The Yomiuri Shimbun (Mar. 20, 2012)

The education ministry will seek to expand the number of high schools providing International Baccalaureate programs and examinations to help students enroll in prestigious universities overseas.

The move is aimed at boosting the number of Japanese students studying abroad, and providing education at domestic high schools that is tied to a global standard, a ministry official said.

IB is a nonprofit education foundation created in Switzerland in 1968 that offers three programs for students aged 3 to 19, including the Diploma Program for ages 16 to 19. This program is taught over two years and has gained recognition and respect from the world’s leading universities.

Over the next five years, the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry plans to increase the number of schools certified to teach IB programs to 200, the official said.

Most Japanese high school students who want to enroll in an overseas university must take additional exams that differ for each country. But by completing an IB diploma, students will be able to bypass these exams and qualify for admission screenings at about 2,000 universities worldwide.

There are 3,300 high schools in about 140 countries authorized to teach IB programs. About 42,000 students passed the Diploma Program in the 2010 academic year. The diploma’s top mark is 45 points, and students who score 24 or higher pass and can apply for admission at prestigious universities, such as Harvard University. In Asia, the number of IB-authorized schools has been rising remarkably in China.

In a report issued in June 2011, a government panel looking into the promotion of human resources from a global perspective, proposed increasing IB-certified schools in Japan. It said this may help enhance the communication abilities of Japanese students and increase the number of them studying overseas.

A Cabinet decision made last August incorporated an expansion of IB-authorized schools as part of a plan to implement growth strategies.

The government’s moves may have been spurred by the declining number of Japanese students studying overseas, and because domestic universities are dropping places in global university rankings.

The IB’s Diploma Program curriculum is divided into three core parts–an extended essay, theory of knowledge, and creativity, action, service–which cultivate students’ international awareness and logical thinking. These fields of study are different from the standard curriculum at high schools throughout Japan.

The diploma requires classwork to be conducted primarily in English.

This means few Japanese high schools can meet IB requirements.

There are only 15 IB World Schools in Japan that offer the Diploma Program, including Tokyo’s Tamagawa Gakuen School.

A total of 211 students at these schools passed IB’s international exams for the 2010 academic year.


Combatting introversion

The education ministry’s plan to increase the number of IB-certified schools, which is part of its program to educate people so that they can meet global standards, is aimed at halting a recent trend in which young Japanese people are becoming more introverted, observers said.

The number of Japanese students studying abroad has been falling since it peaked in 2004.

The University of Tokyo’s desire to switch its admission period from spring to autumn is part of a plan to make its standards similar to international ones.

The ministry’s scheme will help Japanese high school students apply directly to foreign universities

These two proposals have the same goal of trying to break the tendency of domestic students to be introverted, the observers said.

The IB’s Diploma Program aims to give students better communication abilities and greater knowledge and understanding of different cultures.

High hurdles must be cleared to increase the number of IB schools in Japan. This includes securing teachers who have sufficient language skills to conduct classes in English, and ensuring IB programs for high school students are within the teaching guidelines set by the ministry.