Mainichi Daily News reported last week that the number of Japanese students studying overseas has dropped further. Let me come back to this aspect, as it had been previously a topic during the interview with Ishiwata san in regard to English learning in Japan. The most recent available figure from 2007 according to an Education Ministry report says the number of students traveling abroad for post-secondary studies has decreased to 75,156. With the third consecutive year in which the figure is declining, one might say that the ambition of the younger generation has gone missing, but I believe there are a more important underlying reasons behind it.
Most commonly this drastic decline in Japanese students studying overseas is explained with less popularity of the U.S. as a study location or its weakened position as an economic power. According to the Institute of International Education the number of students heading to the U.S. was 29,264 in 2008, about 60 percent of the peak in 1997 at 47,073. Frankly I doubt whether this is the main reason. Within roughly these 10 years the financial situation for many parents with university children has changed. Not only the father has to deal with less job security, but as well I believe the available amount of savings of the parents has decreased. Most likely the parents are sponsoring the child for the study abroad, therefore with less available money from parents side, a child needs much more determination to go abroad than in the past. Furthermore I would not be surprised when parents encourage their child to enter a “safe Japanese company” instead of exploring opportunities abroad.
Additionally the Mainichi Daily News article presents the viewpoint of JUSEC’s executive director David Satterwhite, who speculates that while youth of the past were filled with ambition to explore, youth today are not inclined to go out of their way to have adventures in the outside world because they find their lives too comfortable. The observation of gained convenience might be right, but I believe the decrease of students has its good aspect: It is just a selection process of those students who have the necessary stronger passion and determination to find a way to go abroad for study.
Brought to you by Sibylle Ito (シビル伊藤).