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There are over three times more Japanese students studying overseas than official figures suggest, reveals survey

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Up to 170,000 Japanese students study abroad annually, according to a new survey, revealing a figure which is far more than what official government figures have stated.

A recent survey conducted by the Japan Association of Overseas Studies (JOAS) involved 36 agencies around the world, which identified nearly 65,000 students studied abroad in 2014.

This number exceeds the 55,350 students included in the official count by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) for that year.

MEXT data only records students pursuing their higher education overseas, whereas JAOS figures include the high volumes of students studying language or at K-12 level.

Speaking to The PIE News, Tatsu Hoshino, executive secretary of JAOS, said he was “not at all” surprised with the vast difference between JAOS’s estimate and the government’s figures.

“As an industry expert and consultant with 30 years’ experience, I knew we had this kind of figures and trend,” he said.

“It is very obvious that the K-12 market has been dominated by agents because unlike language studies, parents and students have to depend on agent services for this sector,” he explained.

Hoshino added that the actual total number of students sent overseas was probably higher than the survey’s estimate, as four of the association’s 40 agency members did not participate this year.

“If you take that into account, I would estimate, our total number would be around 175,000,” he said.

According to JAOS, its member agencies send around 40 percent of all Japanese students headed overseas.

The survey found that in 2014, 52 percent of the students pursued short-term language courses that lasted three months or less, while longer-term language courses accounted for 11 percent.

The majority of students (80 percent) went to English-speaking countries – comprising the U.S., Australia, Canada, the UK, and New Zealand – with the U.S. coming out on top, drawing over a quarter of them.

Closer to home, the Philippines has emerged as the sixth most popular country to study abroad, attracting 6.7 percent, which JAOS has attributed to the cheaper cost of living and tuition, as well as its proximity to Japan.

In recent years, the Southeast Asian country has leapfrogged over Taiwan and China in terms of popularity among Japanese students, which now only account for around one percent of the total each.

Image via Shutterstock

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