Japanese medical school admits to manipulating test scores to exclude women

On Tuesday, Tokyo Medical University apologized after it admitted that it had manipulated entrance exam scores for over a decade to limit the number of female students it would admit. The prestigious private Japanese medical school acknowledged that it had started altering test results in 2006 or possibly earlier, according to the results of an independent committee hired by the school to look at its admission policies.

Men’s scores got boosted for Japanese medical school exam

To limit the number of women who got in, men’s scores were boosted in the entrance exams. In this year’s entrance exam, all applicants’ first-stage scores were lowered by 20% and then 20 bonus points would only be added to male applicants who had applied three or fewer times. The result was that last year, four men got in for every women.

“We sincerely apologize for the serious wrongdoing involving entrance exams that has caused concern and trouble for many people and betrayed the public’s trust,” the school’s managing director, Tetsuo Yukioka, said. “I suspect that there was a lack of sensitivity to the rules of modern society, in which women should not be treated differently because of their gender.”

According to sources connected to the school, the reason for excluding more women was reportedly due to the belief that they would drop out or quit to raise children. This is not an isolated belief. Despite being an advanced economy with highly educated women, Japan has few women in leadership positions. Japan ranked 114 out of 144 countries in terms of gender equality last year, according to the World Economic Forum. According to a Japan survey, almost half of female employees experience “maternity harassment,” or matahara in Japanese, after becoming pregnant or returning from work after childbirth.

Japan’s culture of overwork may also be a contributing factor. “University hospitals have a lot of doctors, so you could implement a shift system” that would help working mothers needing flexible arrangements, Dr. Hitomi Kataoka told the Wall Street Journal. “But when everyone thinks working 24 hours a day is normal, it’s hard to do things any other way.”

How can the school start to right its wrongs? Yukioka said it was considering “in all sincerity” on how it can make it up to qualified female applicants it initially denied but did not explain exactly how.