Message from the Past Presidents (4th President, 2013-19)

Message from the President

Message from the Past Presidents (4th President, 2013-19)

Toward New Phase of JABEE

Dr. Mutsuhiro ARINOBU (President, 2013-2019)

I have been elected to the 4th JABEE President as successor of Dr. Tsutomu KIMURA, at JABEE Board of Directors held on 27 May, 2013.

I can recall my memory that my first engagement in JABEE started as an examiner when JABEE undertook a pilot accreditation as well as a chair of examination team of a formal accreditation. I participated in the discussion on drafting accreditation criteria by field at the side of the Japan Society of Mechanical Engineers. Survey on education programs in Mechanical Engineering departments in Japanese higher education institutions were conducted at that time and I remember having quite serious discussions on the role of the Society of Mechanical Engineers for program accreditation. Symposia were held to promote and provide correct understating on program accreditation at the Annual Meeting and national convention of the Society of Mechanical Engineers. I heard similar serious discussions and promotions were made by other engineering societies. We shall not forget active participation from the major engineering societies and enormous efforts made by secretarial personnel from numbers of engineering societies until JABEE could have been able to operate accreditations as a form of JABEE today. JABEE must once again remember the efforts made by relating engineering societies and the passion of the pioneers contributing to JABEE establishment.

When GATT was transformed to WTO, the scope of WTO expanded from not only import/export of goods but also to include services provided by the people and the framework of mutual recognition on professional qualification by each country have been confirmed. In terms of professional qualification for engineers, the framework for common professional qualification was set up in NAFTA and APEC immediately. In the foreign countries, in particular in Western countries, educational training appropriate to each field of discipline is required to obtain professional qualification. Professional qualification for engineers is not an exceptional case that APEC Engineer, in fact, requires “completion of either accredited or recognized education program” as academic qualification. In order for mutual recognition of professional qualification to be mutually recognized, there need to be mutual equivalency of education program as prerequisite. Equivalency of education program is assured by substantial equivalency of accreditation of education program. The Washington Accord, which JABEE joins as a signatory is composed of organizations accrediting engineering education programs mutually equivalent among signatories. Comprehensive improvement of education could be implemented by having two perspectives on accreditation. One is the educational contents which give consideration on requirements of professional qualification from the perspective on fostering professionals who respond to the requirements of the society and the other is educational system which includes a system to continuously improve its education.

Out of advocating equality in democratization after the World War II, “differentiation” exists in academic credentials and qualifications are mixed up and wrongly remain dormant as “discrimination” under mere slogan of ability-ism in Japan. During postwar reconstruction period, ability to understand and adapt knowledge of advanced countries were way too important than the expertise taught in the universities so the concept of students selection is emphasized more than educational contents of the higher education institutions. It seems to me that large number of universities has put effort to meet such expectations of the industry. The limitation of such “ability-ism” started to expose since Japan found a way out from sense of feeling chased from advanced countries. Furthermore, increasing number of major corporations in Japan have increased number of foreigners they hire in Japan while reducing domestic recruitment at the same time expanding recruitment in abroad. It is getting almost impossible to manage human resource in old-school way like separating foreigners and Japanese due to acceleration of globalization. Is that practically possible for Japanese who claims “Ability-ism” just for public position to expect being treated as equivalent as foreigners who accept differentiation exist academic credentials and qualifications as it is?

In June 2013, I attended the International Engineering Alliance (IEA) Meetings and the Seoul Accord General Meeting. IEA is composed of Accords of Engineering Education Accreditation and of Agreements of Institution of Professional Engineers. In terms of engineering professions, it has become more common to divide them into categories of engineer, technologist and technician and IEA is trying to ensure equivalency of accreditation of education programs corresponding to each category under three educational Accords: Washington Accord, Sydney Accord and Dublin Accord. It is highly plausible for Japan to encounter this subject recognizing qualified professionals based on concept of such divided categories in the future since Japan doesn’t have qualification of professional engineer except PEJ (Engineers after the Japanese Engineer Act has been amended). The Seoul Accord is an international agreement which ensures substantial equivalency of Computing & IT-related education programs which are based on computational science and software. JABEE accredited only single-digit Computing & IT-related education programs whereas there are signatories, who accredit 300 to 400 programs. Acknowledging the fact that there is an issue that professional qualification in this field is internationally dispersed to all sort of different qualifications, I, however, have heard there are increasing numbers of fundamental courses for computer science taught fundamental courses for computer science taught normally in other than the computer science departments even in Japan. It is a time for Japan to clarify how we deal with the Seoul Accord since future technology cannot be materialized without so called IT.

If Japanese science and technology overwhelms the world, it could be possible that the way of Japan to become the world standard. However the reality is that China and Korea are reaching almost there around us and even Southeast Asian countries are getting close by. It was memorable for me to see African attendees of South African delegate made various statements in the IEA Meetings. The event made me realize the necessity of accepting globalization from the perspective on world-wide “diversity”. JABEE cannot fully deny that JABEE’s claim vis-à-vis the Japanese society to ensure international substantial equivalency could have been seen as just a big mouth. However, the big mouth is getting to be real now. The responsibility of JABEE has been more and more important. JABEE has to get through the upcoming era by cooperating closely and tightly with relating engineering societies. To the best of my ability, I shall take my role as JABEE new President.

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