Posts Tagged ‘internationalization of Japan’


This article is a part of my series called: Voices from Japan, which entails translating opinion pieces done by Japanese bloggers into English. This entry is from the blog of a Japanese lawyer on the problem of child abductions. You can read the original Japanese at the blogger’s site or on this page under my English translation.

International divorce: Stop snatching children and taking them overseas

Recently, international marriages have been on the rise. And international divorces too have been following an upward course proportional to this increase. For example, there are cases in Japan where a Japanese man gets married to a foreign national, has a child, family life collapses, they close shop, and the women takes the child to her home country. In the case where a female with a foreign nationality unreasonably separates a child from their father, as long as the child is in Japan, there is some way of handling it through Japanese Criminal Law and the Protection of Personal Liberty Law.

However, in the case where the child is taken to a foreign country, a place where Japan has no jurisdiction, do you think the other parent can bring the child back to Japan? In some recent examples, some women in discord with her husband would just take the children to their home country, permanently separating father and child.

Even when parents are in discord, both parents hold a blood link to the child. And the right for a parent to negotiate a meeting to meet their child is a natural right of humanity. Even across borders, a parent cannot deprive the other of the right to meet ones child. Concerning this issue, there is a problem with Japan’s stance.

The Hague Convention was enacted in 1980. In response to a parent taking a child and leaving the country, the other parent can demand the prompt return of the child if the child is in a country that agreed to the convention. If Japan were to ratify the convention and adjust Japanese civil laws to it, it would be possible to return a child that was taken away by one parent.

Already, around 80 countries, mainly Western countries and almost all developed nations, have ratified the convention and become signatories. Currently, Japan is being criticized by America and Canada for not ratifying the Hague Convention – there are many cases of Japanese women taking the children away to Japan. Many Asian countries have not signed and its backwards attitude towards human rights are being questioned. On the other hand, if Japan signs the Hague convention, it will be possible for Japan to demand the return of a child from another signatory when a child is taken overseas.

Parliamentary deliberation is stopped after the Tokyo Assembly Election. Isn’t it a parliamentary members job to enact and revise laws? It is too irresponsible for a worthy Diet member to neglect parliamentary deliberation just because a decision – or decisions – to censure the prime minister (LDP) by the Upper House (Controlled by DPJ) is approved and the Lower House election is near. It appears that many important bills will be rejected and this is looking foolish. More and more Japan looks like it is being left behind in International community. It doesn’t matter how big the odds are for the opposition party (DPJ) to achieve an administration change, Japan’s government must move without making a fuss (with the cooperation of the opposition and ruling party).
My thoughts:

Actually, Japan has received a lot of criticism for not signing the Hague Convention (due to a difference in legal systems and a cultural belief that the children should live with the mother). And recently there have been many cases of Japanese women kidnapping their children and taking them to Japan – I have actually worked on one such case and saw the harm it caused the father. If Japan were to sign the Convention, it would have to extradite many Japanese women, currently fugitives in other countries, to face punishment for their crimes. Something, I don’t expect Japan doing anytime soon. For more information on actual cases and details of this tragic problem, please check out this post by Debito here

And click here for Japan’s Children Rights Network

The original Japanese article






Classroom (from flickr)

Classroom (from flickr)

There have been some interesting posts by two Japanese bloggers over the introduction of an all-English curriculum for students in a bachelor or higher-level education program. Both bloggers see a need for courses done in English at the graduate or doctorate levels but disagree for bachelor level programs.

Both bloggers also see the introduction of English in Japanese higher education as a necessary condition to make Japanese academia more competitive internationally; to keep talented Japanese researchers and professors in Japan; and to bring in distinguished academics from overseas.

A researcher who blogs by the name of 大「脳」洋航海記 gives three reasons why it is necessary to teach Japanese higher education courses in English:

  1. そもそも大半の基礎科学研究は国際レベルで展開されているものだから、基礎的な知識は英語を介して身につけた方が後になって日本語&英語の対訳を覚えるよりも効率的
  2. 既に日本ではアカデミアが飽和に達していて研究者の海外逃亡が見込まれる状況なのだから、予め英語だけで研究活動ができる程度の訓練を受けておくことは有益
  3. 海外から優秀な研究者を招聘する際にわざわざ日本語の習得を義務付ける必要がなくなる
  1. More than half of basic scientific research is conducted out of Japan. Therefore, it is more efficient to gain fundamental knowledge through English than remembering the Japanese translation of English.
  2. Already, Japan’s academia is at its limits and researchers are expected to flea overseas. Therefore, it would be better to receive training to conduct all research in English.
  3. Distinguished academics from outside of Japan would not have to learn Japanese to teach in Japan.

He later adds that the minimum requirement for Japan to become truly internationalized is for university students to be able to use English in both their private and work lives. The blogger also shares his “lack of” experience with English and the trouble it caused.

  • 日本という国が真に国際化を目指すのなら、最低でも高等教育を受けるぐらいのキャリア予備軍は英語をオフィシャルでもプライベー トでも使いこなせるべきな のであって、実際僕は院にいる間に英語で discussion / debateをする機会が少なかったせいで、外国人が4分の1混じってる程度の今のラボにおいてもすら着任当初はだいぶ苦戦したわけで。
  • If Japan truly aims at becoming internationalized, at a minimum, Japanese who receive higher education must be able to use English in both their private and work lives. In my case, I had few chances to debate and discuss in English as a graduate student. This later proved to be a problem when I worked at lab where 25% of the staff was non-Japanese.

A University professor who blogs by the name “next 49” agreed with the three points mentioned by 大「脳」洋航海記 and continues the discussion by giving his thoughts on language used in academia and its effects.

  • この本を読んで疑問に思った点は本の内容ではなく、研究者の流動性の話。アメリカの大学の場合、アメリカの大学で教員になる人は 全員英語で授業を行うだろう。でも、ヨーロッパの場合、イタリアで授業していた大学教員がドイツに行ったときには何語で授業するんだ?もし、現地語で授業 するというのであれば、日本の大学に外国人教員を増やす場合、その教員は日本語を習得しないといけなくなり、日本語圏という理由だけで障壁になる。もし、 ヨーロッパの大学の授業の基本は英語であるのならば、日本の大学自体が変わり、学生は英語をしゃべらなくてはならなくなる(まあ、大学院だけの話か もしれないけど)。伊藤氏は「自国語で高等教育ができる日本は悪くない」と言っているけれども、研究者の流動性を上げる政策をとると「高等教育=英語で行 う」ということにならないだろうか?
  • At American Universities, all courses are taught in English. However, in Europe, if a professor who teaches at an Italian University goes to a German University; what language would the professor teach in? In Japan’s case, if lessons were conducted in Japanese, it would be a barrier to increasing the amount of foreign professors, as they would have to learn Japanese. If University courses in Europe were conducted in English, so would Japan’s (When referring to graduate school).

Next49 concludes his post by giving his doubts in response to an opinion piece in Nikkei Business about conducting higher education courses in Japan in Japanese. And ponders about future Japanese educational policies.

  • A writer 伊藤氏 said, “A Japan that conducts higher education courses in Japanese is not bad,” but if Japan introduces a policy to increase the flow of researchers, I wonder if higher education will be conducted in English?

My thoughts:

I am not sure whether English should be the language of higher education in Japan. The amount of time it would take a Japanese to learn English is much longer (3-5x?) than Europeans. I wonder if the time spent to learn English will result in a less educated student body. Also, will it decrease the quality or impact of Japanese research?

On the other hand, if Japan adopts English: the flow of academics to and from Japan will increase, and the amount of knowledge available to Japanese and foreign academics will also expand.

I do agree that Japan has to bring in foreign academics to maintain or increase its academic clout. The only reason Harvard, Oxford, and other top-tier Universities are able to maintain its competitiveness is through the recruitment of distinguished and promising academics from throughout the world.

In Japan, Universities are only able to draw upon the pool of Japanese academics and a small number of Japanese speaking non-Japanese. On the other hand, Harvard can recruit academics from the US, Canada, Australia, UK, South Africa, and a mass of non-native English speaking foreign academics.