As Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has “3 arrows” of Abenomics (a massive financial stimulus, quantitative easing of Bank of Japan policies, and structural reforms to boost Japan’s competitiveness), Education Minister Hakubun Shimomura has his own “5 pillars” aimed at improving Japan’s higher education system, with much of the focus on internationalization.
In June, plans were announced for an allocation of over 43 billion yen toward education initiatives that include an increase of inbound and outbound student mobility, expansion of academic collaborations, and the improvement of Japanese universities’ status in world academic rankings.
Shimomura plans on doubling the amount of Japanese students studying overseas, from approximately 60,000 to 120,000, and increasing the number of international students studying in Japan. In 2012, 137,756 international students attended Japanese universities, a significant increase from the 123,829 reported in 2008, though far from meeting the “300,000 by 2020” target outlined in the Global 30 initiative.
In order to achieve these goals, increases in scholarships and support for these populations is a priority. The high cost of living in Japan and the small number courses taught in English have been obstacles preventing increased foreign student enrollment at Japanese institutions.
Other ambitious goals of this plan include the inclusion of 10 Japanese universities into the global top 100 university ranking within the next ten years. Currently there are only two, Tokyo University and Kyoto University, on the list. Secondary school initiatives include the increase of globalization across the education sector by enhancing elementary school English language teaching, establishing enhanced global high schools that promote a broad range of subjects and problem solving skills, and increasing the number of International Baccalaureate high schools.
These are lofty goals, but necessary steps in securing Japan’s place in a globalized future.