JAOS consulted 40 of its members, finding that 80,000 Japanese people had studied abroad in 2016. This is on top of the number provided by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology (MEXT)and JASSO.
“The surveys did not include students who do not use a university program to go abroad”
MEXT calculates the number of students studying at overseas higher education institutions, whereas JASSO numbers include students who study abroad via Japanese universities. The MEXT figure for 2016 was 53,350 students overseas.
“Taken together with the results of other surveys conducted by various entities in Japan, these numbers suggest that we can surmise that more than 200,000 Japanese people studied abroad during the year,” the report said.
“It means that the surveys did not include students who do not use a university program to go abroad, junior high school students who study abroad, or working adults who go abroad to study a language.”
Tatsuhiko Hoshino, executive secretary of JAOS, told The PIE News that the survey also suggested that Asia is becoming a more attractive destination due to its affordability – Asia’s share as a study destination rose significantly to over 17% according to the survey.
The availability of ELT schools in Philippines, Malaysia and Singapore may be another factor for the rise, Hoshino argued.
“Asia became more important for Japanese corporations as their middle-class population has been increasing. Therefore, they need more human resources who know about Asia,” he added.
The report suggests that the Philippines is enjoying the largest increase in popularity in Asia, surpassing New Zealand to take fifth place.
However, Europe and North America still hold a large share of the market.
In 2020, there will be a reform of the university entrance exams in Japan, which JAOS predicts will result in students going abroad at a younger age. In 2016, high school students made up 19.2% of the total number, equal to around 15,190 students. In 2014, just over a fifth of the total were at high school level, although the actual figure was 12,552.
The report says that the “study abroad option appears to attract students by helping them realise the value and impact of language study and its importance to help students accumulate many hours of practical speaking lessons in a way that is impossible to attain inside Japan”.
Courses lasting for less than three months appear to be in higher demand. This year 56% of courses last for three months or less, while last year it was 52%.
Hoshino says that it’s impossible to compile a more accurate number because MEXT and JASSO do not measure private sector organisations.
“They don’t even consider some of our programs as “Study Abroad” such as working holiday, internship, short time language studies,” he said.