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Implications Of Curriculum Changes In The Usa And Japan For World Class Education In Developing Countries

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1996 Annual Conference


Washington, District of Columbia

Publication Date

June 23, 1996

Start Date

June 23, 1996

End Date

June 26, 1996



Page Count


Page Numbers

1.249.1 - 1.249.6



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Z. T. Bieniawski

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract


.— .... Session 3560 ~

Implications of Curriculum Changes in the USA and Japan for World-Class Education in Developing Countries

Z. T. Bieniawski Pennsylvania State University

Abstract A detailed study, including personal visits to the counties involved, was performed assessing the current curriculum changes in the USA and Japan for world-class engineering education in the 21st century. The new engineering programs in Japan are compared with those in the USA and marked differences in the educational strategies between the two countries are noted, reflecting the differing educational objectives and cultural backgrounds. Implications of the curriculum strategies and initiatives by the Developed Countries are discussed in the context of the different challenges facing the Developing Nations, using the case of China. The necessary socio-technological ingredients for world-class education of engineers in the 21st century are identified.

Introduction Profound changes are currently taking place in engineering curricula at universities across the United States. Invigorated by the NSF-funded centers for innovation and enhancement of engineering education, such as the ECSEL coalition led by Penn State, and others at the University of California, Berkeley and at Cornell, both the public and the private schools are reviewing their curricula with an eye on the perceived different societal needs in the 21st century. In particular, the new role of design and its integration over the four years of study, an emphasis on understanding the impact of engineering on society, and the need to think in terms of global markets and foreign cultures, has brought about unprecedented challenges. To meet these challenges, it is no longer sufficient to re-engineer university education, one must also include reforms in high school curricula as well as in post-degree continuing education for life-long learning and professional growth. Based on a detailed study and personal visits by the author to Europe, Japan and China, it is evident that the United States is in the forefront of this new curriculum thinking which attracts considerable attention in Far East countries, both developed and developing. Is there a model for the necessary academic ingredients for world- class education of engineers in the 21st century?

Curriculum Changes in the USA The United States has some of the finest universities and colleges in the world. Its engineering universities numbered 269 in 1994, of which 204 have been regularly evaluated and rated each year by U.S. News and World Report. Over 60% of high school graduates in America go on to some college. In 1994, there were 14.3 million students enrolled, of whom 55.1% were female (Chronicle of Higher Education). The comparable figure for Japan is 37%, Germany is 30%, France 28%, and Britain 20%. However, the attrition rate among college students is enormous. Only ~ of entering students complete a bachelor’s degree four years after high school, while 46910 do after six years. In engineering, the figure is 36Y0. To determine the status of engineering education, one should fwst answer a question: ‘What is good education?” One institution (MIT) defines good un&rgraduate education as one which “provides graduates with the attitudes, habits and approaches to learning that would ensure a lifetime of technical competence, social conrnbution and personal fulfillment.” Thus, undergraduate engineering education should be broadly conceived while graduate education at a master’s level should allow students to learn in-depth the technology of their specialty and the elements of professional practice. This is necessary because while European engineering graduates complete a five-year program consisting entirely of science and engineering, U.S. engineering students take 20V0 or more of their courses in arts, humanities and social sciences, due to poor high school preparation. This means that out of a total of 128 semester-credits typically needed for graduation in the USA, less than one- third are in the engineering specialty (typically 31 credits in “the major”).


Bieniawski, Z. T. (1996, June), Implications Of Curriculum Changes In The Usa And Japan For World Class Education In Developing Countries Paper presented at 1996 Annual Conference, Washington, District of Columbia. 10.18260/1-2--6101

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