December 3, 2023

At the fifth meeting of the Council for the Creation of Future Education, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said the goals are necessary to strengthen Japan’s educational position overseas.

The move replaces the original 2018 plan to bring 300,000 foreign students to Japan and also aims to increase the number of Japanese students studying abroad.

Statistics show that as of May 1, 2021, there were 242,444 international students in the country, which is 13.3% less than the previous year. China, Vietnam and Nepal are the three main transmitting countries.

This is down from the peak in 2019, when the country hosted a total of 312,214 international students.

Kishida told the council he wanted specific numbers in the plan, “such as the goal of reaching 500,000 Japanese students studying abroad and 400,000 international students by 2033.”

“To achieve this goal, I would like to ask you to come up with more detailed proposals, such as expanding the medium- to long-term overseas posting of Japanese students,” he told the council.

He also said that successfully achieving both inbound and outbound targets will require different paths; he suggested supporting English language teaching and cultural education, as well as reviewing residency status and even supporting job search assistance for international graduates and returning Japanese students.

The plan will also include improving the “environment of universities working on internationalization”.

“I think this goal is obviously motivated by Japan’s declining population. Japan needs to start making up for budget shortfalls by bringing in new students,” said Benjamin McCracken, director of JCMU’s Hikone Campus. PIE news.

“The first question for me is whether Japanese universities can even support so many students.

“Most universities don’t seem to understand that international students need care beyond what I think Japanese students have, they are lagging behind in giving students access to things like medical support. One university I know of has other students who help transport international students to the hospital,” he explained.

Kishida also mentioned that Japan would need to promote “international exchange with G7 members” to help boost the numbers – but did not specify what kind of exchange that would entail.

“Japan must start making up budget shortfalls by bringing in new students”

If Japan is to achieve the goals it has set for itself, McCracken said, it would need to offer more programs in English.

“While there are many students who are interested in Japanese, it seems that, at least from the US, students have less and less desire to study Japanese intensively,” McCracken added.

Meanwhile, Japan’s student ambitions are also skyrocketing – with this immense ambition of 500,000 Japanese students studying abroad. According to Davide Rossi of Go! Go! Nihon, Japan won’t be the only non-English speaking country looking to reach these heights.

“It really depends on what the plan is to increase the numbers by that much; that statement alone doesn’t mean much,” Rossi told The PIE.

For McCracken, the very idea is “impossible”. For starters, he said, institutions need to move away from strict plans that require graduation in four years, and the government should really look at integrating foreign education into degrees before looking at encouraging students to go abroad for full programs.

“The [students] those who have successfully managed it in recent years have gone through one-off changes where they only pay local Japanese tuition – and what’s more, Japanese English proficiency is still too low.

“Japan could also look at allowing students to study languages ​​other than English in high school. I think that could be the biggest factor in helping students get abroad,” suggested McCracken.

The announcement made by Kishida comes after it was reported that more foreign nationals are residing in Japan than ever before.

“If it wants to attract talented people, it has to offer something that makes Japan better than average”

The data indicates that more than 40% of foreign nationals have been in Japan for more than three years, and that the number of international graduates who choose to stay is also increasing. However, if it is to compete with other destinations in work after study, there needs to be better visa provisions.

Currently, incentives for foreign workers are particularly low. McCracken suggested tax cuts or other incentives for them.

“If it wants to attract talented people, it has to offer something that will make Japan better than average in the long term,” he added.

Currently, both Rossi and McCracken assess that the plan that Kishida presented is interesting, but simply not substantial enough for the mobility of incoming students, and certainly not for outgoing students.

“There is no culture of accountability and the government usually says something and leaves it to the affected party – in this case universities, Japanese language schools and agencies – to figure out how to achieve these numbers,” commented Rossi.

“More students will come here, especially once Japanese people embrace mask-free again, but in terms of Japanese students going abroad, the government really needs to increase financial support not only for short-term students but also for students who get degrees abroad. too,” added McCracken.

Kishida indicated that Education Minister Keiko Nagaoka would present a second recommendation at the end of April.

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