akita international university, Nakajima Mineo
  • First let me refer to my recent Japan Times article (available on my website) on the origins of this university (where I served for four years as vice-president) of this university and the policies laid down by its recently deceased president, Nakajima.

    AIU has hit the headlines largely because of the high employment ratio for its graduates. What the figures did not tell you was that AIU had someone working full time on shuushoku (employment placings) and with small numbers of graduates (less than 200) with many staying on for more than four years to complete requirements it was not difficult to find placements.

    Also, students who spend four years being educated in English are unlikely to reach the standards of Japanese literacy needed for quality jobs in Japan. Myself and one other trustee tried hard to persuade Nakajima on this point but he was was determined to cling to the AIU publicity trademark of all-English education, regardless of flaws..

    If such education had produced fluent-English speakers well and good, and some were good (mainly those who had been abroad before university entry). But pushing average Japanese 18 year olds into trying to handle an all-English education system does not necessarily make for the ideal English language training system. Unable to understand lectures, students relied heavily on their textbooks, also not the ideal form of English language education.

    The one year of intensive preliminary education in English, much by those PhDs in linguistics who manage to spend years in Japan without being able even to master Japanese, helped students to get the TOEFL scores needed for entry to classes and for graduation. But it did not necessarily create an ability to communicate and operate well in English.

    Nakajima himself had suffered from bad English education, and wanted to see changes. But he was not willing to put the knife into the established system.

    Nakajima's good contacts with the conservative media (Sankei and Yomiuri) did much to give AIU the publicity needed to get its initial start. But improved content will be needed in the future.

    His obsessive dislike of China was a flaw in a university claiming to be Asia and future oriented.

    Personally I got on well with him, despite our differences on China. He could be genuinely warm and friendly and open to ideas, at least with me, maybe because we had worked closely together in establishing the university. But others saw another and highly dogmatic side. We lost some good teachers as a result.

    One achievement I treasure was the way our emphasis on English not only attracted but facilitated entry for a large number of quality female students. Maybe that will show the way to a brighter future, not just for AIU but for Japan also.

  • Sorry to hear about Nakajima-san. But have done and doing great job! :)

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