Tue, Jan 12, 2010 The Straits Times
By Debby Kwong
No wish to join the crowd in the United States, Britain or Australia for higher studies?
You may want to consider Japan – and an education fair this week will let you find out more about 12 universities in that country.
The fair is cohosted by the National University of Singapore (NUS) and the University of Tokyo; and its showcase includes famous schools like Keio University and Waseda University.
Japan, which has some 700 institutions of higher learning, is no slouch in the education field.
It has 11 schools in the top 200 of the Times Higher Education-QS World University Rankings 2009, with the University of Tokyo the highest-ranked at No. 22.
The Embassy of Japan here was unable to reveal the number of Singaporean students in Japan.
But Ms Xu Yinghui, president of the Singapore Students’ Association (Japan), knows of more scholarship holders from the Economic Development Board (EDB), Public Service Commission and Defence Science and Technology Agency, who are choosing to go to Japanese universities over US or British ones.
The association has 80 members. In the past five years, it has seen a doubling of members, said Ms Xu, 20, an EDB scholarship holder who is studying economics at Hitotsubashi University.
Asked why she chose Japan, she said: ‘The best way to distinguish myself from my peers would be to master the understanding of a regional powerhouse economy which requires a foreign language.’
The Japanese University Graduates Association of Singapore has 360 members, said its head of membership Jimmy Ng.
In the past five years, 40 people have joined, added Mr Ng, 60, who studied at Kyoto University.
He has retired from his job as a managing director at a Japanese construction equipment company.
Mr Gerald Choo, 24, a Ministry of Education scholarship holder studying chemistry at the University of Tokyo, noted that the school fees are the same, ‘whether you are Japanese or not’.
His annual undergraduate tuition fees are 535,800 yen (S$8,000).
Annual tuition fees for undergraduates can come up to ?29,400 (S$65,700) at King’s College in London, and US$37,400 (S$52,200) at the University of Michigan in the United States.
But lessons taught in Japanese can pose a challenge. Singaporeans typically spend a year in Japan learning the language before they start tertiary studies.
‘We’re seeing a larger number of scholarship holders who come with no Japanese language background and start learning Japanese from scratch in language schools,’ said Ms Xu.
Some schools, such as the University of Tokyo, offer some graduate and undergraduate courses conducted in English.
For those who have heard about the demanding Japanese education system, is it full-time stress on campus?
No, said Mr Dennis Chia, 22, a liberal arts student at Waseda University. He noted that time is spent in school, as well as on a co-curricular activity and a part-time job.
The Study in Japan Fair will be held on Thursday at the University Hall at NUS’ Kent Ridge campus from 2pm to 6pm.
This article was first published in The Straits Times.