TOKYO, Japan — Hailed around the world for its stringent education system, Japan now has plans to export education. Developing countries in need of education reform seek Japan’s help in implementing the Japanese system.
There are two main hallmarks of Japanese education. The first hallmark is standardization. From curriculum to uniforms, everything in Japanese schools is overarching the same. The other hallmark is discipline. Students in elementary and secondary school must partake in disciplinary activities such as cleaning the classroom.
This discipline — a longstanding cultural aspect of Japanese society — is meant to inundate students with the collaboration and problem-solving skills needed to be successful on whichever path a student should choose.
Education in Japan is compulsory for nine years — six of which are spent in elementary school and the other three spent in lower secondary school (what we call junior high in the U.S.). Upper secondary school (high school) is not compulsory; however, 98 percent of students attend.
The latest data from 2013 shows that Japanese enrollment in university or junior college is at 53 percent and climbing. This figure is well above the international average of university enrollment which is 29 percent.
Furthermore, 63.6 percent of students completing technical college, junior college or university, as well as 61.3 percent of graduate school students, gain entry into the workforce.
The standardization, discipline, advancement and employment rates are what are attracting developing countries like Myanmar, India and Egypt to Japan’s style of education.
In 2011, as part of the Arab Spring movement, Egyptian students organized mass protests, which resulted in the removal of former dictator Hosni Mubarak.
One of the main grievances of the Egyptian youth is the country’s broken education system. Unlike Japan, the hallmarks of Egyptian education are underfunding, lack of teachers and low employment for graduates.
Specifically, Egypt only spends 3.8 percent of its GDP on education whereas the average for the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries, which includes Japan, is 6.1 percent.
In 2012, the unemployment rate of Egyptians 15 to 29 years old was 77.5 percent. This mirrors a national problem with total Egyptian unemployment at 12.7 percent, whereas total Japanese unemployment is only 4 percent.
While these statistics may seem disparaging, Egypt remains hopeful. Egyptian enrollment in university or other tertiary schooling is at 32 percent, which is still above the international average. Egypt now looks to Japan to help fill the gaps.
Japan’s Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology developed a plan to “export” the Japanese system of education to developing countries like Egypt. Part of this plan involves a conference that the ministry is planning to hold.
The “public-private cooperation platform to export Japanese-style education” conference will bring together “representatives from school operators, nongovernmental organizations, local governments, educational businesses and foreign embassies” to discuss which elements of Japanese education each country would like to import.
There is also a business aspect of Japan’s plan. Businesses and school administrators will learn their way around foreign markets in order to successfully implement Japanese-style education in regions such as the Middle East, Asia and Africa. Funds for this program are being proposed in Japan’s 2016 fiscal budget.
Japan is world-renowned for its work ethic and advances in engineering. By exporting the Japanese system of education, classrooms all over the world will benefit from updated curriculum, textbooks and technology. This system also provides another option for developing countries other than U.S. and European education systems.
Thus, in countries plagued by terrorist groups like Boko Haram, who are opposed to western education in their country, eastern education may be viewed as a national security investment. But no matter the goal, Japanese education programs are set to be “exported” in 2016.
– Celestina Radogno
Sources: Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology-Japan, OECD, The Asahi Shimbun, World Bank, World Education News and Reviews,