Tokyo medical school admits changing results to exclude women
University manipulated test scores for more than a decade to ensure more men became doctors
One of Japan’s most prestigious medical schools has admitted deliberately altering entrance exam scores for more than a decade to restrict the number of female students and ensure more men became doctors.
Tokyo Medical University manipulated all entrance exam results starting in 2006 or even earlier, according to findings released by lawyers involved in the investigation, confirming recent reports in Japanese media.
The school, which initially denied knowledge of the test score manipulations, said it should not have occurred and vowed to prevent it from happening again.
It said it would consider retroactively admitting those who otherwise would have passed the exams, although it did not explain how it would do so.
“We sincerely apologise 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 at a news conference. He denied any previous knowledge of the score manipulation and said he was never involved.
“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,” he said.
Yukioka said women were not treated differently once they were accepted, but acknowledged that some people believe women were not allowed to become surgeons.
The manipulation was revealed during an investigation into the alleged “backdoor entry” of an education ministry bureaucrat’s son in exchange for favourable treatment for the school in obtaining research funds. The bureaucrat and the former head of the school have been charged with bribery.
The investigation found that in this year’s entrance exams the school reduced all applicants’ first-stage test scores by 20% and then added at least 20 points for male applicants, except those who had previously failed the test at least four times. It said similar manipulations had occurred for years because the school wanted fewer female doctors, since it anticipated they would shorten or halt their careers after having children.
It is not clear how many women have been affected, but the practice started in 2006, according to Japanese media, potentially affecting a large number of candidates.
The education ministry official’s son, who had failed the exam three times, was given a total of 20 additional points, which eventually elevated him to just above the cutoff line.
The report said the manipulation was “profound sexism”, according to lawyer Kenji Nakai.
He said the investigation also suggested that the school’s former director took money from some parents who sought preferential treatment for their sons and that the manipulation was part of a deep-rooted culture that lacked fairness and transparency.
Nakai said the report only covered the latest exam results because of time constraints, and that further investigation was needed.
Nearly 50% of Japanese women are college educated — one of the world’s highest levels — but they often face discrimination in the workforce. Women also are considered responsible for homemaking, childrearing and caring for elderly relatives, while men are expected to work long hours. Outside care services are limited.
Studies show the share of female doctors who have passed the national medical exam has plateaued at around 30% for more than 20 years, leading some experts to suspect that other medical schools also discriminate against women.
The revelations have added weight to claims of institutional sexism in the Japanese workplace and education, frustrating efforts by the prime minister, Shinzo Abe, to create a society “in which women can shine”.
While women’s representation in the workplace is rising, Japan compares poorly with other countries in promoting women to senior positions. Many female employees find it difficult to return to work after giving birth.
The education minister, Yoshimasa Hayashi, said exam discrimination against women was “absolutely unacceptable,” adding that the ministry planned to examine admission procedures at all of the country’s medical schools.
The gender equality minister, Seiko Noda, told public broadcaster NHK: “It’s extremely disturbing if the university didn’t let women pass the exams because they think it’s difficult to work with female doctors.”
The revelations sparked fury on social media. “I’m 29 and will probably never get married,” said one poster. “Women are pitied if they don’t, but Japanese women who are married and working and have kids end up sleeping less than anybody in the world. To now hear that even our skills are suppressed makes me shake with rage.”
Another said: “I ignored my parents, who said women don’t belong in academia, and got into the best university in Japan. But in job interviews I’m told ‘If you were a man, we’d hire you right away.’ My enemy wasn’t my parents, but all society itself.”
The lawyers also said that the university’s former chairman and president had received money from the parents of applicants whose entrance exam scores were padded, according to Kyodo.
They allegedly raised the exam results of the children of former graduates in the hope that the parents would make donations to the school, the news agency said.