Author Archives: Danielle Sleeper

About Danielle Sleeper

Passionate about facilitating international cross-cultural exchange, enabling others to effectively communicate and understand the world.

China Struggles to Meet its Education Reform Goals


A new article in The Chronicle of Higher Education, published on Sunday, highlights the challenges faced by Chinese universities not only to meet the goals set by the government, but also to keep up with the realities of today’s economy. Read here:


Japan Turns a New Leaf on Study Abroad


Breaking news on The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Japan Offers Subsidies to Start Study-Abroad Programs“:

Japan’s education ministry has announced a new plan to increase the number of students who take part in study-abroad programs, amid a sweeping fall-off in foreign study. A panel with the ministry says it will pay 40 universities from 120-million to 260-million yen ($1.4-million to $3.1-million) each in subsidies to start study-abroad programs, reports The Japan Times. Universities “will be selected based on their plans for increasing the number of Japanese students going overseas, including adding foreign instructors, English-language classes and setting up credit-transfer systems with other colleges,” says the newspaper. The subsidy is the latest attempt to reverse a decline in students going abroad and force Japan’s insular higher-education system to be more international.

Global 30, which started in 2009, is a government-sponsored bid to bring more foreign students to Japan’s universities. This year the University of Tokyo announced plans to switch the start of its academic year to the fall, likely the first step in harmonizing the nation’s colleges with the rest of the world. The education ministry has also increased this year’s scholarship budget for Japanese college-goers studying overseas to 3.1-billion yen (about $38-million) from 1.9 billion-yen the previous year.

Tech in Education


The ability to leverage collaborative technology tools to facilitate virtual student exchanges online can be both innovative and powerful. For students who do not have the means to experience the “other”, technology can provide a base to interact with people from different cultures around the world, as well as to learn firsthand about the world beyond their village or home region. Examples of successful collaborative programs include online writing/penpal exchanges, show and tell, book discussions, etc. See this link for more ideas:

There are plenty of free online tools developed by educators for educators. See an extensive list here: While these are primarily in English, many can be adapted for other languages.

China states that it wants to internationalize its education system. It also portends to be more inclusive of its minority populations and bolster bilingual education. I wonder–is it a crazy idea to combine the two?  Internationalization can begin at home, within China’s own diversity. Domestic exchange programs would allow students to meet the unknown face to face and begin to build relationships. If physical exchanges are not possible, technology could be a lucrative first step. A fifth grade class in Qinghai Province could collaborate with another fifth grade class in Jiangsu Province. This is a link to a list of tips for creating and sustaining partnerships for international online learning:

Of course, this must all be sensitive to the fact that China maintains unique Internet controls and cultural views on the online world. A collaborative online exchange program, in this case, must be developed by the groups themselves to ensure it is sensitive to and meets their needs.

China’s Minority Education Policy: Tibet


This week we explored China’s education policy in relation to its education policy for minority groups. We chose the article “Exclusionary Policies and Practices in Chinese Minority Education: The Case of Tibetan Education” by Bonnie Johnson and Nalini Chhetri of Pennsylvania State University.

Our analysis

– What kind of model:
*Nationalist-Cultural Model: Preservation of national cultural heritage; Education as infrastructure of solidifying common national-cultural identity; Collectivist; Extensive state intervention; Collective identity interests take precedence over individual rights
*Nationalist concept of culture

– What patterns we see:
* All about the patterns: they want to transmit a SINGLE, fluid culture, which means they need one cultural system to transmit
* Try to “pacify” minorities but they are still only a small part of what actually goes on
* Educational curriculum is set in stone for all of China
* Separate but distinct bilingual policies
* Chinese is used for all official and judicial purposes

– What are the contradictions:
* The educational system really makes exclusion a frightening reality. It is especially difficult for a linguistically- minority student to advance through the system.
* Provides mass education for nine years of schooling–however government’s
ability to provide mass education is limited by both economic and societal influences.
Economically, the task of building over one million schools (the number required to
implement this objective) is a strain on the limited resources of the government.
* Of the Tibetan children who enroll in elementary school, less than 10 percent will go on to junior high school.  There is a second examination after Junior High School/ Middle School
to advance to high school, which is even more competitive than the first. Likewise a
third and final examination, called the “National Examination” is required to gain
admission to university.
* Chinese families have a ‘one child’ policy–but minority families are permitted to have more than one child, and are sometimes exempted from paying taxes to the central government.

– What is missing:
* Prior to 1951, Tibet had its own traditional form of education–monastic education.
Need some way to get back to that.
* Lack of Tibetan universities.
* Way to incorporate Tibetan students.

– What are consistent features:
*Goal of universal primary education
*Achievement measured by examination
*Uniform curriculum with nationalist message
*Teaching styles that emphasize authority of the teacher
*Demands for greater amount of recitation and memorization

– Our recommendations:
*Bolster higher education opportunities in Tibetan and support for Tibetan universities
*Tibetans should have a voice in the creation of this policy — bring in traditions from monastic education

Japan & International Education


Our second article looked at Japan’s internationalization of education policy. We looked at the paper “Education Reform in Japan in an Era of Internationalization and Risk” by Professor Robert W. Aspinall of Shiga University.

Comments we had on this policy:


This article is an awesome overview combining cross-cultural policy of Japan. It explains that regarding international education in Japan, the Japanese government takes a “Heritage communication policy” model. The higher education system has been controlled by the Japanese government in order to maintain Japanese identity. It is also interesting that the foreign nurses are required to pass an exam equivalent to the one that Japanese nurses must take. If they fail, Japanese society would not accept them and return them to their original countries. In the middle of the paper, it was interesting that Japan chose to keep their young generation staying in Japan rather than sending them out of the country like China and Korea.


I find the ‘dynamism without risk’ part especially insightful to Japan’s perspective on internationalization. If you look at the numbers of Japanese students who are studying abroad in the past decade, for example, you see a steady decline. Of course, there is the aging population to contend with (less young people in general), but anecdotally I’ve heard that in Japan study abroad is no longer looked upon as an asset. Instead, it means that one’s “Japanese-ness” is in some way corrupted. Companies do not look for top English-language skills; they want someone who holds deep Japanese values and is loyal to the business.


What I found most interesting was how the Japanese’s post war effect took a toll on Japanese’s international education. Japan was striving for mutual relationships with other nations. The Soviet Union and the Cold War were supposed to bring stability and peace, but more ethnicity conflicts arose. So, Japan wanted to have more of an international connection to connect with other nations. History does make us who we are today. Japan’s history of having wars with others shaped the way they perceive on their culture, lives, education, and so forth. Japan is one of the top international services that send students abroad and receive many students from different nations. Hopefully that will continue.

Tara’s Novel:

I really found this piece a surprising, intriguing piece of work.  As the title indicates, the article discusses the ways that Japanese policy-makers have struggled to balance national interest with international concerns in their policies.  Indeed, the Japanese word for ‘internationalization,’ or kokusaika did not appear in a Japanese dictionary until 1981.

Their policies had two main priorities: to control/assimilate outside elements to become ‘Japanese’ and that foreign elements would be controlled, limited, and then required to leave, eventually.  One example that struck me the most was of nurses.  In February 2010, three foreign nurses passed the same exam as Japanese nurses (out of a total of 254 who took it)—you realize this means, the nurses had to both study the language and the technical terms, while still doing such a difficult job!  As someone who has a background in languages and family who is deeply involved in medicine, this example really made me question the ideas behind the policies.  There are other examples, too, of discrimination against children born from mixed-race marriages—which just about broke my heart!  He also says Japanese children were made to sing the national anthem and had to hoist the national flag at school ceremonies—memories I’m quite familiar with, growing up in the States.

And in the paper, Aspinall tries to dissuade what he knows the reader must be thinking, that these policies are incredibly ethnocentric.  He says that the main reason for these policies is actually because the Japanese see the outside world as a “risky and scary place.”  The Japanese government tries to use these policies as a cultural initiative—which relates back to the questions Renca, Danielle, and Fatema posed to us on the Blackboard discussion: how do we preserve culture, and cultural artifacts?  Aspinall quotes the Japanese government, who says that each nation should learn about its own history, culture, and value systems, and then those of others, to strive for mutual understanding.  He writes, “if the outside world, therefore, is so scary to the Japanese, then it makes sense to bolster the nation’s defences at every level.”

It makes sense that the foreign workers should become fluent in Japanese, but to make children and those foreigners “shed habits of learning they may have picked up abroad” seems unnecessarily harsh.  It also leads to resentment and maybe even more fear of the unknown.  I agree with Aspinall who says that the Japanese really do not have a choice but to engage with the global community and dissolve these policies.

Chinese Education Policy


The first article we chose to analyze, “China defines road map for becoming a learning society by 2020,” was taken from the China Education Blog.

Some comments we had on the article:


Overall, I was surprised at how progressive the reforms seem to be–very “Western”-style in that it calls for greater emphasis on holistic learning (combining learning-thinking-practice). I would like to know what the authors of this policy had in mind. In addition, concepts like community service and social practice, improved quality of education for disabled students, and expanded school autonomy (greater recognition of private schools) also are an extreme jump from what the Chinese educational system currently looks like. While infrastructure in China changes overnight, new policy and practice can take ages to take root. I have extreme doubts about achieving these foundational reforms by 2020.
One area in education in which I do see China expanding rapidly is internationalization of its system. Everyday there is an article or news story about the number of Chinese students going to study abroad, American and other international students studying in China, and new exchanges with universities in China. The 100,000 Strong Campaign, for example, is part of that.
It happens to many Asian countries to set their policies following the Western system. That is because many Asians go study abroad to Western countries in order to seek better educational opportunities. Truly, China is one of the biggest countries to send their people to study abroad.
There are a couple of other articles relevant to the education reform in China offered by OECD.
It is quite surprising to see a country that has a strong, long line of historical roots to be willing to adapt to something new. China is heavy on their history so to be westernized is definitely a bit of a shock. It would be interesting to see how China evolves their educational policy to be more “modern,” but try to keep their historical roots. However, I do see this as a positive progress especially with the goals of study abroad. I hope to see a positive outcome within the next few years.