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Despite a large decline in numbers, Japanese students can still be tempted overseas by the attractions of culture and language, a new survey by the British Council has found.
Japan, with the world's third largest economy, has seen a precipitous slide from a high of 83,000 Japanese students who studied abroad in 2004 to 57,501 in 2011. The downward trend has become a national concern, and Japan has made creating a globally-competitive young workforce a priority; aiming to double the number ofdomestic students studying overseas by 2020.
To support countries and institutions wishing to attract Japanese students, the British Council's Education Intelligence service surveyed 2000 Japanese students and recent graduates to try to understand their intentions and motivations towards study abroad.
Contrary to the belief that Japanese students have an 'inward-looking' attitude that plays an influential role in preventing them from looking beyond the comforts of their home country, the report, 'Japan: Debunking the "inward-looking" myth' found that Japanese students' sentiment towards overseas study is similar to, if not morefavourable than, that of their US and UK counterparts. A third said they were interested in study abroad, and 12 per cent said they had already studied overseas previously. However, nearly half (46 per cent) of students who responded to the survey were not interested in studying abroad, while nine per cent were unsure.
The experience of experiencing the host country's culture was the most attractive draw both for students who had studied abroad, and for those that wished to. For aspirational students, the UK's culture was an even bigger pull than US culture; more students who wanted to study in the UK cited UK culture as their main reasonfor wanting to study there, compared to those who wished to study in the US and were attracted by US culture.
The survey also found that students who have studied overseas previously were the most optimistic about their own future while those who were most pessimistic were students not interested in studying abroad.
"There are cultural considerations that are unique to students across the globe," says Anna Esaki-Smith, Editorial Director at Education Intelligence and the author of the report.
"However, with this survey we can see that very fundamental considerations, such as inadequate foreign language ability, cost and employment, play significant roles when Japanese students consider overseas study. With a deeper understanding of what students see as the benefits of study abroad, and the possible advantages to be gained, the potential to inspire more Japanese students to become more globally competitive through study abroad increases. The benefits to be gained can be shared widely, not only by the students themselves but by more diverse university populations, an invigorated Japanese private sector and the global economy as a whole."
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