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.

Elite private Keio University drops National Center Test requirement for admissions

Background: this decision must come as an unpleasant surprise to the National Center for University Entrance Examinations (NCUEE), since the trend had been for more and more private universities to use the unified entrance exam that the NCUEE administers. However, it's probably more lucrative for Keio to require only its in-house entrance exams. First, there will be no revenue sharing with other entities. Second, it might make it easier and cheaper for an ever larger number of high school seniors and cram school attendees to apply for Keio, even if only a small number will gain admission. Look at it the way a potential applicant might: if enrollment to Keio is the dream, it will allow them to concentrate without the distraction or expense of the National Center Test to worry about.    

The Yomiuri story is at the link below:

Keio Univ. to stop using standardized entrance exam

Key excerpt 1:

Starting next year, Keio University will no longer use the National Center Test, a unified college entrance exam, to screen those seeking admission to the prestigious private university....Keio's move is expected to spur other universities to take similar steps, finding their own ways to screen examinees....Center test organizers said they were shocked to hear of Keio's withdrawal.

Key excerpt 2:

"We'll give an original, distinctive test to enroll smart students," said a Keio faculty member.
A member of a cram school staff said, "The National Center Test only reveals slight differences in abilities among examinees who apply for top-notch universities."

Univ. groups to call for firms to delay start of recruitment in Japan

Read the full story at the link below:

Univ. groups to call for firms to delay start of recruitment+

Students feel heat of joblessness (from The Japan Times Online)

Here is a Japan Times article on the same topic--the awful employment outlook for university graduates in Japan.

Students feel heat of joblessness | The Japan Times Online

Record low 68.8% graduating university students receive job offers+

Some background to this story: Universities and their faculties, departments and programs fret a lot about this statistic. That is because young people who plan to attend university will flock to institutions and majors that can boast success in helping to get their students jobs when they graduate. Perhaps more students need to look closer at the stats the universities publish. For example, are their students really getting jobs that are relevant to their areas of study? This year looks to be another dismal year for job prospects, and Japanese companies seem to be getting used to making university students jump through all sorts of hoops in the recruitment process. Educators fear that recruitment is starting too early, way before the final term of the fourth or final year of study, and this is disrupting the learning and opportunities for educational experiences.

Read the article at the link below:

Record low 68.8% graduating university students receive job offers+

27 January 2011

Japan's Ministry of Education launches/renews two programs to revive HE and internationalization

Japan's Ministry of Education (MEXT) launches/renews two programs to revive HE and internationalization

Combined the projects are supposed to help revive and promote inter-university exchange between Japan's designated universities and key institutions overseas, most likely in the US. A key aspect is supposed to help fund 300,000 Japanese students to go abroad while bringing a matching 300,000 foreign students to Japan. While well over 140,000 foreign students come to Japan, Japan's number of students going abroad is well below 70,000 and continues to decline. 

The government's focus is on 13 elite universities (and remember the original plan had been to fund 30 such institutions) that had previously qualified for funding, so this appears to be more of a re-branding than anything.

Read more at the links:

Launching New Project for Promoting Universities’ Activity in Implementing Internationalization as well as exchange with Asia and the United States

Promoting Universities' Activity with Asia and the United States, etc.

Promoting Two-Way Student Exchange


○ The New Growth Stragety (Cabinet Decision) has decided to send 300,000 Japanese students and workers abroad as well as accept 300,000 talented studensts from overseas into Japan for studying and training.
○ It is necessary to actively support sending Japanese studentsabroad as well as accepting international students.



An Unlikely Partnership Leads to a Science and Technology University in the Middle East

Last year in June, the JPN HEO blog reported on the start up of an Egypt-Japan partnership for a University of Science and Technology.

Last fall it had an intake of 100.

This week the US-based and US-focused Chronicle of HE ran a piece on E-JUST in its international section:


brief excerpt follows link:

January 25, 2011
An Unlikely Partnership Leads to a Science and Technology University in the Middle East

By Ursula Lindsey

New Borg El Arab, Egypt

The Egypt-Japan University of Science and Technology is still little more than a few buildings on the edge of a quiet industrial town in the Egyptian desert. Yet when about 100 graduate students started courses here this past fall, it was the beginning of an unprecedented partnership between Egypt and Japan.

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