Countries favoured by young Japanese as destinations to study abroad are changing, partly because of frequent terrorist attacks in Europe and the US government’s shift in immigration policies.
The United States and Britain, which had been most favoured before, are now being shunned. It is said that Canada, long popular among Japanese students, and Australia are now favoured as study abroad destinations.
To enhance Japan’s international competitiveness, both the public and private sectors are encouraging young Japanese to study abroad.
But there is concern about Japanese students who are hesitant to study abroad.
In March this year, a seminar was held in Tokyo mainly for university students who are considering studying abroad. Attendees asked many questions about what it is like being a foreign student in the United States and European countries.
“I can’t feel comfortable about the United States’ immigration policy now,” said Kengo Kumon, 19, from Yokohama. “I prefer a country that is more tolerant of foreigners than the United States.”
He said he was considering studying in Canada.
Ayano Watanabe, 20, a third-year student at Nihon University’s College of Humanities and Sciences who planned to study abroad for a short period, said: “The attractiveness of the United States as a destination to study abroad has not changed, as there are many entities there that accept foreign students, such as language schools. But I’m anxious about possibly being discriminated against.”
She also expressed worry about the recent terror attacks in Europe.
“Watching recent news reports, I can’t consider any European country,” she said.
A terrorist attack occurred near the British Parliament in London in March. Five people were killed in the incident.
On April 20 in Paris, one police officer was killed, and two police officers were injured in a shooting on the Champs-Elysees. A series of other terrorist attacks have also occurred in France.
In the United States, President Donald Trump aims to impose strict regulations on immigrants.
Partly because of those factors, the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry said it has recently received numerous inquiries about the situation in European countries and the United States.
Now many young Japanese favour Canada and Australia as their destinations because the conditions in those countries are good, by comparison.
The top six spots in the popularity rankings for study-abroad destinations among people who departed in summer last year were all held by cities in Canada, Australia and New Zealand, according to Ryugaku Journal, an information magazine about studying abroad.
Compared with rankings 10 years ago, the rankings of Los Angeles and London fell.
“Due to the effects from the inauguration of [US] President Trump and the series of terrorist incidents, the tendency to shun European countries and the United States is only growing stronger,” said an official of the magazine’s publisher.
Govt worried about decline
The Japanese government worries that there may be fewer Japanese who wish to study abroad due to recent international developments.
There were 84,456 Japanese who studied at universities and graduate schools overseas in fiscal 2015, according to the Japan Student Services Organisation.
The government set a goal of annually sending about 120,000 university students abroad by 2020, when the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games are to be held.
However, the reality is that young Japanese have been less enthusiastic about studying abroad than their counterparts in China and South Korea.
When the Japan Youth Research Institute, an incorporated foundation, conducted a survey of high school students in four countries – Japan, the United States, China and South Korea – in 2012, the percentage of students who were “interested” or “somewhat interested” were 70.7 per cent in South Korea, 69.5 per cent in China and 64.6 per cent in the United States.
The figure in Japan was the lowest at 57.2 per cent, and the percentage of Japanese students who replied that they were not at all interested was 15.9 per cent. This figure was more than double those in South Korea and China.
As to why they did not wish to study abroad, more than half of those who stated their disinterest said that living in their own country is comfortable.
In a survey by the education ministry in fiscal 2013, in which about 500,000 high school students responded, about 56 per cent of them replied they did not wish to study abroad.
Since 2013, the education ministry has implemented a project dubbed, “Tobitate! Ryugaku Japan” (Go study abroad, Japan!), with co-operation from private companies. The project aims to encourage more young Japanese to study abroad and to have more Japanese of all ages study abroad.
More than 200 companies, which agree to foster global-minded people, expressed support and have co-operated with the project.
The companies have partially financed high school and university students’ studies abroad.
“Though we assume there are a sizable number of students and their parents who feel worried, overseas situations don’t mean Japanese are rejected overseas,” said a ministry official in charge of the issue. “Therefore, we hope Japanese will not hesitate to study in other countries.”