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EDUCATION > Study Abroad

Japanese poised to study abroad

  • September 11, 2013
  • , All newspapers and TV networks
  • Trending@Japan

In the second “Basic Plan for the Promotion of Education” that was drawn up by the cabinet on June 14, the Japanese government announced a policy of doubling the number of high school and college students who study abroad by 2020, 10 years ahead of the original schedule. According to Yomiuri (6/14), the government is hoping to increase the number of high school students studying abroad to 60,000 and college students to 120,000 by 2020. In addition, the government announced a policy of creating a public-private fund to provide financial assistance to those who study abroad. NHK (5/6) reported that the number of Japanese youths studying abroad peaked at 83,000 in 2004 and fell to 58,000 in 2010 due to the financial burden and the impact on job hunting. The network said the Ministry of Education is planning to double scholarships to about 7 billion yen and the number of eligible students to 20,000.

According to Mainichi (6/21), middle and high school students in Japan are now eager to study at prestigious universities overseas. While the number of Japanese students studying abroad has been on the decline over the last decade due partly to the “inward-looking” nature of young Japanese, the paper said they are starting to become “outward-looking” and seeking to study abroad in light of the growing demand for employees who are capable of working in a global environment. As reported in previous issues of Trending@Japan, the paper said prep schools are drawing high school students by offering courses on how to get into Harvard and other top foreign universities. The daily said one prep school held in June a seminar with a student who entered Harvard this year. Nikkei (7/8) reported that in June a group of Brown University students and the U.S. College Alumni Network of Japan (USCANJ) held at venues across Japan a seminar where Japanese students currently studying in the U.S. recounted in detail their experiences there and gave tips on preparing for studying abroad. Asahi (8/14) and NHK (8/21) reported that many Japanese high school students gathered for this year’s H-LAB summer school, where the students were invited to “experience Harvard” with visiting students from Harvard and other universities. Students were required to engage in group discussions in English on a variety of topics. An organizer of the summer school said Japanese high school students have few opportunities to engage in discussions on certain topics and express their thoughts in front of others, and that the lack of such experience is limiting their futures. He believes that providing them with these opportunities will open up new possibilities for them.

These are all good signs suggesting that the number of Japanese students studying in the U.S. may finally pick up. However, there is also some worrying data. Nikkei (8/28) reported that this year’s nationwide survey on academic achievement found that although 76% of six graders and 53% of ninth graders said they “like learning English,” only 39% of six graders and 31% of ninth graders said they want to study abroad or work in a global environment in the future, revealing the fact that children’s interest in learning English is not necessarily linked to a desire to go abroad. Asahi (8/28) reported on the same survey, highlighting the fact that there are more six graders who like learning English and like the idea of going abroad than ninth graders. Professor Masashi Negishi of Tokyo University of Foreign Studies said: “In middle school, students start learning complex grammar and they feel inferior when they make mistakes on written exams. Like in elementary schools there should be English conversation classes with more emphasis on communication than accuracy.”

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