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Japanese outbound short-term mobility continues growth

Japan’s decade of growth in short-term study abroad numbers has continued, and surpassed the 100,000 mark for the first time with a rise in the popularity in programs less than a month long.

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Mikio Takano said employers’ desires for English literate workforces was contributing to the growth

“China is one of the most popular countries for Japanese people”

According to the latest statistics from the Japan Student Services Organization, more than 105,000 Japanese students chose to undertake a study abroad program in 2017, a 9% increase from the previous year.

“In general, university students are expected to be international people who can speak English and acquire an international way of thinking,” said JASSO deputy director Tomohiro Miyai.

“Japanese people and society are still on the way to becoming more international. So the Japanese government encourages… study abroad, even short term, to acquire an international way of thinking.”

The 2017 figures saw the popularity of short-term outbound mobility in Japan maintain its more than decade-long growth, with continuous increases in the number of study-abroad students since at least 2003. From the start of this decade, short-term study has boomed 430%.

“I feel there is much less demand for pure English courses”

While all durations of study increased, apart from programs over a year in length, experiences under a month in duration maintained its lion’s share of both total growth and students, improving by 6,500 and representing 64% of all experiences for the year.

Of total experiences, those less than a month in length also contributed more than three-quarters of growth, while programs between one and three months, and three and six months both registered double-digit per cent increases.

Owner of education agency Plan B Mikio Takano agreed that Japan’s appetite for study-abroad opportunities was due to a growing public awareness of the need for international experiences, but added employers’ desires for English literate workforces was also contributing to the growth.

“Companies look for workforces with more English communication skills everywhere,” he said.

“[But] I feel there is much less demand for pure English courses and in contrast, there are more inquiries for certificates, degrees and activities such as internships, volunteer and sports as well as STEM. There are bigger demands for ‘beyond English’.”

“Companies look for workforces with more English communication skills everywhere”

The US, Australia and Canada maintained their positions as the top three destination countries respectively, however, the US saw a mild 3% decline in students, while Australia and Canada improved 4% and 6% respectively.

The most significant increase, however, was seen in students going to China, which shot up 23% to reach 7,100 and overtake both the UK and South Korea to become the fourth most popular destination.

“China is one of the most popular countries for Japanese people and it is one of the most important countries for trade,” said Miyai, adding many of the students choosing to go to China did so as part of a formally recognised program.

“But it is not special. From the annual report of 2017, the number of students to China increased [significantly], however, comparing 2014 to 2017, the number of Japanese students to Australia has increased most,” he told The PIE News.

“In those years, Japanese students chose closer English-speaking countries rather than the US or UK.”

Miyai added he anticipated the number of students choosing a short-term study abroad program would continue to grow in the immediate future.

The figures join a similar report from the Japan Association of Overseas Study, which found education agents were losing market share of study abroad numbers, due to growing competition from universities as well as the development of government incentives.

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