The Yomiuri ShimbunThe revelation that Tokyo Medical University has for years deliberately reduced the scores of women who took its general entrance exam has sparked anger and bewilderment among female doctors, students at the university and test-takers.
There likely will be widening repercussions over the manipulation of exam scores for the university’s school of medicine.
“I feel like the efforts and aspirations of female doctors have been trampled on,” sighed a 38-year-old physician working in the internal medicine department of a hospital affiliated with the medical department of a public university in the Kanto region.
The doctor acquired her physician’s license from the university’s medical department and became a trainee doctor at the university-affiliated hospital. Four years after graduating, she got married while undergoing training to become a specialist doctor and later gave birth to a son. She took maternity leave for about six months.
Although she considered quitting her job, she had a change of heart. “I want to use my expertise and skills to help save people’s lives,” she said.
However, the reality of returning to work was tough. She had to attend conferences and meetings from 7:30 a.m. After dropping her son off at nursery school, she would hurry to the hospital and treat patients until evening. She was swamped with paperwork such as compiling patient treatment records.
On countless occasions, a patient’s condition would suddenly deteriorate and she would have to stay at work, returning home late at night.
She worked the night shift about five times a month, so she had to ask her husband, who works at a regular company, to look after their son at such times. Whenever the time to leave and pick up her son from nursery school approached, her male colleagues would help finish her backlog of work and take care of any patients who suddenly fell ill. Three years after returning to work, she successfully became a specialist. She still works at the same hospital.
Since she took maternity leave, the hospital’s working environment has improved for female doctors who give birth. Steps taken include assigning several attending doctors to each patient.
According to sources related to the issue, Tokyo Medical University tried to keep the proportion of successful female applicants at about 30 percent through such methods as uniformly lowering the scores of women taking its entrance exam. The examinees were not informed of this practice.
“Many female doctors don’t return to work after they get married or take time off to have a child,” a source at the university said. “We wanted to increase the number of men so hospitals could secure enough doctors on the front line.”
The female doctor could not hide her frustration at the university’s treatment of female applicants.
“Women are also suited to providing medical care. We show compassion to patients while treating them with meticulous care,” she said. “Depriving someone of the chance [to be a doctor] just because of their sex doesn’t benefit anyone.”
Atsushi Hiraide, a professor at Kindai University’s faculty of medicine and an expert on medical education, said: “Decisions on which borderline examinees are accepted may reflect university policies. However, uniformly lowering the scores of female examinees only is absurd, and it’s a betrayal of the test-takers.
“As the government ministry with authority on this issue, the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry must examine whether other universities are doing something similar.”
'It discourages me'
“I cannot accept that it’s difficult for us to pass the exams only because we are female,” said a 20-year-old female student from Fukushima city.
One of her parents is a doctor, and she has failed to pass the entrance exams of medical schools including Tokyo Medical University and Jikei University for two straight years.
“I will have to decide which university to try to get into. But it discourages me from studying,” she added angrily.
In Chiba Prefecture, a 19-year-old female student who failed to pass this year’s first-stage entrance exams for medical schools including Tokyo Medical University and Jikei University decided to take the exams again next year.
“It seems true that female doctors tend to quit their jobs, but I think it is doctors’ style of working that should be changed,” she said.
A 24-year-old male student in his sixth year at Tokyo Medical University’s medical school felt guilty as he thought about the female students who were made to fail through their exam scores being manipulated, in spite of their being excellent.
He said, “I want the university to investigate the manipulation of scores in detail and explain the outcome without hiding anything.”
Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi criticized the incident on Thursday, saying, “Entrance exams that unfairly discriminate against women are simply unacceptable.”
Even before this issue was revealed, the ministry had demanded that the university investigate whether entrance exams for the past six years were conducted fairly or not and report the outcome of the investigation to the ministry.
“Unfair discrimination is unacceptable. We will plan some course of action for the university, depending on the content of its report,” a ministry official in charge of university entrance examinations said.