A Change in Japan’s Higher Education?

While watching NHK World the other day a news brief came on stating that Tokyo University, Todai, on of the most prestigious higher education institutions in Japan was considering a move to an academic year that would begin in the fall. Both NHK and the Wall Street Journal referenced that Todai was examining the issue with an “international outlook” in mind.

International Education implications

By starting in the Fall it would allow Todai students greater opportunities for international exchange and study abroad programs.  This is very good news to hear as according to a news report from last year the number of Japanese students participating in study abroad programs had been decreasing. This change would make it possible to study abroad for a semester and return not missing much of their core classes. This is also is positive news to hear for students looking to study in Japan.

One of the biggest challenges for education abroad programs currently are faced with is the face that Japan functions on an entirely different school year than many of its contemporaries. The differences are not as simple as credit transfers between semester vs quarter school systems we have here in the US but in that it starts and ends in vastly different times of the year from our own. The Japanese academic year runs from April to March. This is a challenge for many institutions hoping to have Fall term study abroad programs in Japan. What makes it hard is that for the program to start in September the program would then end in February or March. So for a student to study abroad for fall semester they would end up missing the second semester or their home institution. This results in how many Japan programs are year-long endeavors.

While the articles only refer to Tokyo University at the moment this is noteworthy because Tokyo University is the best, top of the top, amongst Japans universities, part of Japan’s ivy league with others like Waseda and Keio. Thus when they are discussing such a large change we need to take notice.

Yet with a possible change in academic year this could open up a whole new number of education abroad for Japan and other countries for international impacts in both directions. It’s certainly something I will keep an eye on for both my interests in Japan and International Education.

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