An exploratory study of the factors influencing Japanese female students to attend a two -year college
Japanese society as a whole used to discourage women from pursing their education at four-year colleges, which have traditionally been the preserve and means of social advancement for men. Women have been encouraged to attend two-year colleges, traditionally regarded as institutions preparing young women for marriage and homemaking. In the 1990's, when four-year colleges became much more accessible to college applicants due to the decrease in size of the college-age population, Japanese women began to leave their traditionally designated educational path to pursue their educational opportunities at four-year colleges. Yet, two-year college still remains the woman's track in higher education. Two-year colleges, predominantly populated by women, today absorb about one-third of female entrants to postsecondary education. This study, employing both quantitative (a survey questionnaire) and qualitative methods (focus and individual interviews), inquires into why Japanese women still find their educational opportunities in two-year colleges. Three theoretical lenses were used for this study: the Hossler and Gallagher college choice mode, habitus, and opportunity worth wanting. The findings of this study indicate the following: (1) Japanese female students' choice of a two-year college was influenced by a number of factors, beginning with the formation of aspirations for post high school education and extending through enrollment in a particular college. (2) Their decision to attend a two-year college was not a manifestation of their free will. It was largely imposed upon them by their family and high school environment. The findings of this study can provide insight into the college choice process for Japanese female students attending two-year colleges, and, hopefully, better enable colleges, parents, educators, and policy makers to effectively assist these women as they navigate their way along what can be a difficult path. It is also hoped that these findings will help Japanese female students become more aware and knowledgeable in choosing a college.