Chief Cabinet Secretary Kato Katsunobu announced that the Japanese government plans to expand schools authorized as “International Baccalaureate (IB)” schools. The IB is an educational program that enables students to be qualified to enter foreign universities. The goal of having 200 authorized schools by FY2022 has been revised twice in the past. The government’s stance to change Japan’s inward-looking education system, often called a “Galapagos,” will be under scrutiny.
The IB is an educational program established by the International Baccalaureate Organization in Switzerland. Students who study in IB schools and achieve a certain score in the final exam can earn an international qualification to apply for universities abroad.
Although the number of authorized Japanese schools are increasing, two deadlines have passed with the goal of 200 schools unachieved. FY2022 will be Japan’s third deadline for achieving 200 IB schools. As of June 2021, there were only 167 schools, including “candidate schools” aiming for authorization.
The government established a goal for the number of IB schools under the Democratic Party administration in 2012. The “global human resource promotion project” included a goal to increase the number of schools in which students may earn an IB diploma or equivalent to “about 200 within five years.”
The Japan Revitalization Strategy, formulated in 2013 after the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) took control of the government, stated that “authorized schools and others” will be increased to 200 by 2018. The phrase “others” was added so that the number would include schools in the authorization process.
In 2018, the deadline was revised to “FY2020” since the goal was not expected to be achieved by 2018. The deadline was pushed back again in 2020 to “FY2022.”
Former Vice-Minister of Education Yoshiie Hiroyuki says that Japan “should increase IB schools as a national strategy.” Although the government’s IB-related budget is increasing, the FY2021 allocation is less than 110 million yen.
Yoshiie raises the issue that “many students who attend Japanese IB schools go on to Japanese universities.” According to the MEXT consortium for promotion of IB education in Japan, only 8% of Japanese universities, or 63 universities, offer special entrance exams for IB diploma holders, as of March 2021.
There are very few options for students with an IB diploma to go on to Japanese universities when the domestic admissions system is not geared for such students. Many people think that more domestic universities should accept IB qualifications since some students may be unable to attend foreign universities for financial reasons.
Some students say that the IB diploma is not user-friendly. Information for applicants for the Keio University Faculty of Law entrance exam who earned IB diplomas in Japan states that people who “are expected to receive IB qualification” cannot apply. The application period closed on July 20.
Students who are expected to receive the IB diploma in the latter half of 12th grade will be eligible to enter after September 2022. The six months after graduating from high school will be wasted.
Expanding the number of public schools offering IB is also essential. As of June 2009, only 10 public schools offer IB programs for 16- to 19-year-olds, while 49 private schools offer such programs. It is said that a school needs several millions of yen to maintain its IB authorized status, with additional costs to hire teachers who can teach in English. IB schools tend to be private schools that can shoulder additional expenses by increasing tuition and fees. Some public schools are working towards approval, but their number is still few. (Abridged)