Japanese students urged to study abroad

Following the relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions, studying abroad has regained popularity among Japanese youth. However, challenges persist, including the financial burden of studying overseas and the difficulty of balancing this experience with preparation for university entrance examinations in Japan.

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In a significant move to foster global talent, the Japanese government has set a goal of sending 120,000 high school students abroad for studies by 2033. This strategy aims to broaden students’ international horizons and leverage such experiences for their future career paths.

Following the relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions, studying abroad has regained popularity among Japanese youth. However, challenges persist, including the financial burden of studying overseas and the difficulty of balancing this experience with preparation for university entrance examinations in Japan.

In a recent class at Kyoto University of Advanced Science’s Senior High School, an English teacher from New Zealand shared effective essay writing techniques with second-year students preparing for overseas studies. These students are required to study abroad as part of their international studies curriculum, with most spending seven to ten months in countries like the UK and Canada.

Saeri Kogita, a third-year student currently studying in Canada, mentioned that her overseas experience had solidified her desire to work in a role that allows her to showcase Japan’s merits to the world.

Historically, the “Second Basic Plan for the Promotion of Education”, adopted in 2013, aimed to increase the number of high school students studying abroad from 30,000 to 60,000 by 2020. Although the number peaked at approximately 46,900 in fiscal 2017, it dramatically fell to around 3,100 in fiscal 2021 due to the pandemic. The recent “Fourth Basic Plan for the Promotion of Education,” approved on June 16, emphasizes the encouragement of studying overseas among high school students.

Despite this, concerns remain about the feasibility of studying abroad, particularly its potential impact on university entrance exam preparation. Additionally, costs pose a significant deterrent. Yukari Kato of Ryugaku Journal noted that a yearlong stay in North America could exceed ¥3 million (around $21,000) due to factors such as yen depreciation and price increases.

Meanwhile, state-supported scholarships are limited, with the education ministry’s “Tobitate! (Leap for Tomorrow) Study Abroad Initiative” benefiting only 700 students annually. More comprehensive financial support is needed to encourage studying abroad and alleviate the burden on students and their families.

Sachihiko Kondo, president of the Japan Association for International Student Education, emphasized that, for students to gain crucial cultural experiences abroad, the government must not only establish goals but also create an environment conducive to studying overseas.

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