Whereas the number of students from countries such as China, India, South Korea studying overseas is on the rise, the number of Japanese students studying abroad has been declining (from 83,000 in 2004 to 60,000 in 2012). The number of international students coming to Japan from overseas is also small. Japan also ranks very low, 28th place, in the national rankings of TOEFL scores for countries in Asia. To make Japan grow, increasing its global human resources will be vital, and a national strategy should be formulated and implemented to achieve that.
1. Double the Number of Japanese Studying Overseas to 120,000
With the number of people studying abroad from other Asian countries increasing and the number of Japanese doing so falling, Japan faces a bleak future. The government, corporations, schools, and universities all need to make more of an effort. The best way that the government can help is to expand its budget for scholarships, particularly grants. Companies, meanwhile, could include the following statement in their job application guidelines: “We give priority to the recruitment of candidates with experience of studying abroad.” This would have a big impact. It is also important that high schools and universities allow course credits earned overseas to count for graduation.
2. Boost the Number of International Students in Japan to 300,000
Unfortunately, the number of international students in Japan has dropped to 138,000 people. Accepting more international students would increase the number of standout foreign nationals working in Japan, which would rejuvenate the Japanese economy. In addition, international students returning home would form a learned class of people friendly toward Japan in their home countries, and this would also lead to Japan having a stronger presence overseas. Receiving an education in Japan should be made more attractive so as to increase the number of international students. For example, the content of curricula should be improved, the value of the “Japan education” brand should be increased, and Japanese companies should proactively hire foreign graduates of Japanese universities.
3. Make the Internationalization of Universities a Reality
Japanese universities score poor marks internationally in terms of internationalization (i.e. the adoption of English). Universities therefore need to do more to internationalize
(1) Produce curricula that allow graduation in English alone
The Keio University Shonan Fujisawa Campus (SFC) and Graduate School of Management, GLOBIS University offer curricula in which graduation is possible using only English. The number of such curricula offered at universities needs to be increased.
(2) Admission in spring and fall
Fall admission is the standard worldwide, and only in Japan do students enroll in the spring. This is an obstacle to having students from Japan go overseas to study and students from overseas come here to study. Fall admission should be introduced alongside spring admission, with students able to choose whether to enroll/graduate in the spring or the fall.
4. Use TOEFL as the English Examination For University Entrance
The English examinations currently employed for university entrance are heavily skewed toward grammar and translation. They do not measure practical English skills. Even if attempts are made to make English education up to the high school level more practical, if university entrance examinations, which are the matter of most interest to students, retain the traditional “entrance-examination English,” i.e. the grammar-translation approach, English education will never change. If candidates’ TOEFL scores were adopted for the English component of the selection process for university entrance, students would endeavor to acquire practical English rather than entrance-examination English.” And because students can take the TOEFL several times a year, this move would also address one of the problems of university entrance examinations: the fact that candidates only get one chance. By taking TOEFL, and thereby acquiring English that they can use when studying overseas, students will have an easier time preparing for overseas study and make overseas study less daunting. We therefore urge that the TOEFL be adopted for university entrance.