Of the 3,583 undergraduates from across Japan surveyed by the National University of Consumers’ Co-operative Union, 68% said that they would like to study abroad given the opportunity, while 70% said they would like to take an extended holiday overseas.
“The results of this survey suggest that young Japanese are no longer ‘inward-looking’ but are increasingly keen to explore their potential through studying abroad”
However, despite the high interest in study abroad, students showed a relatively low interest in living and working overseas post-graduation.
Just 14% said they had a strong interest in working overseas after their studies (compared with 40% in studying abroad), and only a third expressed any interest, indicating that “there is a global feeling, but in reality, local orientation is maintained”, the report notes.
The desire to develop language skills appears to be a key motivator to study abroad, with 91% of students saying they believe English will be necessary for living and working in a globalised Japanese society in the future.
The number of Japanese students heading overseas to study has been the source of some concern in recent years, but the most recent statistics compiled by MEXT show that outbound study is on the rise, up 5% between 2011 and 2012 to 60,138 after seven years of decline.
“The results of this survey, together with other recent statistical results, suggests that young Japanese are no longer ‘inward-looking’ but are increasingly keen to explore their potential through studying abroad,” commented Ayako Towatari, project manager (education) at British Council Japan.
“Students are very much aware of the need to develop English language ability and this will ensure the continuing popularity of English language speaking countries as study abroad destinations,” she added.
However, the desire to develop language skills was not limited to English, with 58% of survey respondents saying they would like to learn another foreign language.
“In recent years, higher education policy has hammered out the development of global human resources, but it is said that there are many university students who are ‘inward looking’ and reluctant to study abroad,” the report states.
“As graduation draws closer, the awareness that you can’t enter a good company if you can’t speak English grows stronger”
However, these attitudes appear to be changing, and encouragement from institutions as well as having the opportunity to speak with students who have already studied abroad can encourage students to try it themselves, Yukari Kato, executive vice president of Ryugaku Journal, told The PIE News.
She also suggested that students’ interest in language learning and study abroad is likely to be largely fuelled by their career ambitions.
The study notes that the proportion of students with experience of travelling overseas increases significantly over the course of their university studies, rising from just 9% to 42% between first and fourth year.
“As graduation draws closer and job hunting season approaches, the awareness that you can’t enter a good company if you can’t speak English grows stronger, so as a result interest in study abroad in order to improve English language proficiency and increase global awareness also grows,” Kato commented.
“However, I think there are still many students who don’t have the confidence to go overseas or don’t want to go to the trouble of travelling overseas,” she added.