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EDITORIAL: Asian students in Japan 
Accepting them has to be a win-win situation.




Ayoung Chinese who travels frequently between Japan and China as an employee of a Japanese company likes to tell acquaintances: ``I worked at a printing factory to earn enough to pay my school expenses, studied at a Japanese-language school and went on to graduate school. But I am still indebted to my landlord who let me stay in his apartment for free.''

It is a touching story. But not all Chinese who studied in Japan feel that way. In fact, there is a Chinese phrase that translates thus: Students who go to Japan to study become anti-Japanese.

In 1983, the Nakasone administration announced a plan to accept 100,000 foreign students. It took 20 years to reach that target and now, slightly more than 117,000 young people, mostly from Asia, are studying in Japan.

Former U.S. Secretary of Defense William Perry once made the following observation about taking in foreign students: ``Attracting foreign students to study in the United States is a win-win-win situation. It's a win for our economy, it's a win for our foreign policy and it's a win for our educational programs.''

In short, the United States benefits economically by having foreign students as well as politically in its dealings with other countries. It also gives American students the opportunity to touch base with foreign cultures at home.

Japan has met its target in terms of number, but many people are unhappy with the reception foreign students get on arrival. Most complaints center on screening procedures for entry and residential status, housing and employment after graduation. It would be a great shame if foreign students with the potential to become experts on Japan leave with bad impressions.

Foreigners who want to come here to study are required by Japanese immigration authorities to provide proof they have the equivalent of millions of yen in bank savings so they can pay their school and living expenses. Even Japanese would be at a loss when requested to present such proof. What's more, many applicants come from developing countries.

It surely is not surprising that some young people enter Japan with forged documents and then find work without ever attending school.

Rather than barring entry for financial reasons, the government should devise ways to allow competent students to work so they can pay their way through school. Why not hold an official examination and allow those who score highly to come to Japan and go to school? Currently, foreign students are allowed to work only 28 hours a week. Why not allow them to work longer or give them jobs in the schools where they study? That way, it would be easier to select good students.

Housing is another major problem young people face when they arrive in Japan. The capacity of campus dormitories and other accommodations designed for foreign students is limited. When they look for privately-run apartments, they are required to have a guarantor. But few foreign students have Japanese acquaintances who are prepared to serve as guarantors. Surely organizations that promote study programs for foreign students can act as guarantors.

Countries that attract foreign students serve as a beacon to others. The same can be said of universities. According to the homepage of a well-known British university, 64 percent of its students are foreigners who come from 152 countries. Twenty-eight of those graduates went on to become presidents or prime ministers.

Universities that can attract foreign students offer untold benefits to the Japanese students already enrolled to get the highest quality education available.


(Asahi/March 3, 2005)