FOREIGN STUDENTS IN JAPAN, JAPANESE STUDENTS ABROAD

FOREIGN STUDENTS IN JAPAN

Between the late 1990s and the late 2000s the number of foreign students studying in Japan doubled. In 2008, 123,829 foreign students were studying at Japanese universities and vocational school a 240 percent increase over the 1998 figures. In 2008 117,927 foreign students studied in Japan. In 2005, 121,812 did.

Non-Japanese only account for 0.7 percent of the people enrolled in higher education courses in Japan, compared to 28.9 percent in Australia, 13.4 percent in the United States and 15.9 percent in Britain. In Japan, only 0.7 percent of the university graduates are foreigners. This is far below the 11 percent to 15 percent seen in Britain, France and the United States.

The number of foreign students at Japanese universities continues to increase. According to a report by the Japan Student Services Organization , an independent institution, the number of foreign students studying at junior colleges, universities, and graduate schools in Japan reached 141,774 in May 2010, up 6.8 percent from the previous year. Approximately 96.8 percent of these students are from Asia. That report also showed that just over 11,000 of the international students were “short term,” meaning they were in Japan “not necessarily to obtain a degree but rather to study at Japanese university, to experience a different culture, or to master the Japanese language.” More than 70 percent of Japanese language school graduates---who are almost by definition foreign students---go on to schools of higher education [Source: Louise Loftus, New York Times, January 9, 2011]

According to the University of Tokyo, foreign students account for 7 percent of its student body, significantly lower than the overseas students at Harvard University in the United States and Cambridge University in Britain. The figure stands somewhere between 20 percent and 30 percent at those academic institutions. Undoubtedly, the difficulties experienced by foreign students in acquiring Japanese-language skills can hinder them as they seek to study in this nation. However, Todai is seriously concerned that failure to create an environment conducive to an increase in the number of its overseas students would leave it behind in competition with colleges and universities around the world. [Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, July 12, 2011]

Kazuhiro Eto wrote that important reasons to welcome foreign students from a government policy point of view include: 1) educating future leaders and members of the elite who are well informed and have a positive impression of Japan; 2) produce educated Japanese-speaking foreigners that can work for Japanese companies in Japan and abroad.

The Japan Student Service---the Japanese equivalent of the British Council, which has facilities in 197 cities in 110 countries---is active in only four cities in four countries. However, the Japan International Cooperation Agency operates in 91 cities in 91 countries the Japan Foundation operates in 22 cities in 21 countries.

There is fairly large number of Vietnamese students in Japan. There were 3,199 of them in 2009, double the number in 2004. Many are staying in Japan and working for Japanese companies. They have good Japanese skills and companies hire them in hopes they will help them exploit new markets in Vietnam.

According to the Japan education ministry, 90 percent of the foreign students that left after the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami and Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster came back to Japan but of the 13,600 foreign students scheduled to enter Japanese language schools about 22 percent did not enroll. In northeast Japan---where the earthquake and tsunami struck---the figure was 38 percent. In Tokyo it was 28 percent. Given that more than 70 percent of Japanese language school graduates go on to schools of higher education the decline is significant.

History of Foreign Students in Japan

The number of foreign students has steadily climbed since 1983 (10,428 foreign students in 1983), when the Japanese government launched a large-scale campaign to bring the number of foreign students to 100,000 by 2001. The number of foreign students has reached 109,508 in 2003. Most of them came from Asia (e.g., China 64.7 percent; Korea 14.5 percent). The Japanese government or their native countries sponsored one-fifth of all foreign students. The percentage of foreign students to all college students is still as low as 3.0 percent (in 2003), compared with 6.6 percent in the United States (in 2001) (Monbukagakusho- 2004b:373-377). In 2002, the MOE created an exam for students wishing to study in Japan that they can take in their own countries. The MOE has also made the doctoral degree completion process easier, in order to increase the number of foreign students. [Source: Miki Y. Ishikida, Japanese Education in the 21st Century, usjp.org/jpeducation_en/jp ; iUniverse, June 2005 ~]

Since the relaxation of student visa requirements in 1984, many pre-college students (shu-gakusei), mostly from China, have come to Japan to study the Japanese language. They could legally work four hours a day (28 hours a week) to pay their educational expenses. However, after 1986, many Chinese migrant workers obtained pre-college student visas to work illegally in Japan (Ito 1995:208). In 1988, almost half of the students illegally overstayed their visas after graduating from Japanese language schools. In 1998, two-thirds of the 30,700 pre-college students came from China and one-fourth from South Korea (Komai 2001:58). ~

The number of foreigners learning Japanese grew in the late 1980s and early 1990s when many Japanese companies went abroad to establish subsidiaries, and many foreign workers and students arrived. Recently, the overseas Japanese language boom has been waning because of Japan’s low economy. The government reinstated visa requirements in 1989 and 1992, and the Immigration Control Bureau now requires a financial statement from each applicant for a pre-college student visa. ~

According to a 2003 survey by the Japan Foundation, the number of foreigners studying Japanese overseas amounted to 2.36 million (Kokusai Ko-ryu- 2004), while in Japan, 125,597 foreigners were studying Japanese in 2003 (Ho-musho- 2004a). Foreign students learn Japanese in universities, colleges, and language schools. Foreign workers learn Japanese at local community centers, with teachers supplied by the municipal administrations and voluntary or private organizations. Local governments offer free language lessons taught by volunteers from the community. Japanese primary and secondary schools also make Japanese language education available to foreign children such as Nikkei (Japanese migrants/Japanese descendants of foreign nationality) children, and the descendants of Chinese returnees. ~

Life of Foreign Students in Japan

Japan is not attractive to foreigners, because of the high cost of living, the language barrier, and the poor job prospects, especially after the collapse of the “bubble economy” in 1991. More scholarships and work-study programs for foreign undergraduates are needed. Host-family programs and community-based international events can promote friendships between Japanese and foreign students. [Source: Miki Y. Ishikida, Japanese Education in the 21st Century, usjp.org/jpeducation_en/jp ; iUniverse, June 2005 ~]

According to a 1991 survey of Chinese pre-college students by the Tokyo Government, 93 percent went to Japanese language schools, and 65.1 percent worked part-time jobs. Estimating from their earnings, many worked an average of 35.4 hours a week. Seventy-one percent of these students planned to continue studying at a college or other educational institution. They often worked as waiters or waitress (61.2 percent), in factories, construction, cleaning (22.8 percent), and 56.6 percent found jobs through friends (Komai 2001:58-59). In 2003, 50,473 foreigners were registered as pre-college students (77.0 percent were Chinese and 13.0 percent were Koreans) (Ho-musho- 2004a). ~

Foreign students often have difficulty in obtaining a guarantor, finding an apartment, making Japanese friends, and finding a job. They need a guarantor when they apply for a visa, sign a lease, enter a university, and apply for scholarships or tuition waivers. Since 1984, Japanese language schools have been allowed to be a guarantor for its students to enter Japan, and that caused a huge growth in their enrollment. The guarantor is without any financial obligation or sanction, and sometimes is known as the “contact person.” Some critics have questioned the significance of the guarantor system, and have suggested abolishing it (Suhara 1996:9-34). ~

Foreign students who are supported by their families and/or by themselves are often very busy working part-time jobs since the cost of living and college expenses are very high, and scholarships are few. Foreign students encounter prejudice and discrimination, despite human rights education and initiatives. Furthermore, not only is it difficult to obtain a Ph.D. in humanities and social science, but Japanese diplomas are not yet recognized abroad, and Japanese companies are not very enthusiastic about hiring foreign students. ~

Chinese Students in Japan

About 70,000 Chinese students are studying at Japanese universities, making them largest group among Japan’s 120,000 international students. Even so the number is relatively low because anti-Japanese feelings still remain in China and Japanese universities are not respected as much as the Western counterparts by ordinary Chinese.

More and more Chinese students are studying in Japan as it becomes easier for them to get visas, These days the majority of qualified students that apply for student visas get them. In the past many of them were rejected because of immigration restrictions put in place in the early 2000s after reports of Chinese students committing crimes to cover tuition and living expenses.

Chinese students entering Japan must have at least an elementary understanding of Japanese and a residence qualification authorization certificate---a document that used to be hard to get but is much easier to get now as Chinese have become wealthier and are able to prove they have enough money to cover their expenses. In China, there is high demand for Japanese language classes to meet to minimum requirements for entry to Japan.

Talented Chinese Students in Japan

Chinese students are increasingly making a name of themselves with their talent and desire in Japanese high schools and universities. Satoshi Goto, who runs a lab that is developing large scale integrated circuits at prestigious Waseda University told the Yomiuri Shimbun in 2010 that all of his graduate students are now Chinese. He said the Chinese students are “ambitious and good at English. They’re totally different Japanese students.”

Universities in the United States and Europe are more sought after by Chinese students because they are more internationally recognized and offer better scholarship programs. Even so the ones that come to Japan are often come from China’s best schools. Hokkaido University Vice President Takeo Hondo told the Yomiuri Shimbun, “The Chinese students that come to Japan are excellent. They are positive about everything.”

The principal of a high school in Tokyo with a number of Chinese students have passed the entrance to get into the University of Tokyo, Japan’s top university, said, “They show a lot of spunk, They have a hungry spirit.”

Chinese student are also highly sought after by Japanese companies. Many have been hired by famous Japanese firms. This trend is becoming increasingly common with students from a variety of countries as Japanese companies seek to expand in these countries and Japanese students increasingly lack foreign language skills and are reluctant to work oversees.

Foreign Students in Japan and Work

Many foreign students, especially Chinese, are more interested in working and making money than studying. Many Chinese students fall asleep on their classes because they are too tired from working and stay on to work in Japan after their studies are finished.

For many foreign students working in Japan is a good opportunity to make what is considered good money in their home country---that is especially good with the strong yen. A survey of 30 students from China, South Korea and the United States conducted by two South Korean students found that many foreign students in Japan were unhappy with the lack of support that Japanese universities provide them for job hunting.

Ryoji Noyori, who won the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 2001, wrote in the Yomiuri Shimbun: “This nation's domestically focused wage system and the inadequate social infrastructure tailored to foreigners are major impediments to Japan's efforts to compete with other countries to attract talented people from around the world.” [Source: Ryoji Noyori, Yomiuri Shimbun, January 24, 2011]

Many Japanese companies are seeking local talent in China, Indonesia, Thailand and other Asian countries among students in Japan to fill positions at their branches in those countries. Particularly in demand are workers able to handle the transfer of technology from Japan and communicate management policy of the Japanese headquarter to local workers,

In May 2011, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported: “The government plans to ease the academic requirements for obtaining work visas, thereby making it easier for foreign graduates of Japanese vocational schools to work in this country. The move is aimed at attracting more foreigners to study in Japan. The Justice Ministry revised the relevant ordinance and the new policy was implemented in the summer. Before work visas were supposed to be issued only to foreign nationals who hold a bachelor degree or higher. [Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, May 31, 2011]

In 2009, the ministry conducted a survey of the employment histories of foreign students attending Japanese vocational schools, and found that about 70 percent of them would likely be able to find jobs in this nation. According to a survey by the Japan Student Services Organization, there were 27,872 foreign students at Japanese vocational schools in 2010. It is hoped that relaxing the academic requirements could boost the number of foreign students who obtain work visas by more than 10,000 per year, the sources said. [Ibid]

Japanese Students Abroad

In 2006, 76,492 Japanese university student studied abroad. Of these: 46.1 percent studied in the United States, 24 percent studied in China, 8.1 percent in Britain, 4.3 percent in Australia, 3.1 percent in Germany, 2.9 percent in Taiwan, 2.8 percent in France, 2.4 percent in Canada, 1.6 percent in South Korea and 4.8 percent in other countries. The number of Japanese students studying abroad in 1997 was 162,257, triple the number in 1987.

The percentage of Japanese university student studying abroad that studied in China rose from 9.2 percent in 1994 to 24 percent in 2006. One of the main reasons for the rise is a desire to get a job related to China’s booming economy and the high cost of education in the United States.

The Japanese Ministry of Education (MOE) promotes international exchange programs for students, teachers, researchers, artists, and athletes. Approximately 5,000 teachers from primary and secondary schools visited overseas schools in 1995 (Monbusho- 1996:416). In 2000, the MOE sent English-language teachers from middle and high schools to universities in English-speaking countries to improve their skills (Monbusho- 2000a:291). The number of Japanese citizens studying overseas has grown rapidly to 76,000 in 69 countries (Monbukagakusho- 2003b:407). [Source: Miki Y. Ishikida, Japanese Education in the 21st Century, usjp.org/jpeducation_en/jp ; iUniverse, June 2005 ~]

Decline of Japanese Students Abroad and What That Means

In November 2012, the Japan Times reported: “Japanese college students are studying abroad in fewer numbers than ever before. A new report from the nonprofit Institute of International Education in New York announced that a mere 19,900 Japanese students were enrolled in American colleges and universities in 2011-12. That is down 60 percent from the peak in 1997-98 when a total of 47,000 Japanese students studied in U.S. colleges and universities.The 6.2 percent decrease from a year earlier is the seventh year-on-year drop, putting Japan after China, India, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Canada and Taiwan (in first to sixth places) for students in U.S. schools. China had 10 times as many students and India five times as many. Even South Korea far outnumbered Japan with 72,000 students in American universities. [Source: Japan Times, November 18, 2012 <<>>]

In recent years the number of Japanese students studying abroad has declined. According to the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology the number of Japanese students studying abroad increased every year from 1986 to a peak of 82,945 in 2004 and has been declining since then. In the most recent figures, from 2008, the number of students was under 67,000, down 11 percent from the previous year. The trend has been attributed to the shrinking number of students and the fact they tended to be more inward looking than students in the past.

One reason for the trend is that is now easier for Japanese students to get into Japanese universities as the low birthrate has created more spaces.Students and families are also put off by the high cost of a foreign education. Some students worry that time spent studying abroad will handicap them in searching for a job in Japan. Yukari Kato, executive vice president of Ryugaku Journal, which provides information about overseas study, told The Yomiuri Shimbun that many students were afraid of being left behind in Japan’s competitive job market. Ms. Kato said she also viewed the slowing birthrate and an introspective mind-set among students as possible contributing factors.

Ryoji Noyori, who the Nobel Prize in chemistry in 2001, wrote in the Yomiuri Shimbun: ‘”Society functions on the strength of human relationships. To ensure a sustainable future, Japan needs its words and deeds to be understood and supported by the international community. If the current situation continues, Japan is very likely to trap itself in a "Galapagos syndrome"---isolation from the rest of the world---in the areas of advanced medical research and development, experimental therapeutics, formulation of international standards, industrial-technology diplomacy and natural-resources diplomacy, among others. Can government ministries and agencies really devise world-class policies without engaging in direct dialogue and in-depth negotiations with a variety of foreign parties? [Source: Ryoji Noyori, Yomiuri Shimbun, January 24, 2011]

Reasons Why Japanese University Students Are Not Going Abroad

The Japan Times reported: “The reasons why Japanese students no longer go abroad are many and complex. For most Japanese families, education is one of the major expenses and deeply affected by the economic downturn. However, the report found that Vietnam, Mexico and Turkey, the next three countries in the ranking, are sending more and more students even while their economies suffer. Japanese perceptions of the economy may mean that many students and parents see studying abroad as an extravagance and indulgence rather than a high value and necessary undertaking. [Source: Japan Times, November 18, 2012 <<>>]

“The declining birthrate and the competition inside Japan also contributed to the lower numbers. Many Japanese universities are expanding international studies programs that are run mainly, or even exclusively, in English. Those programs are good ones, but the portion of students they enroll will not have the experience of living in a different culture and environment. <<>>

“The most important reason for Japanese deciding to study at home, though, is surely increased competition for jobs. The recruiting and interview schedule of most Japanese companies has become more rigorous, exacting and time-consuming than ever before. When students study abroad, they fall out of the usual rounds of explanation sessions, pre-interviews, “entry sheet” submission and interviews. <<>>

If Japanese companies were to allow interviews of students after graduation, rather than during their third and fourth year, many students would surely head overseas. If companies asked for language skills, international experience and a global mindset as part of their requirements, the numbers studying abroad would skyrocket. Business employment practices directly affect the educational process. That system needs greater flexibility and a broader mindset so students can go abroad and not lose out on the chance to get a job. <<>>

Changing the system requires careful coordination from the government and companies, with fresh attitudes and new procedures, but change is urgently needed. Meanwhile, as Japanese students job hunt at home, students from other countries are gaining the language skills, cross-cultural mentality and educational experiences they will need in the future. <<>>

Japanese Students in the United States

Top 10 sources of foreign students at U.S. universities and colleges in 2011-2012: 1) China (194,029); 2) India (100,270); 3) South Korea (72,295); 4) Saudi Arabia (34,139); 5) Canada (26,821); 6) Taiwan (23,250); 7) Japan (19,996); 8) Vietnam (15,572); 9) Mexico (13,393); and 10) Turkey (11, 973).

China had 54,466 student—the most of any country—in the U.S. in 1999. Japan was second with 48,872 students. In the 2010-2011 academic year China had 157,558 students in the U.S.—still the most of any country—while Japan has fallen to seventh with 21,290 students. [Source: Institute of International Education]

In terms of students from the United States, China ranked fifth in 2009 with 13,910 students while Japan ranked 11th with 6,166 students.

The number of Japanese studying in the United States dropped 15 percent in 2009-2010 to 24,842. Over all it was ranked sixth, behind China, India, South Korea, Canada and Taiwan and ahead of Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Vietnam and Turkey. The decline in enrollments have been attributed to the economic slowdown following the collapse of the bubble economy in the 1990s, the tendency among young Japanese to prefer studying at home and worries by Japanese students that if they study abroad they will lose their chance to get a good job in Japan. Students and families are also put off by the high cost of American education.

The number of Japanese students in the US has dropped by 50 percent for the last 14 years. In 2002, 46,000 Japanese were studying in the United States. In 2007, the number was only 34,000. The percentage of Japanese university student studying abroad that studied in the United States fell from 77.7 percent in 1994 to 46.1 percent in 2006. One of the main reasons for the drop is the high cost of university education in the United States.

The number of Japanese studying at U.S. universities peaked in 1997-98 when 47,073 students studied there. For four consecutive years, from 1994 to 1997, Japanese students were the largest foreign student group in the United States.

In the late 2000s the presence of Japan students at Harvard was far below that of South Korea and China. In 2009 there were 101 Japanese in under graduate and graduate programs at the university, to 463 from China and 314 from South Korea and 11 from Japan in 1999. Only one student from Japan entered Harvard University’s freshman class in 2009, bringing the total number of full-time Japanese undergraduates to five, compared to a total of 36 from China and 42 from South Korea. [Source: Kumiko Makihara, New York Times, July 7, 2010]

The number of Japanese students attaining PhDs in the United States has also fallen way behind China, India, and South Korea. According to the U.S. National Science Foundation only 235 Japanese obtained PhD.s in the United States in 2007 in science and technology, compared to 4,395 Chinese, 1,956 Indians and 1,137 South Koreans. Of non-American students who receives doctorates at U.S. universities, 30 percent are Chinese, 10 percent are South Koreans and 2 percent are Japanese. China’s Tsinghua and Peking Universities now top the world in PhDs obtained from U.S. universities. The University of Tokyo ranked 425th.

One reason for these figures is that Japan has fairly decent graduate schools that produce graduates with Masters degrees and PhDs. But with that the Japanese higher education system suffers from a lack of competition and exposure to outsiders. It is much easier for Japanese professors to get the equivalent of tenure and academic demands made on them are not that strong. It is almost impossible for non-Japanese to become an associate professor or above. Even today Japanese who have earned degrees overseas have a harder time getting jobs than those who got their degrees at home. The percent of alumni among teaching staff at Japanese universities is very high.

The United States plans to offer incentives to attract Japanese students to American universities over concerns the decline in Japanese students study in the United States cause relations between the United States and Japan to deteriorate in the future.

Japan students in U.S. below 20,000

In December 2012, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported: “The number of Japanese students enrolled in U.S. universities in the academic year that started in fall 2011 dropped 6.2 percent from a year earlier to 19,966, compared with around 194,000 Chinese students, up 23.1 percent, the Institute of International Education said. The figure for the Japanese students was down nearly 60 percent from the peak in the 1997-1998 academic year, and ranked seventh in the country-by-country enrollment ranking, while China remained at the top for the third consecutive year. Indian students came in second, followed by South Koreans and Saudi Arabians, according to the institute. China topped the list for the third consecutive year in the ranking of countries and territories that send students to U.S. colleges and universities, with about 194,000. [Source: Yuji Yoshikata, Yomiuri Shimbun, December 14, 2012 ||:||]

“The data once again highlighted a trend in which many young Japanese appear to have increasingly inward-looking mind-sets. The 2011-12 figure accounted only for about 40 percent of the 1997-98 enrollment figure for Japanese students. In that year, Japan had the highest number of students in U.S. colleges and universities, with about 47,000. ||:||

“The institute cited Japan's declining birthrate and the timing of Japanese companies' recruiting schedules as the main factors behind the decline. Many students find graduating from U.S. universities disadvantageous for job-hunting because they cannot start looking for a job until they return to Japan in summer or later after completing their study, the organization said. Most Japanese companies hire new employees in spring. ||:||

Hillary Clinton: Drop in the Number of Japanese Students in the U.S. a Concern

In a speech at the annual conference of the U.S.-Japan Council in Washington. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that the decline in the number of Japanese studying in the United States is a great concern. She called for strengthening of exchange programs for the youth between the two countries and to further bilateral relations between the US and Japan. [Ibid]

Clinton related that Japan used to be at the topmost in the number of students sent to study in the US but at present, ranks sixth. In response to this, Clinton said the US is boosting up its efforts inviting Japanese students to the US while conversely encouraging American students to study in Japan. The number of American students in Japan has significantly increased the past year. [Ibid]

Tokyo to Help 10,000 Youths Study Abroad

In December 2011, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported: “The Tokyo metropolitan government has announced a project to help 10,000 young people study abroad over eight years starting in fiscal 2012 to rectify their increasingly inward-looking mind-sets."Through studying abroad, we'd like to help young people toughen up so they can serve as leaders in the future," a Tokyo Metropolitan Board of Education official said. The project will send not only high school and university students, but also young craftspeople overseas in the eight years from fiscal 2012 to 2020. [Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, December 30, 2011]

“The main pillar of the project is a next-generation leader training program, which will focus on students at metropolitan government-operated high schools.Starting in the summer of their freshman year of high school, students will take eight months of extra lessons featuring lectures from businesspeople, athletes, artists and other guest speakers who have also lived abroad. They also will learn how to make presentations and write essays in English. Their freshman year will end with a monthlong study abroad in March. Students will also start a yearlong overseas homestay in autumn so they can attend local schools. [Ibid]

Half of Japanese Students Say Working Abroad ’Impossible’

In June 2013, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported: “At least half of Japanese high school and university students have given up on becoming globally active by working overseas, according to a survey that underlines the inward-looking mind-set of many young people here. Fifty percent of high school students and 55 percent of university students said they felt “it’s too late for me to become a globally active person even if I start receiving education now for dealing with a globalizing world.” Twenty-four percent of parents have given up on their children engaging in work activities overseas. [Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, June 9, 2013 \*\]

According to the online survey, 30 percent of university students and 40 percent of high school students want to become an active person in a global society. Indicating that many Japanese studnets have an introspective mind-set and lack confidence in their linguistic ability, the results come at a time when the government and other entities want to develop more hmuan resources who can play an active role in international society. According to the survey, the main reasons students did not want to work for companies that are expanding their business overseas were “I fell uneasy about communicating with foreigners” and “I might not be able to stay in Japan.” \*\

Japanese Firms Hiring More Foreign Students

In October 2013, the Japan Times reported: “Though relations between Japan and its neighbors South Korea and China have been less than rosy in recent years, Japanese companies are increasingly looking to hire foreign students from these and other Asian countries who have studied in Japan, according to the Tokyo-based recruitment and consulting firm Disco Inc. With companies focusing on finding the most talented people to help them expand into foreign markets, the practical necessities of business seem to be overriding political wrangling. [Source: Japan Times, October 20, 2013 \^\]

“The survey found that 35.2 percent of 539 companies across the country said they have hired, or plan to hire, foreign students in the 2013 business year. Looking ahead to 2014, nearly half of these companies say they are planning on hiring foreigners who have studied in Japan. Larger companies with more than 1,000 employees appear even more willing to hire such people. Nearly 70 percent of these firms said they plan to hire such graduates in the next fiscal year. The reason given by most companies was rather simple — they want the most talented people possible, especially as businesses move into other Asian markets. Around 40 percent of the firms said they were seeking to hire Chinese nationals, and 24.2 percent said they wanted to hire Vietnamese and Thais. \^\

“The hiring of more foreign students is a sign that Japanese businesses are increasing their efforts to expand in Asian markets. While 32.6 percent of foreign students hired during the past year graduated with a master’s degree in the sciences, about half of the students majored in the humanities or the arts, suggesting that firms want employee with a well-rounded perspective and a wide range of interests. In addition to communicating fluently in two or more languages, foreign students’ cultural knowledge and social know-how are considered valuable assets that bring in relevant viewpoints when Japanese firms enter overseas markets. \^\

“The information in the survey is also good news for Japanese universities, which have tried, though not always successfully, to internationalize their campuses. With the prospect of employment at the end of their studies, more foreign students will be willing to study in Japan. That in turn provides benefits to Japanese students, who will have more opportunities to study alongside students from other countries and to expand their viewpoints. At the same time, this new hiring trend also highlights the importance of Japanese students’ studying foreign languages. Relying on foreign nationals will not be sufficient for many companies. They will also need Japanese students who have studied abroad and learned important language and cultural skills. \^\

Teaching Japanese Abroad

A report compiled by a private panel of experts for the Foreign Ministry calls for promoting the Japanese language in other countries and enhancing Japan’s presence in the international community. The report also wants to make it easier for young people abroad to learn Japanese. The “Cool Japan” strategy, launched by the government to promote the Japanese culture of manga, anime and fashion overseas, is attracting the interest of young people around the world. Proactively concentrating on such trends is the correct thing to do. Specifically, the report suggested setting up a Japanese-language course for beginners on the Internet. It is essential to utilize information technology to that end. [Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, August 31, 2013]

It also suggested expanding the program for the long-term dispatch of Japanese-language experts to foreign countries, which the Japan Foundation—the core organization for promoting the Japanese language abroad—has been implementing with the aim of increasing the number of foreigners teaching Japanese in their own countries.

Behind the ministry’s discussions to promote the Japanese language abroad is a declining global interest in learning Japanese. While the number of foreigners learning or speaking Japanese totals about 3.98 million, a figure 30 times larger than the number 30-plus years ago, the growth in Japanese-language learners abroad has slowed recently.Although the number of people learning Japanese in Indonesia and other Southeast Asian countries is rising, it is declining in such countries as South Korea, Britain and Canada.

Half of those people studying Japanese overseas are middle and high school students learning it as a second foreign language, with English as their first foreign language. Lately there has been a sharp increase in the number students studying Chinese as their second foreign language. In the United States, some universities, as wells as primary, middle and high schools, have ended Japanese language courses, apparently because of growing interest in the Chinese language. The report stressed that the biggest impediment faced by institutions teaching Japanese overseas is securing a sufficient number of Japanese-language teachers. It also pointed out that Japan had failed to provide foreigners with such advantages as studying in this country or finding jobs in Japanese companies.

As of 2012 there were over 800 Confucius Institute schools in 94 countries, up from 0 in 2004. Japan has no equivalent organization.

Image Sources: 1) 6) Jun from Goods from Japan 2) 3) Wikipedia 4) Tokyo Pictures 5) Guven Peter Witteveen 7) Ray Kinnane

Text Sources: Source: Miki Y. Ishikida, Japanese Education in the 21st Century, usjp.org/jpeducation_en/jp ; iUniverse, June 2005 ~; Education in Japan website educationinjapan.wordpress.com ; Web-Japan, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Japan; New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, The Guardian, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Global Viewpoint (Christian Science Monitor), Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, NBC News, Fox News and various books and other publications.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated Japan 2014

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