Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Go East Young Man

We've been particular biased towards Western universities in most of our discussions in this blog. This is not surprising given that both Tony and I studied in the UK and I'm now studying in the US. But we often forget that there are opportunities to study abroad nearer to home and I'm not talking about Singapore or Australia or New Zealand. I'm referring to Japan.

I've always known that there were and are scholarships being offered to Malaysians to study in Japan. A lay preacher in a church I attend in Malaysia went to Japan in the 1970s on a scholarship offered by the Japanese government. More recently, a friend of mine, Ronnie, went to Japan for an MBA on a similar scholarship. Tony and I were recently alerted by Adriene (thanks for the heads-up) that the Japanese embassy in KL will be accepting applications for their MONBUKAGAKUSHO:MEXT scholarships at the undergraduate as well as post graduate levels. Applications are for the 2007 academic year (next year) and will be open from the 27th February to 31st March 2006. Tuition and matriculation fees are paid for and you get a monthly stipend as well.

I think there are many good things that can be said about studying in Japan. Firstly, you'd be able to learn a new, global language spoken by more than 120 million people in the world's 2nd largest economy (for now) and whose multinational companies dominate certain key industries (consumer electronics, car-making, robotics). You'll be learning this language in a setting where you can practise it on a daily basis and with people who speak it fluently (as opposed to learning it in Malaysia).

Secondly, you'll be studying in some of the top universities in Asia, if not the world. Tokyo University is probably the best known university in Japan. Kyoto, Waseda, Hokkaido and Nagoya are some of the other highly ranked universities. You probably would have access to good resources in terms of studying materials (books, online content, databases etc..), well-trained professors, and physical infrastructure (state of the art labs and libraries, the latest technology etc...).

Thirdly, as Japanese universities are becoming more internationalized, you probably would get opportunities (depending on the course and university, of course) to take some courses in English. This would make the transition easier for those who might not pick up Japanese as fast as they would like.

Fourthly, I think that there's a lot of character building to be experienced when studying and learning in a foreign environment. In the English speaking countries and universities that we are more familiar with, it is not that difficult to learn and live there. There are often many other Malaysians who are there with you. You often have good Asian food in many of the cities where these universities are located. And you won't have much trouble buying groceries, going to restaurants and travelling around the country because the main language of communication is English. The same can't be said of Japan.

Relatively few people speak English there. If you live in a big city, your living quarters will probably be 1/4 of the size that you are used to back home (if you are lucky!). My impression is that Japanese people are not particularly open to outsiders or 'gaijin' (though that attitude would probably differ across generations). You'll have to learn new customs and social norms that you might not be particularly comfortable with (like lots of bowing). If you can overcome these obstacles and still get a decent education experience, I think you'll come out of it a better man or woman.

There's quite a lot of information out there on studying in Japan. Visit the JASSO website on scholarships and the Japanese equivalent of MACEE in Malaysia for more information.

I'm too old now to apply for this but I certainly won't mind spending a few months in Japan on a study tour just to learn more about their culture, language and way of life (subject to approval from my wife, of course :))


Anonymous said...

Dear Kian Ming,

I think you should not restrict oneself to Japan but East includes China which has some fantastic universities in Shanghai, Beijing, Xiamen and Chengdu. The cost of living is cheaper and our currency goes further. Japan is one of the most expensive countries in the world no doubt one of the most advanced, one has to have equally deep pockets to survive.

Anonymous said...

japanese girls....yummy....

Anonymous said...

Hi, just stumbled across your blog - have to say, great writing here! You two certainly put in much effort, research and thought into this. Like most Malaysians overseas I've moved West too (1st year in Manchester, 5th year in UK) If I had to do it all over again China does seem like the better choice over Japan. As noted in the above comment, our currency does go further in China than Japan; for those who are leaving home for the first time, Japan's society seems far more "gaijin", and Chinese is after all in greater demand as a graduate skill. Having said that, a friend's decided to study Japanese in Tokyo, and adapting overseas is equally challenging (and possibly character strengthening) be it far away or closer to home...

Anonymous said...

Japan is actually is good place to further your education. Theres about 3500 americans studying there now, and this figure is increasing.

As for other studying in Japan opportunities, MARA actually sends about 20 to 30 + people there to study engineering every year. While Im not too sure about the details, perhaps those interested can look up on it, or ask around.

Anonymous said...

Don't Just Go East Go Online

March 1, 2006
Online Colleges Receive a Boost From Congress
It took just a few paragraphs in a budget bill for Congress to open a new frontier in education: Colleges will no longer be required to deliver at least half their courses on a campus instead of online to qualify for federal student aid.

That change is expected to be of enormous value to the commercial education industry. Although both for-profit colleges and traditional ones have expanded their Internet and online offerings in recent years, only a few dozen universities are fully Internet-based, and most of them are for-profit ones.

The provision is just one sign of how an industry that once had a dubious reputation has gained new influence, with well-connected friends in the government and many Congressional Republicans sympathetic to their entrepreneurial ethic.

The Bush administration supported lifting the restriction on online education as a way to reach nontraditional students. Nonprofit universities and colleges opposed such a broad change, with some academics saying there was no proof that online education was effective. But for-profit colleges sought the rollback avidly.

"The power of the for-profits has grown tremendously," said Representative Michael N. Castle, Republican of Delaware, a member of the House Education and Workforce Committee who has expressed concerns about continuing reports of fraud. "They have a full-blown lobbying effort and give lots of money to campaigns. In 10 years, the power of this interest group has spiked as much as any you'll find."

Sally L. Stroup, the assistant secretary of education who is the top regulator overseeing higher education, is a former lobbyist for the University of Phoenix, the nation's largest for-profit college, with some 300,000 students.

Two of the industry's closest allies in Congress are Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio, who just became House majority leader, and Representative Howard P. McKeon, Republican of California, who is replacing Mr. Boehner as chairman of the House education committee.

And the industry has hired well-connected lobbyists like A. Bradford Card, the brother of the White House chief of staff, Andrew H. Card Jr.

The elimination of the restriction on online education, included in a $39.5 billion budget-cutting package, is a case study in the new climate. Known as the 50 percent rule, the restriction was one of several enacted by Congress in 1992 after investigations showed that some for-profit trade schools were little more than diploma mills intended to harvest federal student loans.

Since then, the industry has grown enormously, with enrollment at such colleges outpacing that at traditional ones. In 2003, the last year for which statistics were available, 703,000 of the 16.9 million students at all degree-granting institutions were attending for-profit colleges.

These colleges offer a wide range of courses, including marketing, accounting, cooking and carpentry. Many attract students who have had limited success at other schools. Some offer certificates, while others issue associates, bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees. About 2,500 for-profit schools are accredited to offer federal student aid.

Yet commercial higher education continues to have a checkered record, particularly for aggressive recruitment and marketing. The Department of Education's inspector general, John P. Higgins Jr., testified in May that 74 percent of his fraud cases involved for-profit schools.

But commercial colleges found a sympathetic ear in the administration and Congress in their quest to remove the 50 percent rule. Representatives Boehner and McKeon sponsored the measure.

Laura Palmer Noone, president of the University of Phoenix, said the growth of Internet-based learning had shown it to be effective, especially for rural, military and working students.

Kevin Smith, a spokesman, said Mr. Boehner "views this as removing an unnecessary barrier to distance education." He added, "While continuing to ensure that there are strong antifraud protections in place, he believes we need to break down more barriers to education for low-income, first-generation and nontraditional students."

Some academics say the nation is rushing to expand online higher education because it is profitable, without serious studies of effectiveness.

"This is a growth industry and you get rich not by being skeptical, but by being enthusiastic," said Henry M. Levin, director of Columbia University's National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education.

"People at the academic conferences will say they did a survey about Internet-based education, but there are a lot of phantom statistics," he said, "and its all very promotional. We have not found a single rigorous study comparing online with conventional forms of instruction."

How fast the college landscape will change is uncertain. Sean Gallagher, a senior analyst at Eduventures, a Boston research firm, predicted that the proportion of students taking all their classes online could rise over the next 10 years or so to 25 percent from the current 7 percent.

To test online learning, Congress established a demonstration program in 1998 that allowed a few dozen colleges with online programs to request waivers from the 50 percent rule. The Department of Education reported last year that enrollment at eight of the colleges shot up 700 percent over six years.

Ms. Stroup has overseen the program since becoming an assistant secretary of education in 2002.

Several opponents of lifting the 50 percent rule said Ms. Stroup had been fair in policy evaluations. But in a 2004 audit, the Education Department's inspector general said a 2003 report she provided to Congress on the program "contained unsupported, incomplete and inaccurate statements."

Most were assertions that online education was working as well or better than traditional methods, with little risk. The inspector general, citing the collapse of one participant in the program, the Masters Institute in California, chided the Education Department for reporting that it had found "no evidence" that the rule change could pose hazards.

Ms. Stroup formally disagreed with the inspector general. In an interview, she said a subordinate had written the report, although she had signed off on it. In a later report to Congress, the department acknowledged "several possible risk factors."

Ms. Stroup, in the interview, said she had withdrawn from all decisions directly affecting the University of Phoenix. "I don't see myself as representing any one sector," she said. "We try to help all students."

Traditional colleges, in fighting repeal of the rule, cited the Masters Institute, whose online enrollment surged after it gained access to federal money. The institute collapsed in 2001 during a fraud investigation.

"What we opposed was that federal aid should go to these virtual universities that disguise themselves as colleges, where it's just something on the Internet with no resources behind it," said Sarah Flanagan, a vice president at the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, which represents nearly 1,000 nonprofit institutions.

The Department of Education estimated the change would cost the government $697 million over 10 years.

Representatives Boehner and McKeon have also pushed through committee other changes sought by the for-profit industry, and lobbyists and lawmakers gave them good chances of passage this year.

Unlike all but a few traditional universities, the for-profits have formed political action committees to channel campaign donations, especially to members of the House and Senate education committees.

While the $1.8 million that executives of the largest chains of proprietary colleges and their political action committees have donated to federal candidates since 2000 is not huge by Washington standards, the money is strategically donated.

About a fifth — $313,000 — went to Mr. Boehner and McKeon and political action committees they control, according to figures provided by the Center for Responsive Politics, which monitors campaign finances.

Mr. Smith said there was "zero" connection between the donations and Mr. Boehner's policy decisions. James Geoffrey, a spokesman for Mr. McKeon, said the donations had no bearing on his choices, either.

Some lobbyists for the traditional universities said that because few of them form political action committees, they are at a disadvantage.

"If I seek an appointment with a member of Congress, I get a staff member, if anybody," said David Hawkins, a lobbyist for the National Association of College Admissions Counsellors, which as a nonprofit group is barred from making campaign donations.

A. Bradford Card, who represents some commercial colleges in New York, said lawmakers were responding to commercial colleges' educational contributions. He said he had spoken several times with Mr. Boehner about his clients' agenda. Mr. Card said he never lobbied his brother, Mr. Bush's chief of staff.

"These are not fly-by-night schools," Mr. Card said "Members of Congress are really taking a look at this industry because they recognize that proprietary colleges are helping people get into the work force, pay taxes and become the best they can be."

Kian Ming said...

Thanks for the tinkosong link enghan. Excellent information on scholarships overseas. My impression from reading the post on Japan is that things are pretty expensive there but you can control your expenses and live within your means. There was less information in regards to the content of the course, which wasn't the intention of the post.

Studying in China? Yup, definitely something I or Tony will post about in the future. I definitely think that it's the next place to go and as Chinese universities look to expand their international profile, I look for more scholarships to be offered to overseas students and more overseas students to go to the top Chinese universities. I especially want to look at the MBA tie-ups since these are usually pre-cursors to wider partnerships that will soon be established.

__mars said...

aw, man. Imagine the amount of sushi would be consumed. urgh. I take hamburger and sausage and peanut butter and jelly and bagel and milk anytime.

Anonymous said...

come on..earth..

Land of rising offers more than that..

Japanese food ...which is long recognised for promoting health lifestyle and longevity...is available for each serving..

tempura, unagi kabayaki, ebi tendon...you name it..ha..ha.

and if you tired of that..

there are many western styles restaurants too.. italian, french...

it's world's food gourmet of the east!

Anonymous said...

Hi Kian Ming,

Konnichiwa, ogenki desuka? How are you? This is Ronnie! A friend of mine read your comments here and told me that my name was mentioned. Yes, I am still in Tokyo and I have another semester to go before I finish my MBA at Waseda University.

My experience in Tokyo in the past 2 years has been wonderful. Going to Japan for an MBA has been an experience of a life time. The Japanese are generally friendly, kind and accommodating to foreign students like myself. When I first touched down in Narita, I could not speak any Japanese apart from the daily greetings. It was indeed a scary first few days.

You may ask why I chose Waseda instead of US MBAs? Looking back, I believe I made the right choice of coming here. I wanted to experience an “eastern” way of life. I believe that the Waseda MBA would add more value as I could learn from a different perspective which would be more relevant in an Asia Pacific perspective.

Academically, I believe I have gained tremendously from my professors and course mates. My classes are mainly conducted in English but there are some classes where both Japanese and English are used. My immediate supervisor is a caucasian American. He used to teach in Harvard and received his PhD from Princeton. Why is he in Japan you may ask? Well, his wife is Japanese. I suppose many foreigners live in Japan because their spouses are Japanese. My other professors include former partners of management consulting firms (BCG, McKinsey, Booz Allen, etc) and executives from MNCs. Hence, the quality of educators here are of similar quality to the West.

Many people are discouraged to come to Japanese because of the language barrier. However, taking myself as an example, it dispels the myth that you can’t survive here. My Japanese is still very far from fluent but I suppose I can get by daily life here without too much hassle.

I would encourage people to consider an education in the East, be it China or Japan especially for a post graduate degree. Many of my classmates were educated in US (Harvard, Cornell, Columbia, Berkeley etc) before coming to Waseda. And you network with friends who you will keep in touch for a long time.

Of course, there are criticisms about studying in Japan however, we should not let that hinder us from our academic, social and career pursuits. The Japanese economy is growing again after a decade of slowdown and China is moving full speed ahead. With these reasons alone, looking to the East is not a bad thing.


Warm regards
Ronnie Tham
Waseda MBA