TOKYO – Japan’s government urged a medical university to promptly disclose the results of an investigation into its admissions process Friday after reports alleged it had altered the test scores of female applicants for years to deny them entry and ensure fewer women became doctors.
The manipulation started at Tokyo Medical University after the share of successful female applicants reached 38 percent of the total in 2010, the Yomiuri newspaper reported Thursday, citing unidentified sources. Subsequent reports said the alterations might have started even earlier.
Broadcaster NHK reported that the manipulation in some years had removed as much as 10 percent of women whose true scores merited acceptance, adding up to perhaps hundreds of denials for nearly a decade due to systematic discrimination.
The school’s public affairs department said it had no knowledge of the reported manipulation but is investigating. The school is already facing a separate scandal involving the inappropriate admission of a top education bureaucrat’s son and was ordered by the education ministry to investigate its admissions records for the past six years. On Thursday, the school said it will combine the examination of the score manipulation allegation with that probe.
The ministry said the report from the school’s investigation can be expected sometime next week.
The share of female doctors who have passed the national medical exam has stayed at around 30 percent for more than 20 years, prompting speculation that interference in admissions is widespread at Japanese medical schools.
Thursday’s report sparked outrage across Japan and criticism from Cabinet officials.
Gender Equality Minister Seiko Noda told reporters she is taking the alleged wrongdoing “extremely seriously.”
“Any admissions process that wrongfully discriminates against women is absolutely not acceptable,” Noda said. “It is extremely important to improve the working environment so that women can pursue their medical professions.”
Health, Labor and Welfare Minister Katsunobu Kato said his ministry will push for more flexibility for women who need to take a break from their careers because of pregnancy and childbirth.
Education Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi reminded the school to promptly report back.
The Yomiuri said the school’s purpose in denying women entry was because female doctors often quit working after starting families. In Japan, medical graduates usually work at school-affiliated hospitals.
TBS TV quoted an unidentified former admissions official at Tokyo Medical University as saying that medical schools routinely alter scores to keep women out. He said women tend to avoid tough jobs like surgery or work in remote areas.
On Friday night, dozens of people gathered outside the university holding banners and posters with messages such as “Protest against sexist entrance exams!” and “You trampled on the efforts and lives of women who trusted and chose you.”
Social networks were flooded with angry messages.
“We have seen shutters come down right in front of us just because we were women, and we should not let our younger generations go through the same horrible experience,” tweeted Minori Kitahara, a writer and feminist activist who was at the rally.
Nearly 50 percent of women in Japan are college graduates – among the world’s highest amount – but they often face discrimination in the workforce. Women also are considered responsible for homemaking, childrearing and elderly care, while men are expected to work long hours and outside care services are limited.
Admissions records released to the Associated Press by the school show the percentage of women who passed the entrance exam rose from 24 percent in 2009 to 38 percent in 2010. The figure has since stayed below that level until decreasing to 18 percent this year, when a total of 171 students passed the exam. The ratio of female applicants who were accepted this year was 2.9 percent, compared to 8.8 percent for men.
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