A bribery case brings to light systematic discrimination that was already well known. Repeat applicants also had their scores lowered. Women were kept out of the medical profession because of child-bearing. In Japan, only 21 per cent of doctors are women, the lowest and half of the OECD average. The government starts a probe in 81 universities.
Tokyo (AsiaNews) – Japan is in the grips of a scandal. The Tokyo Medical University has been hit by a storm following allegations that the scores of women’s entrance exams were lowered to maintain a male majority.
The rigging came to light in connection with a bribery case involving two officials trying to secure personal advantages.
The investigations found that the university unfairly inflated the scores of certain students whilst deducting points from women applicants and candidates who had failed the school's exam more than three times since at least 2006.
The case also does not seem to be isolated. For years, applicants were aware that the bar is set higher for women at some universities.
The medical profession in Japan indeed remains male-dominated. Women accounted for 21 per cent of all doctors at the end of 2016, half the OECD average.
Sources told Kyodo that medical schools have a ceiling for women's admission of about 30 per cent. Women are considered inappropriate for the profession because they are bound to leave in case of pregnancy.
Speaking to AsiaNews, Sister Nabuko Immaculata Taniguchi of the Sisters of Charity of Jesus, expresses sadness for the "young women who have studied with determination and strong will to become doctors".
"This problem for women is not limited to medicine, but applies to all sectors,” she added. “In Japanese society, it is still difficult for women to obtain and maintain a stable job when they have children."
"It is regrettable that these young women were denied the opportunity to study before they started in favour of rich boys. How will they learn to be mature enough for the medical profession from these professors?"
Antonio Camacho, a Guadalupe missionary in charge of five parishes in Kyoto, is not surprised by the scandal.
"It is well known that discrimination occurs,” he said, “but nobody said anything before. Now we don’t know what will happen, but I think lawyers and the young women will file an appeal to the university authorities."
Meanwhile, the Japanese government is running for cover, ordering an investigation to see if other medical schools engaged in similar practices.
The rigging of scores was "extremely inappropriate and a serious matter that eroded trust in universities," said Education Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi at a press conference.
To find out what happened, the Education Ministry sent questionnaires to 81 universities, asking them to report the pass rates for entrance exams over the last six years. Responses to the survey must be submitted by 24 August.
If case of significant disparities in pass rates between men and women or different age groups, the schools must provide explanations.
If unsatisfied with the answers, the Education Ministry might ask additional questions or conduct on-site inspections.