the school as a whole. Groups will compete for resources, status and influence in the school. Collaboration will occur only if it serves the interest of the group (p. 79).

This description certainly seems apt for many courses in the liberal arts faculty. Day claims that in such cultures teachers cannot really develop professionally and that it is only in the truly 'collaborative' culture that development will continue – where development means not only a concern with short-term practical issues of teaching but where "critical reflection and experimentation are the norms" (p. 81). It is unlikely that such a culture can develop soon in the liberal arts faculty but a useful half-way house may be to develop 'comfortable collaboration' or 'contrived collegiality' where the "prime aim of teachers is to develop and sustain camaraderie on a personal level" (p. 80). This would be a good beginning in a faculty where there is little information flowing between courses and outright hostility in some areas.

[ p. 48 ]

Promisingly, there have been recent examples of cooperation and compromise emerging which are positive indicators for the future, and which may serve as models of contrived collegiality for future reform. One instance is the way in which the faculty introduced the previously mentioned post-graduate course on cultural design is echoed by this informant:
Many younger associate professors belong to the group and we discussed so many times and changing and modified plan. . . but we managed to overcome hard time(s) and at last we've achieved some reform. Yes I think now it was totally a good process. . . until now there was no case similar to the situation. . . because until recently there was no chance to make a group for reform, for thinking about the system but DHG come (and) we happened to feel worried.

This way of working is now being replicated by the formation of another group to examine the future of the faculty and to respond to DGH demands. This group of teachers will need to use all their creativity and vitality to overcome the conflicts of the past and to encourage those teachers most under threat to encompass reform. One area in which they will need to make progress is to improve the quality of teaching.

4. Views of teaching

The view of university teachers as first and foremost 'scholars' rather than educational experts (Kelly and Nobuhiro, 1993, p. 161) was certainly upheld by this informant:
University teachers are just happy to do their own research and (a) university teacher thinks that research matters and that education or teaching is not their business.

The reason for this, apart from an individual preference for research, is that staff are hired and promoted based on the articles and books they have produced. There is little or no emphasis placed on teaching ability. For many their 'laissez-faire' attitude towards their students learning may be a result of the Confucian belief that it is the "students' duty to learn" (Kelly and Nobuhiro, 1993, p. 162) rather than anything to do with the teacher:
(The) definition of (a) good teacher. . . depends on personality of the students – good students can study against the wind.

On the other hand, there may be pragmatic as well as philosophical reasons for teachers not to care too much about classroom skills. It is not uncommon for university teachers to pitch their lectures towards the brightest students or towards those that exhibit the most interest. In this way it is hoped that students who cannot follow such lessons will drop out leaving a manageable number behind. One teacher expressed sympathy with this view by stating:
If you teach a classroom of 50 people who are not at all interested but have to take the credits then it's a torture.

However, as a result of changing demographics teachers may no longer be able to teach in their traditional ways and will need to be more flexible in their approach to students. The declining birth rate has meant that the pool of university-level students is shrinking, and as a result it is becoming easier and easier for students to enter universities even though their examination results may be extremely low (Mulvey, 2001). This is causing profound problems amongst some higher education institutions, particularly for 'lower ranked' private colleges whose students, and therefore funds, are disappearing. Numbers are not yet declining at the relatively prestigious national universities, but teachers perceive standards are. One teacher commented:

[ p. 49 ]

The level of students is getting lower. . . so in many universities they have to provide those students with supplementary classes at high school level in mathematics or physics. Those people who are involved in these type of supplementary classes can't avoid thinking about what is a good way to educate these people. . . but if you accommodate those students then you have to lower and lower the level of your university education - is that the right thing to do?

Is it right to lower educational standards? It is probably the case that until recently only a small number of national university teachers have reflected critically on this issue, but declining student levels, rising expectations amongst students as consumers, and external pressure from MEXT (Arimoto, 1997) do seem to have created momentum amongst some teachers to reflect on educational quality, as this comment suggests:
We have to be much more aware who is not so good, or who might be dropped. . . you have to make sure that everybody can get some improvement academically. . . everybody feels like that. . . so that makes us to talk among the teachers a bit more than before.

Foreign teachers in the university are likely to be particularly motivated to work with other staff to improve teaching levels-they are primarily language teachers for whom having a wide repertoire of classroom methods, skills, and experiences is extremely important in being able to maintain a long-term career. However, at the moment these teachers are isolated, and this remark attests:
We don't see you as our colleague probably (laughs) unfortunately. . . sort of assistant workers from overseas. . . when the strawberry picking season finishes they return to their own home.

Although tongue-in-cheek, this comment probably has much truth in it. As Wordell (1993) observes, 'It is wise for foreign teachers not to fool themselves into thinking they are important' (p. 153). This is not just a Japanese phenomenon – Johnston (1997) concludes that language teaching in almost any country 'can be an unstable, marginalised, impermanent occupation' (p. 707); nor is it just the case that only foreigners are outsiders, as Japanese part-time teachers of all subjects, upon which the universities are absolutely dependent, are also extremely isolated and vulnerable.


Five teacher informants in one Japanese national university were asked their views on leadership and change. It is clear the university is under the enormous influence and central government control, which as well as pulling purse strings, 'sets standards, gives accreditation, and monitors operations' (McVeigh, 2001, p. 31). There appears at the level of the liberal arts faculty no real strategic vision or direction, but rather an anarchic situation with a large number of small fiefdoms either fighting to preserve their own territories, or at best politely ignoring each other. The few attempts to pull these various courses together have left long lasting and seemingly irreconcilable scars. Although the faculty must change to survive in an increasingly competitive educational culture, the recently initiated process of reform, dokuritsu gyousei houjinka, is creating worry and anxiety amongst many teaching staff. A lot of teachers are too set in their ways or too close to retirement to initiate new methods of working, but for a number of younger teachers, the three strands of reform bring opportunities for renewal and improvement. Some are cooperating closely with each other on new and innovative research projects; some on projects to link the university more closely with the local community; and, although small in number, others are meeting regularly to help each other become better teachers and to help their students become better citizens.

[ p. 50 ]

"Although marginalised, foreign teachers have teaching knowledge and expertise that could complement the strengths of more research-oriented colleagues, and collaboration between the two could help all react positively to the challenges of changing the Japanese university system."
It is suggested that it is in the area of improving teacher quality that 'foreign' language teachers could be best placed to contribute to the reform process. Although marginalised, foreign teachers have teaching knowledge and expertise that could complement the strengths of more research-oriented colleagues, and collaboration between the two could help all react positively to the challenges of changing the Japanese university system. At the very least the creation of small groups of teachers giving each other mutual support and encouragement may go some way to overcome the current 'individualisation' and 'balkanisation' of the faculty, and move it towards a genuine 'collaborative' culture in which real improvements in educational quality can be made.

Personal reflections


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2002 Pan SIG-Proceedings: Topic Index Author Index Page Index Title Index Main Index
Complete Pan SIG-Proceedings: Topic Index Author Index Page Index Title Index Main Index

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