International Educator - January/February 2013 - 52
S P E CIA L SE CTION
International students take a class at Doshisha University in Kyoto, Japan.
versities. These students often have jobs lined up before they graduate, and it can be difficult for someone who has taken a different educational path to break into the labor market. According to a recent article in the New York Times, Japanese students who have a foreign degree are often met with skepticism when they try to return to Japan to find work. Other challenges for education abroad include a declining youth population, lack of language proficiency, the high cost of education abroad, and the general economic climate in Japan. Both government officials and university representatives agree there is an urgent need to promote education abroad among Japanese students. “Especially in Japan, where people have less opportunity to expose themselves to various ways of thinking, feeling, and acting, young people tend to limit their options for career and personal development and try to be similar to others. From my own perspective as an international educator, study abroad is a great and efficient way to help students develop themselves both personally and intellectually,” says Miki Horie, director of the Division of International Affairs at Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto. Akira Kuwamura, director of the international office at Aichi Prefectural University, concurs, adding that the decline in education abroad has been a major setback for Japan as a country with scarcity of natural resources, very little multiculturalism, and an aging population in tandem with decreasing birthrates. “The country is in
need of producing college graduates who have a genuine interest in, and the capacity to deal comfortably and appropriately with, people from other cultures in order to establish and strengthen cross-border ties in today’s globalized workforce,” Kuwamura says.
New Initiatives Promoting Greater Internationalization
In response to these challenges, MEXT has launched a series of ambitious grant schemes to bolster the country’s international education sector. In 2009 it started with the Global 30 (G30) initiative, which had a $38 million budget aiming to support internationalization efforts at 30 Japanese universities. Thirteen top-tier universities were selected to receive funding for a five-year period, which will end in March 2014, for projects such as the development of degree programs in English, hiring English-speaking faculty and staff, and establishing overseas offices to help attract foreign students to Japan. The next phase of funding is the Global 30+ (G30+) initiative, which is focused more on promoting study abroad among Japanese students. In September 2012, 42universities received word they had been selected for funding, seven of which also received grants through the G30 program. The grants are available at both the university and department levels. Two other initiatives are the Re-Inventing Japan Project, which funds collaborative educational programs with foreign universities to enhance student exchanges
INTERNATIONAL EDUCATOR J A N + F E B . 13