MANILA — Growing numbers of Japanese are opting to travel to the Philippines to study English at affordable costs ahead of the planned speaking efficiency-focused college entrance exams and Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics in 2020.
The number of Japanese visitors to the Southeast Asian country has steadily risen in the last few years, reaching 584,180 in 2017, up 9.1 percent from a year earlier, aided by demand from students and services industry workers who want to put themselves in an English-speaking environment.
“Travelers aiming to study English (in the Philippines) are surging in number. About 100 Japanese junior high and high schools implemented study abroad programs in 2017,” an official at the Tokyo office of the Philippines Department of Tourism said in a telephone interview with NNA.
Many Japanese are choosing the Philippines to study English because of the language’s official status and the nation’s geographical proximity to Japan, as compared with other English-speaking countries, as well as relatively low study and living expenses.
Japanese schools such as Ritsumeikan Uji Junior High School, an affiliate of Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto, and cram schools now send their students to Filipino schools during school vacations.
As the Japanese government plans to overhaul the English-language test for standardized university entrance exams for those who enroll in the academic year starting in April 2021, there will be much more emphasis on speaking and writing skills, in addition to reading and listening proficiencies.
Japan’s service industries are also contributing to the rise in the number of Japanese travelers to the Philippines as some firms are dispatching their employees for English training programs in preparation for the 2020 Tokyo Games.
The Philippines is closer to Japan and less costly than Singapore and Malaysia, Masaaki Shibata, official in charge of human resources management at MK Co., a Kyoto-based major taxi and limousine operator, said in an email interview. MK initiated a training program in the Philippines in 2015, in addition to similar training programs in Australia and Britain.