A government education panel submitted a report Tuesday to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe urging the nation’s universities to be outward-looking in order to foster global talent among Japanese.
Abe in return vowed to work to give Japanese universities the competitive edge they need by reflecting those suggestions in his administration’s growth strategies, education minister Hakubun Shimomura said.
The panel’s proposals recommended that the nation’s colleges attract more foreign teachers and students and boost collaboration with their overseas counterparts to offer joint degrees.
It also called for the nation’s universities to be more internationally competitive by inviting leading foreign institutions to set up undergraduate and graduate programs in Japan.
The panel also urged the government to give extra support to colleges, tentatively dubbed “super global universities,” that actively hire non-Japanese teachers, enhance partnerships with institutions overseas and expand degrees that can be obtained via classes in English.
The goal is to have more than 10 Japanese colleges ranked among the world’s top 100 within the next decade.
At present, only two Japanese universities are listed in the top 100 of the Times Higher Education’s World University Rankings, in which the University of Tokyo ranked 27th and Kyoto University ranked 54th.
The suggestions include doubling the number of Japanese who study abroad to 120,000 and increasing the number of foreign students in Japan to 300,000.
Education ministry figures show there were 58,060 Japanese studying abroad in 2010, while Japan had 137,756 foreign students in 2012.
The panel also proposed a drastic expansion of English-language classes in elementary schools as well as starting English-only classes in junior high schools, although it avoided specifics, including when to start such an expansion or whether to make the language an official subject in elementary schools.
“We’ll discuss the matter within the entire ministry regarding whether to make English an official subject or to what extent English should be taught in elementary schools,” Shimomura told reporters Tuesday.
English has been taught to fifth- and sixth-graders once a week since the 2011 school year, but the language is not an official subject.
Also suggested was the designation of “super global high schools,” where certain high schools would be able to teach subjects such as science or math in English and would play a key role in nurturing talent.
The latest proposals were finalized by the 15-member panel headed by Waseda University President Kaoru Kamata.