- 11 July 2022
- Posted by: Mathieu Lecacheur
- Category: Secondary
One of our students participated in Stanford University’s “Stanford e-Japan” program. Here is his report.
Hello, my name is Alan Prévost, from the next class of terminale (12th year) . Following will be my report on Stanford e-Japan, in which I participated for 4 months in the spring of 2022.
I will first make a brief description of the program, then focus on one of the themes explored in the course.
First of all, what is Stanford e-Japan?
It is a free online program, held twice a year (once in the spring, once in the fall) which revolves around various themes of American society, often put in contrast with certain aspects of Japanese culture. This four-month program is addressed to high school students in Japan, and, beyond the acquisition of various academic notions, it encourages them to express themselves on what they have learned, and share their opinions.
This program also emphasizes human interactions, in the weekly conversations with the speakers and in discussion with classmates, with whom the exchanges are numerous and often very enthusiastic.
I will now move onto a concrete example, in order to illustrate more precisely what the program consists of.
One of the themes that captivated me the most was that of studying abroad, a very trivial practice in the United States and Europe, but not so much in Japan.
In present days, Studying abroad is a trend. It is accelerating in the United States, which welcomes an exponentially growing number of students from abroad, most of them attracted by the prestige of American universities. The European Union offers the Erasmus program, a program that allows European students to study in different European countries. As for Japan, it only attracts few foreign students, and the number of Japanese students who choose to study abroad is very small.
This contrast is the consequence of two factors which are in fact two sides of the same coin. The first is the thought pattern and philosophy of Japanese education. Very conservative in nature, the country puts a huge emphasis on tradition. Consequently, young people are not encouraged to explore the world, and education most often creates individuals who conform to ancestral rules without ever really questioning them. Thus, by the standards of Japanese society, studying abroad is often a disadvantage. In a nation that expects uniformity and conformism from its citizens, atypical or progressive individuals that students abroad are shaped into are rarely welcome.
The second factor is that this model of Japanese thought is in contradiction with the Westerners, and particularly that of the Americans. The Americans make it their duty to spread and promote their academic model, centered around freedom of thought and expression. This model is a very successful one, due to the attractiveness of American institutions to foreigners. Brilliant students from across the globe gather at American universities, where they are formatted in the much more global and American way of thinking.
Much the same can be said about Europe, although its influence in the world is very small compared to the giant United States. Nevertheless, there is a logic in these different ways of thinking and their effects on the perception of study abroad.
Japan, which is a society in stagnation and even in decline, in a way suffers in this Western ruled world. Academic attractiveness has become a significant part of a country’s power due to American influence, putting the Japanese education model in disadvantage. Its universities are falling in the rankings while others in Asia have found their place in a world that is globalizing too fast for old Japan. Therefore, Japan is currently trying to open its doors to resist and continue to assert itself as a power.
But other questions emerge: should Japan really sacrifice its traditional model and all the cultural aspects that go with it to survive? Should we rather question American imperialism, which endangers the traditional values of its allies (Japan) and even its enemies (China)?
There is no right answer to these questions and the myriads of other questions raised by the subject of study abroad.
I discovered that this theme could be a facade through which we can understand the issues of power struggle, both nationally and globally.
Going back to the program, it also allowed me to be more flexible in my thinking, and to be able to see a problem with a little more depth, and through many different perspectives that different discussions and lessons have given me.