I have been teaching "business administration" to Faculty of Commerce first and second year students for about 35 years. Next March, my 41 years of educational activities at Chuo University will come to an end. On my retirement, because the Chuo University Commerce Society will publish my Retirement Commemorative Edition, in March 2013, I have contributed a piece titled "Looking Back on My Research Life at Chuo University". However, I couldn't write enough in regards to my educational activities. Here I will write about the educational activities that I thought over and practiced every day.
1.University teachers who never underwent teaching practice
In Japan, there has been little research about what educational content and education techniques should be used in specialist subjects at university. Up to high school level, in order to become a teacher (earn teaching qualifications), it is required that you do "teaching practice" for 2-3 weeks at the junior high school or high school that you attended, and obtain those credits. However, in Japan, in order to become a university teacher, there is no obligation to undergo "teaching practice." Textbooks to be used and teaching methodology is left to the discretion of each teacher.
The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, in order to equip teachers with excellent and easy-to understand teaching methods, has also asked to implement FD (Faculty Development) at every university, and is demanding an improvement in teaching competency. However, Japan does not have an organization which implements four week teaching method seminars for prospective new university teachers like they do in the US, Europe and Singapore. That concrete form is left up to each university. Because they are universities, educational guidelines that are in place up until high school, do not exist. Also in the case of textbooks, in the US and Europe, typical texts are developed and published by well-known professors in that field, and if the students do not attain knowledge in line with the content of those texts, they are judged as not having reaching the set standard. In contrast to this, in Japan, even in the same university, teaching methods are left to the discretion of each individual teacher, and whether the education content is difficult or easy, or whether it is easy or difficult to obtain credits differs depending on each teacher and class. This is also the cause of the remarkably growing gap between universities with prominent professors and those without.
But, in the subject fields (business administration, accounting, commercial science, information science) related to my specialist area in the Faculty of Commerce, the All Japan Council of Business University Education has been formed, and deals with the improvement of university education courses (curriculum) and improving education techniques. It was centered on volunteer teachers and teachers with an interest in education, who had experience in posts such as dean of faculty of commerce or administration at private universities, and was set up in 1983. Its aim was to hold a meeting annually, separately to the directors' meetings, and have concentrated discussions on educational reform issues that could not be deliberated in the National Faculty of Business Administration Directors Council, which was formed in 1976. Even in regards to education techniques, there are times when the education experiences of each university are revealed. I have been involved in those activities since 1991, so here, I would like to introduce the reports and daily educational activities that took place there. (Text (total of over 30,000 copies covering all editions), written by five like-minded people who believe that private university first year students=fourth year high school students, was also published.)
2. My teaching methods
In my daily educational activities, the thing that is more important than anything else, based upon my 23 years of experience, is providing concrete examples such as using a revised, amended and improved manuscript of my Text (published in 2006, see postscript references), which I distributed every year, and related newspapers in order for many students to understand easily. I believe that that will nurture expression and composition skills (writing in sentences, sending out as words) as the students' own knowledge that can be understood in their heads. In a 30 lecture course with about 200 students in attendance, at the end of the every third lesson, I give an assignment consisting of five logically related questions (each question worth 20 points in a total of 100). Accordingly, students have to write and submit short essays on both sides of a B4 size answer sheet about the 10 assignments from the year. I collect them at the end of the lesson, and by the next class, I choose the best answer, correct and improve it by hand, and hand out copies to everyone. I require the students to compare this with their own submissions and make improvements. This year, the number of submissions for each assignment has been high, with 80% of students handing in work for the first topic, and more than 50% for each subsequent assignment after that. Questions from here are put in mid-term and end of term examinations. Every year, about 50% of students achieve results of over 80 points or over 90 points in my examinations. My teaching goal is to have 70-80% of students be able to write strong essays. In first year business administration, I believe it is of vital important to nurture skills to accurately comprehend basic knowledge and express (compose) it in writing.
3.Teachers' educational responsibilities and Ethic
When I was in graduate school, a Japan Teachers Union education training session concerning whether a teacher's job was a sacred profession like priest at church or the activities of a single laborer in the teaching profession, was debated in newspapers etc. What responsibilities and ethic are assigned to teachers?
Once a year, I have the students in the lecture room have a serious think about "What kind of job to you want to do in the future? What profession are you suited for?" At this time, I talk about the reasons and motives behind my becoming a teacher. In my first year at university, a friend from high school who I often had discussions with posed me with a challenging question. "Takahashi, you're going to become a teacher? I'm not great enough to teach people, so I can't become a teacher. Even so, you are going to become one?" While at university, I was enrolled in a teacher-training course to get teacher qualifications for a commercial high school, but her question constantly remained in my head and I started to think that because humans aren't gods, I couldn't have the confidence to teach others. Regardless of that, I ended up becoming a teacher. I explain to my students how that challenging question led to my decision to become a teacher. "If everyone thinks not to attain qualifications and skills for humans to educate humans and avoids the teaching profession, teachers would cease to exist. Because leaders in developing nations placed emphasis on educational activities, they have developed into new emerging countries. So education is extremely important in the sense of developing those countries' economies or whether they become peaceful (or militaristic). So what qualifications do you have to become an educator?" I tell my students that I didn't forget to have feelings of sincerity, "I will strive to work hard in my teaching day in and day out, so God, please let me become a teacher!" Then I explain to them that I was permitted to find the path to a decision. I reached the age of seventy in April this year, but even now, I don't forget this feeling when I am teaching. Fulfill your promise to God! I intend to adopt the same attitude when possibly educating Vietnamese students in the future.
4.Students think as consumers
In business administration lessons, when debating about "What is business?" when asked the question, "Are private universities (Chuo University) businesses?" about two thirds of the students raise their hands in agreement that they are businesses. Private universities do not make profits, receive, albeit small, subsidies from the government, and are run in accordance to university accounting standards, so they are not businesses.
In the present situation where state subsidies to current private universities make up 5-7% of university budgets, even if there are donations, we must face up to the reality that more than 90% of university finances come from fees paid by students' parents. If student fees were done away with, private universities couldn't stand on their own, and teachers like me couldn't make a living. For that reason, students are consumers, and university teachers must reply to these consumers' demands. However, consumer desires are diverse. In my first class, I ask the students, "Have you ever calculated how much this single lesson costs?" If you divide the total amount paid by current Faculty of Commerce students over four years by four years worth of the average number of yearly lectures (12 classes with 30 lessons), the cost comes to 2600 yen. In other words, a single lesson accounts for 2600 yen of fees paid over four years. Accordingly, it is my obligation and responsibility as a teacher to provide a lesson worth 2600 yen, and I tell the students that that is what they are purchasing.
5.Increasing motivation to learn and how to induce study
I stipulated that the students are consumers. If you are a clever student consumer, if the content of the lecture you are purchasing (taking) doesn't meet your requirements, you would demand improvements while asking questions. If you are a teacher aware of the sacred profession, you would deal with it seriously. However, from the point of view of the student, it may be difficult to always receive that kind of treatment. To me (and probably many other teachers), my biggest task is how to motivate students to study on their own accord. How to provide methods for students to possess learning goals and induce independent learning is the biggest issue facing teachers.
Education is Erziehung in German. Ziehen means going back to the student level, and lift them to the target education levels from there. However, if the students don't have the attitude to learn independently in that education process, they won't lift their performance.
I have handed out copies of newspapers and introduced the recent difficulties of finding employment faced by new graduates, and the activities of Chuo graduates as overseas cooperation volunteers, and have also had a graduate, who at the young age of 40 is company president of a subsidiary company, come in and give a lecture. With this kind of ingenuity, motivation to learn is raised. It is also important to give clear answers to student questions and provide reference materials.
However, before that motivation, there is a difficult problem that has to be solved. That is the problem of students talking during class. Students talking during class has nothing to do with the quality of the university. Until now, I have taught 3-4 weeks for years at a famous university in Vietnam that is equivalent to the University of Tokyo in Japan. When it comes to lectures in a large hall with about 200 students, if you don't issue a warning when talking breaks out, it becomes noisy and impossible to conduct the lesson. I am waging a thorough battle against students talking in class. When I persistently give warnings each time it starts, the students stop talking or stop coming to class, and the classroom becomes quiet. I emphasize that for international exchange students, it is difficult to hear the content of the lesson with the loud talking, and it is a great nuisance.
There is a short survey about talking in class. It was taken in November 1987 with 641 students (13.4% of total students) from a women's university in Kansai taking part. The contributing students were told to reply especially with specific lectures where there is a lot of talking in mind (% of replies). The main points are below.
As suggested from the above survey, the teacher preventing talking in class and giving simple lectures that can keep students interested is more important than anything else. If a teacher can provide this kind of lesson each time, student attendance rates will improve, and there will be an improvement in what is called student lesson culture, where students not attending lessons miss out on interesting lectures and are unable to understand the content of the course. However, among the students at private universities that churn out graduates, there are some students who, from the outset, think that just obtaining credits will be satisfactory, or try to fake their way to graduation without studying seriously (maybe about 10-20% of all students). I believe these students will fail and ignore them. That is because I must reach my goal of applying a planned and deliberate influence on the learning of the other serious students, and develop their skills. Because my mission as a teacher is to fulfill my promise to God in striving to work hard. Is it necessary to exert oneself on underachievers at university and those with no motivation to learn? Teachers should not have to waste their efforts on students who don't join seminars, don't participate in lessons, in other words, consumers (students) who refuse to possess that lesson (product), regardless of their parents already paying the fees for that lesson (product). The lesson scenery in the classroom is a single culture built by the teacher and the students. The education process and learning process is culture (behavioral style) built up by both the teachers and students. The place called university should be a place where you discover lifelong friends through learning and discussions (with no interests), and communicate through self experiences. A teacher should assist that. (For more details, I would like you to refer to my essays related to ethic in the postscript.)