Thu, 20 Nov 2003

Higher-quality foreign students needed in Japan

The Daily Yomiuri, Asia News Network, Tokyo

The acceleration in globalization can be seen in every facet of our lives. However, it is necessary to look at negative aspects of this trend.

The number of foreign students in this country exceeds 100,000, meaning that the government has accomplished its goal of ensuring that this nation hosts 100,000 students from overseas.

The numerical target was set in 1983 as part of a government effort to promote international exchange. There were only about 10,000 foreign students in the nation at the time.

Japanese efforts to host foreign students were made in the hopes of producing people who would work to bridge the gap between this nation and their home countries. Doing so constitutes an attempt to establish stable relations with the international community. This also helps educational and academic activities at Japanese colleges and universities. In this sense, the government's successful effort to achieve its numerical goal deserves praise.

It should be noted, however, that an increasing number of foreign students at Japanese schools are poorly motivated to learn. They spend a good portion of their time working part-time to earn money. Some foreign students have committed crimes.

Two years ago, it was found that a large number of Chinese students at a junior college in Yamagata Prefecture had moved to Tokyo and neighboring areas with the aim of working part-time. Recent criminal cases involving Chinese students included the murder of a Fukuoka family allegedly by former students from that country.

Chinese students in this nation account for a predominant 64.7 percent of foreign students studying at Japanese schools.

China's economic growth in recent years has contributed to an enthusiasm in that nation for opportunities to receive higher education. There is growing interest among many Chinese in studying at Japanese colleges and universities.

It is easy for Chinese to obtain visas to study in Japan. They also find it possible to work part-time in Japan while studying. This has encouraged many Chinese students to obtain both academic qualifications and money in Japan.

Meanwhile, some private colleges and universities, faced with a reduction in the number of students due to a sharp decline in the birthrate, are seeking foreign students without much thought to their motivations or abilities.

The effort to attract more foreign students to Japanese schools has contributed to the growth in the number of foreign students working illegally in this country. This fact should not be ignored. With this in mind, the government must drastically review its policy toward foreign students attending Japanese schools.

Beginning in 2002, students from many other Asian nations were required to take a test prepared by an organization affiliated with the Education, Science and Technology Ministry to assess their scholastic abilities before being admitted to Japanese schools. However, China has not given such a test to students hoping to study in this country. Tokyo should strongly urge Beijing to adopt the test.

Government attempts to examine the quality of foreign students seeking to study in Japan must be complemented by an effort by colleges and universities to correct a tendency to accept foreign students too readily. Otherwise, no progress will be made in efforts to change the status quo.

Colleges and universities must implement strict measures to examine all aspects of foreign students' intended studies in Japan, including their admission to schools. School authorities also must work to teach foreign students properly and give them adequate guidance in their studies. It is also necessary to give foreign students the assistance they need to live in Japan, such as helping them find housing. In addition, colleges and universities should ensure that foreign students becomes too low.

It may be advisable for the Education, Science and Technology Ministry to take punitive measures against schools--for example cutting subsidies--if the ratio of foreign students who complete their studies becomes remarkably low.

Many foreign students in Japan are studying earnestly despite various difficulties they experience here, including high prices. Nevertheless, the government should not allow foreign students to work illegally. Otherwise, a mistaken notion may prevail among the public about foreign students as a whole. This must be taken to heart by those involved in educating foreign students attending Japanese schools.

The nation has achieved its numerical goal for foreign students. The next challenge is to improve their quality.