I’ve recently been working to get the summer study abroad program at Long Beach, California started again. Two years ago the trip got canceled because of SARS. Last year it got canceled because not enough people were interested. This year I really want a group to go. Not because it has anything to do with me directly. I will not teach the group, nor will I accompany them. I think though that any well educated student should spend some time abroad. That goes for anyone, anywhere.
This led me to search for statistics on Japanese students studying abroad. I didn’t find any really current numbers, unfortunately. There are some numbers for 2001 in the Japanese Education at a Glance, 2005. This is four years ago, but there were 78,000 Japanese university students studying abroad in 2001. That is amazingly high, I thought. Then I thought I would see what the numbers were for Americans, and I found this article, “Cultural Illiteracy of U.S. students poses economic threat.” This article deals specifically with the US/Japan relationship, and focuses on the numbers of American students who travel to Asia in general and Japan specifically.
A team of top international educators headed by a UB professor is recommending major changes in the policy that defines the educational relationship between the U.S. and Japan.
They have found that ignorance of Asian language and culture among U.S. students is so widespread that it portends serious negative consequences for America’s economic, political and cultural interests in the Pacific-Rim region.
I found another article that is rather upbeat about American study abroad, “U.S. Study Abroad Increases by 9.6 Percent, Continues Record Growth; More Interest in Non-Traditional Destinations; Study Abroad in China Up by 90 Percent.” This looks at American students who travel abroad in general. It says that there were 191,321 students taking classes for credit abroad in 2003/04. The percentage of Japanese population studying abroad as students is pretty much the same as the US, but what we see is a huge number of Japanese traveling to the US, but a very small number of Americans coming here. The number one destination for Americas is Great Britain (32,000). 3,307 Americans came to Japan.
The numbers of Americans studying abroad is increasing, which is encouraging. I’m surprised, though, at how Eurocentric America still is.