It is an incredible instance of discrimination that may tarnish the reputation of each and every medical school in the nation.
Tokyo Medical University, whose former top officials have been indicted on charges of bribing a senior education ministry official, reduced the first-phase entrance exam scores of female applicants to its medical school. As a result, the ratio of successful female applicants was cut by some 10 percentage points to about 30 percent. These manipulations are said to have taken place since around 2011.
Irrational discrimination based on sex is banned by the Constitution, which also stipulates that everyone is equal under the law. One has to be appalled by the fact that such discrimination had been going unchallenged in an entrance examination, which is supposed to be administered in the fairest manner. We simply cannot tolerate this.
In general, university science departments with fewer female students set quotas for women to increase their numbers. But Tokyo Medical University never explained its point-deduction practice to applicants before they took the entrance exam. It is an outrageously wrongful act to curb the number of women in classes.
A source linked to the university explained that the practice was "unavoidable because more female physicians tend to leave jobs early." It is said that the university made the score deductions to prevent doctor shortages at its affiliate hospitals. This practice is said to have started because the ratio of female applicants who passed the entrance exam reached 40 percent in 2010.
But it is wrong to link the situation at its affiliate hospitals to entrance examinations.
Society-wide efforts are now underway so that women can continue working after marriage and childbirth. What the university should have done was to improve the working environment at its affiliate hospitals, such as nighttime shift conditions, so that women can keep working. Manipulating entrance exam scores means giving up such efforts and taking away places where women can play important roles.
The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology instructed Tokyo Medical University to investigate and report the circumstances of its entrance exams for the past six years. It is needless to say that the investigation must be thorough and exhaustive to find out what happened and why.
If a wrongful action is officially confirmed, it is possible that the medical school could be removed from the ministry's list of private university subsidy recipients. The university must quickly take countermeasures, including supporting applicants who were wrongfully turned down.
What worries us is complaints from students and educational officials that female applicants are discriminated against in entrance exams at other universities as well.
Education minister Yoshimasa Hayashi said he will wait for Tokyo Medical University to complete its investigation before taking additional action, but this is not a time to just stand by and watch. The education ministry must immediately launch an investigation of all medical schools to find out how they carry out their entrance exams.