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Japan: More students aim to go universities abroad

japanese StudentsBy Fumihiko Ito/Yomiuri Shimbun

With the increasing globalization of society, more high school students have been aiming to win an admissions spot at universities overseas.

Private schools offering integrated middle and high school curriculums have traditionally sent many of their graduates to highly competitive Japanese universities, but recently such schools have been preparing students for the college admissions process in the United States and elsewhere.

Six students at Shibuya Kyoiku Gakuen Makuhari Senior High School, a private high school in Chiba, won admissions to U.S. universities this spring. Two of them also passed the University of Tokyo’s entrance exam.

Seiichiro Takeuchi, 18, enrolled in the University of Tokyo’s Science 1 course in April, but decided to drop out to enroll at Georgia Institute of Technology in the United States instead, starting this autumn.

Because he has never lived abroad for a long period of time, he had to take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), an English-language proficiency test for international students.

In the wake of the accident at Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, Takeuchi became interested in studying an energy-related field.

“I was worried that a Japanese university wouldn’t offer an atmosphere where students were studying hard,” Takeuchi said. “And I want to go to graduate school in the United States in the future, so I wanted to start studying there sooner.”

Kei Yamaya, 18, plans to enroll this autumn at Princeton University in the United States, where she lived until she was 8 years old.

Her dream is to become an immunology researcher. She also passed the entrance exam of the University of Tokyo’s Science 2 course.

“One advantage of U.S. universities is that the class size for introductory-level courses is smaller. Plus, I want to study not only biology, but also English literature,” Yamaya said.

Last school year, the high school introduced a new class teaching students how to write academic essays, which are a required component of the application to US universities. The class was offered to third-year students as an elective.

Mikio Toyoshima, who heads the high school’s international studies department, said: “An increasing number of students have started to consider overseas schools after analyzing differences in university education between Japan and the United States.

They’re less attached to the idea of getting a job in Japan after graduation.”

Kaisei Senior High School, a private high school in Tokyo, started new programs last school year to assist students who hope to study overseas. Under the program, students receive advice on how to apply to universities abroad while foreign teachers give them advice on writing academic essays in English.

This spring, four students won admissions at U.S. universities, and three of them plan to enroll at the universities, which include Yale University, this autumn. In May last year, the high school held its first informational meeting on the subject of foreign universities, and it was attended by about 700 students and their parents. The school plans to hold another meeting this summer.

Yukio Yanagisawa, the high school’s principal and a professor emeritus of the University of Tokyo, said: “Parents started to think about whether enrolling at Japanese universities and getting jobs at major companies or bureaucratic offices was the only desirable course for their children. I often tell students that they should choose universities that can help them realize their dreams, wherever in the world they may be.”

Nezu Educational Foundation, which operates Musashi Senior & Junior High School, a private school in Tokyo with integrated middle and high schools, will begin an additional program in summer next year for its students who hope to enroll in foreign universities.

In the program, students will study subjects such as science in English. The classes will focus on debates in English, which will be held after school and during summer vacation. The program’s objective is to help students acquire the knowledge and capability to communicate effectively with teachers and students in other countries.

Students from other schools will be allowed to participate in the new program. A short program aimed at second-year middle school students will take place in August. At the University of Tokyo, where some students have been described as “inward-looking,” interest in studying overseas has been on the rise.

On the evening of June 7, an information session on studying abroad was held at its Komaba Campus. The venue, a large lecture hall with a capacity of 500, was packed. In March last year, the University of Tokyo set the goal of having at least 20 percent of its students study abroad before graduation.

As of April this year, the university has signed student exchange agreements with 23 foreign universities, including Princeton University and Peking University. Thanks to the arrangements, 169 of its students can study abroad at the designated universities, much more than a total of 33 students at four universities two years ago. (The Japan News)

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