By SACHIKO KAWANO
Possibilities in front of us. Edited by the author.
Do you have enough scores for the department you want to go to?
Why do I have to study math and physics even though I am sure that those subjects are unimportant to my career? Although many students of University of Tokyo (UT) have a negative attitude toward the curriculum, our school is one of the few universities in Japan that allow students to decide their major after their entrance and to take liberal arts classes, which can be a great appeal for students to apply for this school.
One thing that is often criticized about this late specialization system is the lack of specialized knowledge and skills. For example, a two-year education at the undergraduate level is not enough for science students to acquire proper skills to conduct experiments and write papers. Other universities in Japan offer courses in areas of specialty from freshmen year and let students prepare for advanced research in their later university life. When students at UT decide their major in the summer of their sophomore year, they need to endure a nail-biting competition to earn high grades if they wish to enter popular departments, such as the medicine and pharmaceutical departments. Students tend to end up taking easy classes rather than subjects of their interest due to the pressure from this system.
However, I think the late specialization system is valuable if students understand its original purpose. We can choose our favorite courses among a variety of topics, including literature, music, math and physics. Not only can we learn knowledge outside our major but also these classes can be precious opportunities to talk and cooperate with students from different backgrounds. Recently, communication skills and cross-disciplinary problem-solving abilities are considered more and more important in the job market, so a liberal arts curriculum meet the needs of society. Even though we must take many mandatory classes that we are not necessarily willing to study, they provide a chance to discover our strengths that we had never realized and to find out the subjects unsuitable for you. I, for one, noticed that I was much better at math in university than I had thought in high school. A number of students change their career options completely by realizing that their dream is not what they are really interested in and finding another area to pursue.
A year and a half at the College of Arts and Sciences might sometimes seem too long and unnecessary. For those who have decided your major, take your favorite classes and continue working toward your goal. For those who have not, keep an open mind and take liberal advantage of the time.