In today’s globalized world, universities in Japan are being called upon to improve the level of their English language education to produce graduates capable of becoming global leaders. According to an article in AERA (March 11), an increasing number of Japanese universities, including prestigious universities like the University of Tokyo and Waseda University, are taking measures to improve their students’ English communication skills not only through exchange programs, but also while studying here in Japan.
Kinki University opened a café in 2006 called “E-cube” where students can interact with foreign staff, have lunch with them, and take part in various cultural classes and events, such as dance, guitar, and cooking lessons, all in English. Nikkei (February 18) also reported on the café, quoting a Kinki University professor responsible for the program as saying: “Conventionally, many universities have been selecting highly ambitious, gifted students to let them study abroad in order to produce graduates who can thrive in a global environment. However, we think it’s important to raise the overall level of English of our students. Our goal is to encourage even students who have an aversion to English to enjoy the language and become capable of speaking English.”
Similar measures are being taken at the English language center of Kanda University of International Studies, where students can receive one-on-one consulting on how to study English and support from resident advisors. Waseda University also has a unique English tutoring program in which one tutor is assigned to every five students, and students can access a special website to receive assignments and feedback every week.
Another popular trend among Japanese universities is to provide students with a “study abroad experience” in their dormitories, without actually having to go overseas. According to Asahi (March 2), students in their first year at Fukuoka Women’s University must reside in an international dorm where exchange students and Japanese students room together. This way, the students can improve their English communication skills through communal life with foreign students in Japan. According to the paper, a growing number of universities, such as Chuo University and Waseda University, are creating international dorms for the same reasons. Perhaps in the not so distant future, there will be a surge in the number of young Japanese working actively around the world.