Ideal homemaker passes her sell-by date

7th August 1998 at 01:00

female high school pupils are being encouraged to compete harder for much-coveted places at the country's top senior high schools and universities.

Special career seminars are being organised to introduce female pupils to successful role-models from the professions and to encourage young women to widen their higher education and career horizons.

At the same time teachers are receiving in-service training to show what more can be done to encourage female students to compete for places at top universities and to make sure that female and male students are being treated equally in the classroom.

It is now accepted that low teacher expectations have had a detrimental effect on the educational achievement of female pupils.

Admission to a top university, which is determined by the annual round of entrance exams, is still the prerequisite for a high-status job in Japan.

Although the number of female students at top universities has increased in recent years, male students still take a greater share of the places. At the most prestigious faculties of Japan's leading universities female students account for less than a quarter of the places.

Female students still take up 90 per cent of the places at the lower status junior colleges that offer shorter length courses. These were once felt more appropriate for young women who were expected to forfeit their careers, before the age of 25, to marry and become homemakers.

But at least some female pupils have been showing greater assertiveness. One teacher in Osaka was reprimanded after a female pupil complained of a sexist comment he had made during a lesson. The high school teacher had likened women who hadn't married by the age of 25 to stale Christmas cakes which no one wants after the 25th.

A revised version of the country's equal opportunities Employment Law will be issued early next year in a programme for punishing sexism and promoting the role of women in the workplace.

With the birth-rate falling to an all-time low, and an economy in recession, Japan certainly requires a larger pool of highly educated workers. It is hoped that encouraging female high school students will help to provide Japan with the more talented workforce it needs.

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