Free study abroad prep in Kumamoto

by Masaaki Kameda

Staff Writer

Kumamoto Prefecture will open a free cram school Sunday for junior high and high school students who want to enroll in universities overseas.

“Students nowadays have options to attend universities abroad thanks to globalization,” said Makoto Kamei of the prefectural government’s private education promotion division. “Unlike Tokyo, Kumamoto doesn’t have preparatory schools for foreign universities. We’re launching this school to help students from giving up on their dream of attending college overseas just because they’re in Kumamoto.”

Kamei said Kumamoto Gov. Ikuo Kabashima, who has a Ph.D. in political economy from Harvard University, is a big supporter of the project. Kabashima has said he wants to support motivated students by creating an environment for getting into universities overseas, such as his alma mater.

The prefecture has received 96 applications for the prep school, exceeding expectations, Kamei said, adding the recent push by the government and firms to encourage young Japanese to study abroad may have caught the attention of students or their parents.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s growth strategy announced in June included a push for students to head overseas in a bid to nurture world-level talent, a desire echoed by companies that want to compete globally.

The Kawaijuku cram school chain recently revealed a plan to start a school that offers junior high and high school education in April 2017 with the aim of helping students get into top foreign universities.

The Kumamoto school’s term starting Sunday will continue through the end of March, featuring two programs. Kamei said one is for students who want to enroll in a foreign university right out of high school. Students in this program will receive weekly online lessons covering TOEFL tests and composition, provided by education company Benesse Corp.

The other program is for students wishing to study abroad temporarily after enrolling in a Japanese university. Students in both programs will attend monthly lectures or seminars on studying abroad.

The prefecture isn’t charging tuition because it wants to provide an equal opportunity regardless of each student’s financial situation, according to Kamei, who added a project of this scale may be a first for Japan.

Kumamoto has already supported students who want to study abroad, including a program started in fiscal 2012 offering ¥1 million scholarships to attend a school in the top 50 in a ranking of the world’s universities.