Wednesday, September 23, 2009

More foreign students than ever

The Association for the Promotion of Japanese Language Education recently convened over a government proposal to increase the number of foreign students in Japan to 300,000 by 2020. That plan is positive not only for students, schools and teachers, but also for Japan as a whole. This increased opening of Japanese education to foreign students is better late than never. The benefits are immense.
Japan was flooded with foreigners in the '80s and '90s. Many came on false documents and overstayed their visas. Those problems with foreign students are largely in the past. Nowadays, schools and immigration are better at managing the application process and focusing more on students in higher-level programs. Students these days have often already studied the Japanese language back home. While they might eventually also want to find work in Japan, they know the value of studying first. The programs and courses of study have improved tremendously in recent years.
Japanese schools are already well into a process of internationalizing, as more and more students from abroad arrive on campuses. These academic exchanges and casual contacts help to transform traditional mind-sets and outdated ways of thinking. However, the important counterpart to foreign students coming here is Japanese students going overseas. The number of students studying abroad has fallen in recent years, so high schools, universities and exchange programs need to encourage students more.
Many of the students who come to Japan are likely to stay and work in Japan, or find work that makes use of their Japanese-language, social and cultural skills. This, too, will be a tremendous benefit all around. After studying and experiencing Japanese culture firsthand, those who choose to stay will be quite different from the last generation that took hard physical labor jobs in factories. The exchange between foreign and Japanese students will prepare them for a future of internationalized workplaces and complex tasks.
Japan should welcome this plan and work toward its full realization. Its positive effects extend far beyond helping just individual students and school budgets. These ongoing educational exchanges can potentially establish a very different worldview for the next generation.

1 comment:

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