Barriers and Solutions for Setting Up Study Abroad Programs

As a long-time proponent of study abroad, I am convinced that students who live and work overseas gain a wider perspective and a global viewpoint. They can expand their networks and get valuable experience in learning how to negotiate, exchange ideas, and discuss opposing opinions respectfully.

The primary reason Japanese students, particularly male students, are not going overseas is that they have little incentive to do so, even if they have the desire. Indeed, the educational system – and corporate society in general – seem set up especially to put roadblocks in the way of this kind of activity. People can have serious problems if they get off the corporate escalator where they are expected to do one thing at 20, another at 21, another at 22, get married at 25, and so on.

One barrier in particular is the dreaded shushoku katsudo, or job-hunting activity, a stressful period of job interviews and examinations which now begins in the third year of university or even earlier. The hiring cuts and belt-tightening of the last 20 years have resulted in a work force too frightened of the future to dare venturing “off the beaten path.”

We must banish the real and paralyzing fear among the Japanese about getting off track and acquiring the stigma of a chuto sayo, or “in between hire,” that is one who is hired in mid-career or as anything except as a shin sotsu, or new graduate, snatched up immediately after university and put on a steady, age-based promotion track.

There are many cases in which students receive scholarships but are vetoed by parents worried that their children will be frozen out of the shushoku katsudo, if they are absent from the country and therefore the job-hunting process. Even more important in Japan is moving through the ranks with your peers who got hired with you as new grads – not matching up with your normal age group makes people suspect something is wrong with you. So there are many hurdles even when the money is available.

Action, solutions
An obvious first step is to set up a scholarship program to encourage and give incentives for students to go abroad.

Just giving scholarships is not the end goal or the solution. In the process, the program will uncover a host of latent issues that will highlight/pinpoint areas within the Japanese government and educational system that need to change.

These include tie-ups between educational institutions to realize tuition reciprocity, so that students are not forced to pay tuition to both their home institution and the exchange one (exchange students at Keio going to Harvard, for example, have to pay tuition at both institutions), and credit transferability, so that students can use credits earned while studying abroad toward their degree.

These changes would start with a policy to encourage scholarships at the high government level; the government would instruct the Ministry of Education to set up fair exchanges on reciprocity of credits, tuition subsidies and waivers; income taxes (Finance Ministry); visas (coordinating with foreign embassies); and take steps to tackle other barriers (such as parental concerns).

On the private industry side, companies would need to change their thinking somewhat to accommodate the program and the new, globally inclined individuals coming out of it. Firms would have to loosen or eliminate some of their traditional hiring practices, such as the strictly defined hiring season, job-interview schedule, as well as the stigma of chuto sayo, rigid adherence to year of entrance into a company, and so on.

They might consider setting hiring criteria, a 5% quota for example, for hiring people who have actually studied abroad and/or give incentives to companies that hire such people.

With government, academic and private industry cooperation (a topic for next week), a number of creative solutions could be put forth to encourage a new generation of innovative thinkers and entrepreneurs who add spark and energy to a sluggish economy.

Your comments are always welcome.

William Saito
Special Advisor at Cabinet Office (Govt. of Japan)
Named by Nikkei as one of the “100 Most Influential People for Japan,” Saito began software programming at an early age and started his own company in high school. By the time he was named Entrepreneur of the Year in 1998 (by Ernst & Young, NASDAQ and USA Today), he was recognized as one of the world’s leading authorities on encryption, biometric authentication and cyber security.

After selling his business to Microsoft, he moved to Tokyo in 2005 and founded InTecur, a venture capital firm and consultancy that identifies innovative technologies, develops global talent and helps entrepreneurs become successful. In 2013, Saito was appointed a Special Advisor to the Cabinet Office for the Government of Japan.

Similarly, in 2012 he served as a council member on national strategy for the Cabinet-level National Policy Unit, and prior to that, was named as the Chief Technology Officer for the Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission (NAIIC). He is a Foundation Board Member at the World Economic Forum (WEF), and has been named by the WEF as both a Young Global Leader and Global Agenda Council member.

Saito also advises several national governments around the globe. In Japan, he has also served as an advisor to METI, MIC, MEXT, MLIT, AIST, IPA and the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS), among others.

He teaches at multiple universities, serves on several corporate boards, appears as a commentator on national TV and is the author of numerous publications in addition to writing a weekly column for a prominent Japanese business newspaper. His best-selling management book, The Team: Solving the Biggest Problem in Japan, was published by Nikkei BP in 2012, his follow-on book, Is Your Thinking up to Global Standards?, was published by Daiwa Shobo in late 2013 and his autobiography, An Unprogrammed Life: Adventures of an Incurable Entrepreneur, was published in 2011 by John Wiley & Sons.

Posted by whsaito

  1. дзякуй Amigo! вялікі пост!


  2. Эта идея придется как раз кстати


  3. Really great article with very interesting information. You might want to follow up to this topic!?! 2012


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