Arama They Didn't

10:53 am - 04/12/2012

Japanese Students Not Hot on Study Abroad

Study abroad isn’t just a luxury, these days it’s a rite of passage for many students around the world. While more and more students in Asia and the U.S. are venturing overseas, a recent survey shows that just 57.2% of Japanese students, once the prototypical image of expat learners during the bubble, are interested in an overseas academic experience.

The survey, published by the Japan Youth Research Institute, polled over 8,000 students from China, South Korea, Japan and the U.S. in 2011. Even though 58.1% of Japanese students had been abroad, they ranked lowest of the four countries in terms of interest in a study abroad experience. In comparison, 82.4% in South Korea and 62.5% in China and were interested.

So why has enthusiasm waned in Japan? It’s not economic reasons, as only 19.5% of Japanese said that money was a barrier. And it’s not because they’ll miss home – only 10.3% said that was a consideration, compared with 30.4% of Chinese, 54.2% of Koreans and 58.1% of Americans.

The biggest reason that Japanese students cited for not wanting to study abroad was that life in their home country was easier at 53.2%, followed by “language barrier” and “lack of confidence in living alone” with 48.1% and 42.7% respectively, three criteria that the other students also ranked highly.

It could be due to apathy among Japanese boys. Some 20.4% of Japanese high school boys surveyed said they had no interest at all in study abroad, the highest of any of the countries surveyed. In comparison, 65.9% of Japanese girls said they were very or somewhat interested.

The lukewarm enthusiasm for study abroad in Japan is not a surprise given other recent data. Up from a low in 1986 of only 14,297 students, the number of Japanese study abroad students has been declining since it hit a peak of 82,945 in 2004, according to the OECD. In recent years, their Asian counterparts seeking an academic experience abroad have surged, and 2.25 million Chinese studied abroad in 2011.

The survey gives some indication of why this might be so when it breaks down the reasons that students do want to study abroad. While all of the 42.1% of Japanese students who wanted to study abroad said they one day wanted to work in an international setting, only 14.4% said going abroad would help them get a job. That’s much different from the goals of Chinese students, many of whom gave better academics abroad and better chances of being hired as incentives for leaving home.

Most Japanese companies have fixed hiring schedules and only accept graduates immediately after they have left school. The rigid system could be a deterrent to Japanese students, compared with their Chinese, Korean and U.S. peers who don’t face such strict hiring practices and might be more flexible to study abroad while at university.

Wall Street Journal
coika 12th-Apr-2012 01:43 pm (UTC)
Another point of economic recession is that people invest in education for the hope that more skills will differentiate them from other applicants for the same position, theoretically. That's why you see such a rise in people who, unable to find employment in the U.S. and other countries, are turning towards graduate school whereas they might not have considered it before. In the U.S. there's a lot of debate on whether this is a good or bad thing (i.e. with everyone doing it, the chances will end up just about the same and it's made BAs pretty much the new high school diploma, etc.)

I agree that in Japan foreign experience is not necessary when it comes to landing a job like it might have been previously, and without any other personal motivations people won't go. Japanese women tend to have more personal motivation than men to go (as a form of escapism or as a way to exercise personal freedom) but Japanese men do not feel this desire in the same way, as they have more opportunities than women do for life after university.

However, and a big however... a lot of companies are no longer hiring people who do not have a fairly basic level of English communication skills. I'm sure you've heard about Rakuten and other companies conducting business within the company solely in English. It's been a big topic over the past few years. It's unlikely young Japanese people will acquire these skills unless they study abroad, though. So even though people know their chances for getting hired could be lessened without English experience, they still go about foreign education apathetically, as is per the norm in Japanese society leading up to university.
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