Nippon Institute of Technology (NIT) celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. In 1964, in the midst of the rapid economic growth period of our country, NIT started as the first university in Japan that a technical high school student could enter university via a recommendation system. The spirit of establishing NIT was “to develop talented people that could contribute to the advancement of industrial technology in Japan”. Technical high school graduates took specialized subjects with experiments, practical training, and drafting from their first year, and with learning by this school’s original philosophy of jitsukogaku (practical engineering) where they could use their knowledge from technical high school. We are proud of our many facilities for experiments and practical training, for example, the machine tool group in the Educational Center for Experienced Mechanical Engineers. Nowadays, many universities accept technical high school students. The number of technical high schools are decreasing with changes in social conditions. Therefore, students entering NIT are increasingly from general high schools, and now the ratio is almost half from each.
The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) is pushing forward with the university reform, “practical learning”, so the “practical engineering” policy of NIT has been boosted by it. However, when I consider that society will change rapidly in the future, we cannot survive only with the strength of technical expertise alone. “Practical learning” is understood as “useful learning”, but to begin with the word “useful” includes large ambiguity. In judging whether practical learning is useful or not, a “judgment value” of what to prioritize always accompanies it. The judgment is: How useful is it?; Who is it useful for?; How long is it evaluated for?; Are all aspects evaluated?; Are there any unintended effects?
Where and how will the abilities of students be useful in the future? They will be increasingly required to be engineers who can understand both time (history) and place (cultural place).
It is from such a background that we are trying to put more emphasis on a holistic education, while still maintaining our high standard of technical specialties.
We are quickly pushing forward with education reform. From 2014 we have added a subject called ‘First Year Experience’, covering areas such as writing for first year students. In technical high schools, the number of class hours for mathematics and English are decreasing in order to concentrate on practical learning. Therefore, we think there are areas where student knowledge is insufficient for the understanding of their basic subjects, so the curriculum of NIT has been made to compensate for that. Our belief is “they could not do it, because they had no opportunity to learn”. Currently as students entering NIT diversify, we are evolving the curriculum depending on the achievement level of each student. Our program clearly shows the appropriate goals according to student level giving the students the opportunity to keep learning until they understand. Through such programs, we add value for the students, which leads to quality assurance of the graduates.
The greatest purpose of the education reform is to change the students into an autonomous learners, voluntarily learning according to their own curiosity. At NIT, our classes have active learning and Project Based Learning at NIT, but education does not have an “all-around prescription”. The moment when a switch is turned on is different for each person. It is key for our university to promote educational reform appropriately, not only by educational reforms adhering to methodology, but also by identifying what is necessary for each and every student in front of us. It is also essential for all our teachers to have good teaching abilities. Therefore, in the background the university is working on further improving the quality of the faculty members.
Currently, we are promoting the “Sainokuni Renkeiryoku Ikusei Project” to work on regional medical welfare in cooperation with universities in Saitama Prefecture. Students who are learning architecture go to medical welfare facilities and learn what kind of contribution can be made with their skills. The fact that the engineering field is involved in the field of the medical welfare is rare throughout Japan. The person who can’t understand the pain of others cannot create true innovation in the true sense of the meaning. The role of engineering still has infinite possibilities towards an ageing society.
NIT will continue its evolution of further deepening students’ practical engineering skills, which educates engineers who have become accustomed to studying autonomously, thus becoming “engineers who are life-long learners ” who can propose original ideas in their specialized fields.
© 2018 NIPPON INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY