Unlike the situation with young Chinese and South Koreans, the number of Japanese students entering American universities has been declining over the past decade. Fewer students may be qualified to study in the United States, and others are probably choosing to study in other countries. The latter action could reasonably be considered a positive trend since Japan needs to foster good relations with other countries, too.
Nonetheless, maintaining a high level of intercultural exchange with the U.S. is still important for myriad reasons: The U.S. is still the largest market for Japanese electronics, cars and other finished goods; the two nations have common security interests; and American universities are among the best in the world.
One reason that some students might be avoiding the U.S. is fear of violence, and images of the recent shootings in Aurora, Colorado, surely don’t help. Despite such tragedies, violent crime surely doesn’t explain the dwindling number of exchange students over the past decade, because statistics show that crime has significantly decreased in the U.S. during the same period.
The total number of murders was 12,996 in 2010, which is still very high compared with other civilized countries, but considering that the population of the U.S. is more than 320 million, people really needn’t worry so much about their safety there.
Anyone interested in studying at American universities can find information on schools through the American Association of Intensive English Programs (AAIEP). These programs offer ESL instruction by highly qualified instructors at reasonable rates. They are designed to help students qualify for admission as regular university students.
Whether they earn degrees or not, students invariably return to Japan with greatly improved English skills, so studying in the U.S. is still a wise option that more students should take.
The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.
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