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[Opinion] Japanese Language Proficiency Test

Posted October. 28, 2008 09:12,   


Universities around the world are in intense competition to attract foreign students, with a soaring number of students going abroad to study in this global era. The United States is the most favored destination. Though many want to return home after finishing their studies, some remain in America to contribute to its economic and scientific development. Drawing the world`s best and brightest students plays a key role in advancing a country. In the past, the United States attracted 60 percent of overseas students, but now faces a decline in university enrollment as higher education undergoes rapid globalization.

Attracting foreign students is more than recruiting talented scholars because it generates a profitable industry. When attracting overseas students, their spending on tuition fees, living expenses and visits by their families benefits the host country’s service revenues. Universities can enhance their image while earning profits from tuition. For this reason, a number of governments are keen to treat higher education as an industry. A case in point is Goethe House, or Campus France.

Japan is far ahead of other Asian countries in attracting foreign students. In 1983, then Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone unveiled a plan on admitting 100,000 foreign students. Twenty five years later, that number has risen to 120,000. One problem, however, is that Chinese students accounted for 74 percent and Korean students 14 percent of Japan’s foreign students. The language barrier made it difficult to evaluate a student’s scholastic ability. To resolve the problem, Japan adopted two languages for use in administering the Japanese Language Proficiency Test for those who want to attend university in Japan.

In the face of declining student enrollment and growing financial difficulty, Korean universities is trying to attract foreign students. The number of overseas students reached 63,952 in April this year. The government announced the “Study Korea” project aimed to attract 100,000 foreign students by 2010. Korea has a similar problem with Japan in that most foreign students are from China attracted mainly by relatively cheap tuition. The Lee administration should pay attention to the Japanese government’s diversification of its language test to attract more foreign students.

Editorial Writer Chung Sung-hee, (shchung@donga.com)