Japanese are increasingly choosing to study English in the Philippines over the United States or U.K., driven by the lures of cheaper tuition fees and the proximity to home.
And corporations are also encouraging staff to study in the Philippines, where English is one of the official languages.
Auto parts manufacturer Mitsuba Corp. has sent about two dozen of its employees to the Philippines every year to take part in a three-month language study program.
The Gunma Prefecture-based firm has expanded its production bases to include overseas facilities, with its staff now required to learn English.
“We used to send our employees to the United States, but school expenses and living costs are high,” said Yasutaka Iio, a manager at the company’s personnel division.
Studying in the Philippines is “very cost-effective” and employees can also build business connections with people coming from companies in other Asian countries such as South Korea, Iio added.
Educational provider Human Academy Co. launched study options in the Philippines two years ago. In collaboration with eight local English-language schools, it offers several study courses for students and adults.
The firm said it costs around ¥210,000 ($1,866) to study in the Philippines for four weeks, including accommodation, food and textbook expenses.
The Philippines is also a hot destination for retirees to study English.
Satoshi Hasei, 72, and his wife, Katsuko, 70, participated in the Human Academy’s two-week study program last October, taking English lessons on Cebu Island in the central Philippines.
“We took classes during the day and then did homework at night. We were studying English all day. Teachers were friendly and we experienced almost no inconvenience in terms of living,” recalled Hasei, who lives in Kanagawa Prefecture.
“I want to be able to give a guided tour” in English for international tourists as visitors to Japan are expected to increase toward the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, he added.
Yasuhiro Murakami, who is in charge of promoting English-learning programs at Human Academy, said the company’s courses in the Philippines offered one-on-one English lessons.
In the United States and U.K., most classes have 10 to 20 students. But the company’s study programs in the Philippines “offers private lessons for more than half of the day, so (students can) speak a lot and become better sooner,” said Murakami.
The English taught in these programs conforms to standard English that can be learned in the United States or U.K., according to Murakami.
Tokyo-based Disco Inc. has also launched similar programs in the Philippines and other parts of Asia.
Yumiko Goto, who is in charge of the firm’s global human resources development division, said Asian markets were expected to grow significantly and studying in those nations will be a huge advantage for job-seekers.
The firm’s programs mainly offer one-on-one lessons and the cost of studying is about ¥200,000 per month, excluding airfares, according to the company.
“Studying in Asian nations will be an opportunity to not only acquire English skills but also to think seriously about what kind of job one wants,” said Goto.