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Posted on on December 27th, 2010
by Pincas Jawetz (

The Japan Times on line, Monday, Dec. 27, 2010


Fear of studying abroad

Data disclosed by the education ministry on Wednesday confirms that fewer and fewer Japanese students are studying abroad. After the number of students studying overseas hit a peak of 82,945 in 2004, it declined for four straight years. In 2008 it dropped a staggering 11 percent from 2007 to 66,833. Of these, 29,264 were in the United States (down 13.9 percent from 2007), 16,733 in China (down 10.2 percent) and 4,465 in Britain (down 21.7 percent).

In this age of globalization, it is imperative that Japanese develop abilities to compete and cooperate with people from other countries through the experience of living and studying abroad. The government, educators and enterprises must take necessary steps to encourage and help students to study abroad.

While the number of Japanese students studying abroad has been falling, the number of foreign students studying in Japan as of May 1 stood at a record 141,774 — a rise of 6.8 percent from a year before, according to the Japan Student Services Organization, an independent administrative corporation. Chinese made up the biggest group with 86,173 (up 9 percent), followed by South Koreans with 20,202 (up 3 percent), Taiwanese with 5,297 (down 0.7 percent), Vietnamese with 3,597 (up 12.4 percent) and Malaysians with 2,465 (up 2.9 percent).

A likely reason for the fall in the number of students studying abroad is a fear among students that if they study abroad, they may lose a chance to find employment when they come back to Japan from their studies. This is because many enterprises stop accepting applications before students reach the fourth year of college. Students have to start visiting enterprises to find job opportunities quite early.

Enterprises can rectify the situation by changing their recruitment practice. Universities could lighten the burden of returning students by setting up a semester specially timed for their return. The government should financially help students who want to study overseas. Both the government and private sectors should realize that a decline in the number of students studying abroad could have a devastating effect on the future of Japan.

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