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Showa Univ. medical school also manipulated entrance exam scores since 2013

Showa University President Ryohei Koide, left back, and medical school head Yoshio Ogawa, leave a press conference in Tokyo's Shinagawa Ward, where they announced the school's manipulation of entrance exam scores, on Oct. 15, 2018. (Mainichi/Naoki Watanabe)

TOKYO -- Showa University told a press conference here on Oct. 15 that its medical school inflated the entrance examination scores of first- and second-time test takers, and prioritized preferential admittance for 19 students from alumni families.

The announcement came on the heels of the revelation that Tokyo Medical University manipulated entrance examination scores to accept more male exam-takers and applicants who had failed the school's entrance exams the least amount of times.

Tokyo-based Showa University did not explain its practice to applicants before they took the tests. The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology intends to impose strict measures on the school for the irregular arrangement.

According to Showa University, the school padded scores for the second part of its two-tier entrance exams, giving 10 more points to high school students and others sitting for the tests for the first time and five to second-time examinees.

Yoshio Ogawa, the head of the medical school, explained that the score padding was done "because first and second-time examinees tend to show better academic performance and better prospects for the future."

In addition, the university gave favorable treatment to the sons and daughters of its alumni, accepting them first over other test takers when filling the spots vacated by successful applicants who declined to attend the medical school. School officials explained that this is because they judged such applicants have higher possibility of accepting their admission offers.

Showa University President Ryohei Koide apologized at the press conference, saying, "We poorly executed the selection, and caused a lot of trouble." Showa University is setting up a third-party panel of experts to examine how to respond to applicants who were turned down because of score manipulation. The school said it will stop manipulating scores and the other practices from next year's entrance exam.

The Showa case emerged after the education ministry launched an investigation into 81 universities with medical schools nationwide about possible issues in their entrance exam processes. The September probe began in response to the Tokyo Medical University case, and Showa told the ministry investigation that the school committed no illicit act.

About this answer, Ogawa, the Showa medical school chief, told reporters that the ministry question was about if the school discriminated against applicants based on age, and they "judged it was not the case, because fist-time examinees (whose scores were padded) include older people."

The school said the score padding and favorable acceptance of alumni family applicants began in 2013, but could not explain why about the timing. That year is the starting point for the ministry probe.

University officials said they did not recognize those practices as illicit, and said they were "something we have been doing for some time." Ogawa said the school did not intend to treat applicants with two or more failed test attempts negatively. "We added, not reduced, scores for the future prospects" of first- and second-time applicants, he said.

When asked if university officials were aware what they were doing was wrong, President Koide did not give a straight answer. "It is difficult to make a judgment on that issue," he said, and a school official serving as moderator ended the press conference.

Showa students' reactions were mixed. A 21-year-old student in his third year at the medical school said, "Things turned out just as I had suspected. I am not surprised." He added that it ought to be fairer to announce it when giving more scores to certain applicants.

Another student, 19, at the pharmaceutical school was angry. "It's wrong to discriminate based on past exam performance. It should not have happened." A 22-year-old student at the dental school, who joined the department after he failed the medical school entrance exam twice, said, "It is a well-known fact that applicants who failed in the past are treated negatively in medical school entrance exams. I don't think there is a need to review the practice."

Showa officials also told the Oct. 15 press conference that the school did not give favorable treatment based on an applicant's gender. The medical school accepted 1.54 times more male applicants than female examinees during the past six years.

Head of nonprofit organization Medical Governance Research Institute Masahiro Kami accused Showa University's practice of score padding and preferential treatment for alumni families as "out of question." Kami said academic performance has nothing to do with a doctor's ability.

"There is essentially no right way of selecting applicants, but it has to be fair, not arbitrary," he said. "If you don't like examinees who failed multiple times, then you publicly set a limit on the number of tries applicants can make -- like the bar exam."

(Japanese original by Takuya Izawa, Akira Iida and Tamami Kawakami, City News Department)

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