Staff writer

With joblessness on the rise and the guarantee of lifetime employment less certain, some young Japanese are looking to enhance their work skills and options through overseas studies.

“Despite the downturn in Asia, the flow of international students coming to Canada from Japan has been reliable,” said James Yellowlees, managing director of Canadian Education Alliance.

CEA recently cosponsored a two-day education fair in Tokyo. The event was held to help publicize Canadian education on the same scale that other international groups promote their countries’ education, Yellowlees said, citing fairs sponsored by the U.S.-based Fulbright Foundation and the British Council.

According to government reports, Canada is the third most popular study destination for Japanese after the United States and the United Kingdom. It is followed by Australia and New Zealand.

In findings published by the Education Ministry and a survey of Japanese education agents conducted by the Canadian Embassy in 1997 — the latest figures available — Canada’s competitive edge was found in its world-class academic institutions and relatively low overall education cost. The Canadian dollar is worth 30 percent less than the U.S. currency.

Also, because of Canada’s official bilingual status, it has extensive experience in providing second language and immersion education expertise. Canadian visa statistics reveal that 5,756 Japanese were granted student visas in 1998. Meanwhile, 5,000 working holiday visas, which allow holders to stay for up to a year, have been issued each year since 1997.

Parents attending Canadian education fairs have also noted the country’s safety as a major factor in sending their children to Canadian institutions.

Concerning the focus of study, “English as a second language is the mainstay of most Japanese students, while computers, business and tourism are making great inroads,” said Len Jones, who represented British Columbia’s Okanagan University College at the fair, which was attended by more than 600 people.

Japan is now part of a Canadian fall fair circuit that includes Hong Kong and China. Although events held in those locations resulted in larger turnouts, Japanese inquiries tend to be more detailed and serious, Jones said.

Potential students are becoming more selective with their choices in the postbubble era, looking for both quality and value.

CEA, which focuses on Japan, has made great strides in helping students enter Canadian institutions. Dedicated to promoting individual and group study travel, CEA handles any education-related inquiry and is able to “cut through the red tape” that sometimes exists in the process of making contact, Yellowlees said. CEA provides materials on the schools and free counseling at its Tokyo office.

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