A Japan Students Services Organization graph shows that the number of foreign students in Japan has increased 14-fold over a quarter century to about 140,000 in FY2011.
“Go global” is a buzzword that has been used a lot lately to describe Japan’s eagerness to develop internationally-minded human resources. The Japanese government and many educational institutions have been making various efforts to send more students abroad. However, drawing more international students to Japan is another way to help Japanese society to go global at the grass-roots level. The GOJ launched in 2008 the ambitious initiative of hosting 300,000 foreign students by 2020. The presence of international students in the country will help to make alien ideas more familiar, develop the Japanese people’s capacity to tolerate the unknown, and deepen their understanding of different peoples and cultures.
According to Yomiuri (6/3), MEXT is considering financing Japanese universities’ establishment of offices abroad for recruiting students overseas with the goal of developing “Japan hands” in countries that have close bonds with Japan. About 8,600 students from some 160 nations are currently studying in Japan on GOJ scholarships. Many of these students have gone on to take up important portfolios in the government and private sector after returning from Japan. The Education Ministry is in the process of selecting some 20 cities in ASEAN countries and the Middle East where Japanese colleges hope to set up offices to foster local students’ interest in studying in Japan. The same daily reported earlier (4/13) that the Kyoto Prefectural Government has decided to ask the central government to allow the creation of a “special zone for university utopia,” in which foreign students who graduated from local universities will be granted permanent residency. Some 6,900 foreigners were studying in Kyoto as of May last year, and the prefectural government hopes to increase the number to 50,000 by 2040 in order to attract talented expats and academic professionals to serve as a catalyst for revitalizing the ancient city as its economy has been in the doldrums for many years.
Nikkei (5/16) wrote that some private Japanese institutions are making use of their founders to attract the attention of students overseas. Doshisha University in Kyoto created a manga comic illustrating the life of its founder Jo Niijima and translated it into English and Korean for dissemination at 39 high schools in six countries. Senshu University in Tokyo similarly commissioned a novel on its four founders that was translated into English for use by 10 overseas institutions with which it has sister-school arrangements to raise foreign students’ awareness of the Japanese college. Two other leading private schools in Tokyo, Keio and Waseda Universities, have each posted English webpages to help foreign students easily find out about the ideas and philosophies of the schools’ founders. Waseda reportedly plans to increase its international student population from the current 4,300 to 10,000, or roughly 20% of the entire student body, in 20 years.
Meanwhile, in his “writer’s eye” column on May 16, Mainichi lifestyle news reporter Toshimitsu Kishi called attention to the potentially practical merits of accommodating more foreign students. He participated in a March seminar in Bangkok, in which some 330 researchers from 20 countries, who used to study in Japan, gathered to exchange views on Japan-Asia relations. The writer said these students were extremely grateful for their time in Japan and offered useful advice based on the knowledge and insights they gained while studying here and mingling with Japanese on how Japan can come to terms with its neighbors on the issue of the history of its involvement in the Second World War. The journalist proposed that Japan more proactively reach out to Asian students studying here to work out solutions together to looming problems, such as the aging population and energy shortage, which other Asian countries are also facing.