28 January 2011

Troubling trend: fewer and fewer Japanese studying overseas

Background: January 2011 brings a spate of online articles on Japan and higher education, Japan and English. One negative trend that has become apparent is that fewer and fewer Japanese university students are going abroad to study, especially to Anglophone countries, most especially the US. 

Many Japanese educators and policymakers, if asked, will say that English is the most important second or foreign language for their students to study because it is supposed to be the language of global communications and business. However, it is often hard to see that sort of agreement in terms of the actual workaday policies and curriculim here, where EFL will almost always take a 'back seat' to other concerns.

On the other hand, thanks in part to the influence of Confucius Institutes and cultural affinities between Japan and China due to historic links, more and more young Japanese are studying and staying in China. 

Also, even as more and more students come to Japan to study its language and culture, it is getting more and more difficult to get Japanese students to try a stint overseas, with perhaps the most notable trend being an irreversible slide in the popularity of the US as a study destination.

Here is a short list of online news articles that cover the trend:

1. More Students Choose Universities in Japan


More students than ever are choosing universities in Japan for study abroad, and the number of Japanese students leaving the country to study has fallen markedly since a peak in 2004....The Japan Student Services Organization...reported that the number of foreign students studying in Japan reached record highs of 141,774 in 2010....Meanwhile, data released by the Japanese Ministry of Education...indicate that the number of Japanese students studying abroad has been declining since a peak of 82,945 in 2004. In the most recent figures, from 2008, the number of students was under 67,000, down 11 percent from the previous year.

2. Universities in U.S. giving up on Japan / Japanese kids would rather stay home


More and more U.S. universities are apparently giving up on Japan as a target for recruiting students, as a survey showed that the number of U.S. universities taking part in publicity events in Japan has sharply dropped in recent years....One major factor behind the decrease [in the number of Japanese students studying in the US] is that it has become easier for students to enter Japanese universities due to the nation's chronically low birthrate. Students also consider studying abroad to be disadvantageous in terms of job hunting, which usually begins in earnest during their junior year.

3. Japan far behind in global language of business


With the economy expected to shrink due to the low birthrate, Japan has no choice but to seek markets outside the country, which will mean working more with non-Japanese, experts say. For a country without much in the way of natural resources, manpower will be key to future survival. Japan, however, appears to be falling behind its neighbors in nurturing personnel who can compete in a globalizing world....According to an education ministry report released in December, the number of Japanese heading overseas to study fell in every one of the four years to 2008, dropping from 82,945 in 2004 to 66,833 in that period. The decline is especially sharp in the number of Japanese studying in the United States, falling from 46,497 in 2000 to 24,842 in 2009, according to data from the Institute of International Education. By contrast, Chinese students in the U.S. more than doubled from 59,939 in 2000 to 127,628 in 2009. As for South Korean students, the number grew from 45,685 in 2000 to 72,153 in 2009.

4. Language teachers to go to U.S. for exchanges


Japan will beef up people-to-people exchanges with the United States this year by dispatching young teachers of the Japanese language and English to the country, government officials said Friday. Tokyo will launch new programs to send those teachers in the fiscal year starting in April amid concerns that bilateral ties could weaken with declines in the number of Japanese students enrolled at U.S. universities and cuts in the Japanese budget for a project to invite American and other foreign university graduates to teach English at Japanese schools. The government has earmarked ¥500 million in the fiscal 2011 budget to send 100 Japanese teachers of the English language aged 40 or younger to U.S. universities to learn English teaching methods for six months, the officials said.

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