Students in Japan may soon be able to qualify to apply for foreign universities by attending educational programs taught in Japanese, according to the education ministry.

The International Baccalaureate Diploma Program, offered to students aged 16 to 19, is currently provided in English, French and Spanish. Those who complete the two-year curriculum and pass qualification exams are eligible to apply to more than 2,500 universities that recognize the program, including Harvard and Oxford universities.

Although the education ministry denied recent reports that the Geneva-based International Baccalaureate Organization said it will accept classes taught in Japanese, an official acknowledged that discussions on the matter are still ongoing.

The ministry “spoke with organizers of the program in April and May and there are talks of using Japanese” in the program, the official said. The International Baccalaureate program is already being provided in Japan, only not in Japanese. Most of the 16 schools that offer the Diploma Program are international schools.

Students willing to study abroad currently have to take the International Baccalaureate program in English, French or Spanish or separate qualification programs depending on each country.

While the specifics of how the standardized program will be taught in Japanese or when it will be launched is undecided, students will still likely have to take communications classes in foreign languages.

Introduction of the International Baccalaureate Diploma Program in Japanese is also expected to raise the number of Japanese students studying abroad, which has sharply declined in recent years. In February, the education ministry revealed that only 59,923 Japanese studied abroad in 2009, down approximately 10 percent from the previous year.

The education ministry has been eager to halt the trend and allocated ¥400 million for “development of global human resources” in its fiscal 2012 budget, which is being used to support high school students studying abroad and improve the quality of English lessons in domestic schools.