By Takuya Izawa
In preparation for launching the grant-type scholarship system next fiscal year, implementing organizations such as the Japan Student Services Organization (JASSO) requested high schools to submit their selection criteria for prospective grant recipients. However, Mainichi found from sources that 30% of the schools did not respond. It is speculated that clear-cut criteria based on grades or household income are avoided, as it could detract attention from a student’s unique circumstances. However, JASSO is requesting schools’ recommendation criteria by the end of the year to ensure a fair selection process. Schools that do not respond could have their recommendation quotas revoked.
Some 20,000 students enrolled in universities that come from homes that do not make enough money to pay local taxes will receive between 20,000 and 40,000 yen a month that does not have to be repaid. All public and private high schools across Japan are given one or more recommendation quotas, and the schools apply for scholarships on behalf of the students they have selected.
JASSO announced two guidelines this April on the candidates’ grades: They should have either a) outstanding grades, or b) achieved significant success outside of class while maintaining satisfactory grades. While JASSO defines an “outstanding grade” for the former as an A (average between 4.3 and 5.0) on a Japanese report card scale of 1.0 to 5.0, and a “satisfactory grade” for the latter as a B (average between 3.5 and 4.2), it accepts flexible interpretations based on individual schools’ selection criteria and unique circumstances. The organization distributed guidelines for candidate students’ character, academic achievements, qualifications, and household income levels, and asked that each school develop and submit their selection criteria.
However, around 1,800 out of some 5,800 schools, which comprise 31%, did not disclose their selection standards by the July deadline. While the non-submitting schools constituted 17% among the approximately 4,600 schools that applied for scholarships, they made up 83% of the 1,200 or so schools that did not apply for grants, citing the lack of students from low income households that are pursuing university education. JASSO intends to revoke schools’ recommendation quotas starting next year for those that have not submitted their criteria by December.
Most high schools determine their applicants through selection committees. When there are many viable candidates, applicants are prioritized based on their grades, extracurricular achievements, and household circumstances. “It’s hard to set rating systems,” laments one high school source. “If we set the average too high, candidates might not be able to meet it. But it’s not good to set it too low either.” Others school representatives complain, “We would prefer JASSO to define an overarching standard so we wouldn’t be criticized for having arbitrary criteria.”