As a Canadian expat living in Japan I have a strong interest in international issues, especially those related to education and language learning. I’m a mostly bilingual father (English and Japanese) raising a completely bilingual daughter, who doesn’t hesitate to correct me. She will be entering school next year, and as a result I have been paying close attention to what opportunities are available for her education here in Japan. Particularly, I would like her to get a bilingual education in English and Japanese, as well as an international education so she can appreciate her multicultural heritage. Therefore, for this blog I investigated the topic of international education within three educational organizations: MEXT – the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture and Sports, Science and Technology, JAFSA – Japan Network for International Education, and OECD & CERI – Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development & Centre for Educational Research and Innovation.
Is the main governing body of all education in Japan. For good or ill MEXT wields a great amount of authority on what is taught and how it is taught in the compulsory education environment (Grades 1 -9). However, their policy and authority often extend beyond compulsory education into secondary and post-secondary as well. Regarding international education MEXT has released a recent report on the topics. In April 2011 under the heading “International Education” MEXT released:
OECD & CERI
Is a huge repository of research, articles, blogs and other media related to education at all levels, with a specific focus on the future of education. While OECD & CERI encompass a vast range of information and research on education their position on international education is indicated in their book Languages in a Global World Learning for Better Cultural Understanding (Chiesa, Scott and Hinton [eds.], 2012). Chiesa et.al. states,
In our globalised world, language competencies are increasingly important. It is no longer an advantage for a job seeker to speak just one non-native language (NNL). Rather it now could be a drawback for a job seeker to only speak one language. (2012, p.26)
CERI takes a firm stance that learning a NNL is an essential element of a student’s future success in the job market. Since, CERI so strongly promotes NNL learning I also conclude that they similarily promote international education as I believe the two are inexorably linked. Comparing CERI’s stance to that of MEXT and JAFSA, CERI’s is certainly the strongest; that NNL learning and by proxy international education are essential. MEXT recognizes that it is advantages for Japanese to learn English but they do not say it is essential. JAFSA’s position is even more watered down as they merely promote the concept of international education without taking a strong stance about the value of it. The thing that struck me about this CERI book is that until I discovered it I was unaware that so much research had been complied pointing to the positive results of NNL learning. In the past I had read research that had indicated some benefit but it seemed the jury was still out as to the value of NNL learning as a whole. However, CERI’s book makes s very compelling case that NNL learning is of benefit to the student as a person, to society and ultimately, to the world. As an ESL teaching in Japan where, at the level of instruction, there is a fair amount of antipathy towards English learning, finding this book was a real validation of what I had always felt was true: that NNL learning has great value and is a valuable life skill, not just a hobby or a curiosity.
In this blog I discussed the policy/opinions on international education from three organizations; MEXT, JAFSA and OECD & CERI. While all the organizations supported international education in some form, CERI made the strongest case as to international education’s value for the future of our students. To my surprise, I discovered that MEXT actually has some very clear policy and goals related to international education, and it is quite disappointing to see how MEXT’s decisions are failing to enact much change at the instructional level. Going back to how I started this blog with my concern over my daughters education. I can say that after reading more about international education; I am more determined than ever to promote my daughter’s bilingualism and international awareness. In addition, I feel the fire of motivation burning in me to take language and cultural education into my classroom with renewed verve. Because of my discoveries I once again feel confidant the English language instruction does matter, it is worthwhile, and it will prepare my students for their future.
Della Chiesa, B., J. Scott and C. Hinton (eds.) (2012), Languages in a Global World: Learning for Better Cultural Understanding, OECD Publishing, Paris.
Japan, Ministry of Education, Culture and Sports, Science and Technology. [MEXT], Tokyo. (2011, June 30). Survey on the Five Proposals and Specific Measures for Developing Proficiency in English for International Communication. Retrieved March 29, 2017, from http://www.mext.go.jp/en/policy/education/elsec/title02/detail02/1373861.htm
JAFSA – Japan Network for International Education. (2016, July 13). [webpage member list] Retrieved March 29, 2017, from http://www.jafsa.org/en/membership/jafsamembers/entry-973.html