Japan - Education

Japan is the fifth-largest donor to education; increasing focus on training for industry, science, and technology

Japan spent US$750 million of its official development assistance (ODA) on education in 2020, making it the fifth-largest donor to this sector in absolute terms. Japan’s education funding saw a 24% decrease compared to the US$981 million provided in 2019. In relative terms, Japan ranked 28th out of members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Development Assistance Committee (DAC) countries in 2020, allocating just 4% of its total ODA to education. This is below the DAC average of 10%.
Some countries — including Japan — report costs of scholarships and other costs of hosting students from low-income countries as bilateral ODA. Although reportable as ODA, they do not constitute transnational financial flows. These costs accounted for 23% of Japan’s total education ODA, and excluding these costs, Japan ranked fifth among the 29 OECD donor countries in absolute terms.

Japan channels a large share of its education ODA bilaterally. Overall, bilateral funding accounted for 85% of Japan’s ODA for education (above the DAC average of 70%). Roughly half of Japan’s bilateral education ODA in 2020 was allocated to programs in post-secondary education (46%, or US$295 million), with additional funding for general education system strengthening (33%, or US$209 million) and for basic education (13%, or US$80 million).

Core funding to multilaterals accounted for the other 15% of Japan’s education ODA. Japan works with a limited number of multilateral organizations in the education sector, the largest recipients of which are the World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA) which received 77% of multilateral funding to the sector, the Asian Development Bank (2%) and the African Development Fund (1%). Japan also supports the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) and has contributed US$46 million since it joined in 2008. For the GPE’s fourth replenishment, Japan pledged US$16 million for 2021-2022.

Japan includes education in its Development Cooperation Charter, noting it as a prerequisite for quality growth and poverty eradication. JICA's efforts in education are guided by its 2021 'Position Paper in Education Cooperation'. The paper highlights four key areas for JICA's support: 

  • Quality education including primary, secondary, and higher education;
  • Education for equitable and sustainable growth including technical training and human resource development;
  • Education for knowledge co-creation including support for research and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields; and
  • Education for inclusive and peaceful societies including education and skills support for vulnerable populations.

MOFA sets priorities for education; JICA formulates bilateral education projects

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) sets priorities for education, in consultation with other ministries. Within MOFA, the International Cooperation Bureau, led by Director-General Atsushi Ueno, leads policy design and ODA budget development. The Bureau's Global Issues Cooperation Division, led by Director Koichiro Matsumoto, is responsible for multilateral cooperation and some sector policies including education. 

The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology (MEXT) manages most of the costs associated with students from low- and middle-income countries studying in Japan. JICA's department for Human Development (led by Senior Vice President Imoto Sachiko) is also involved in education project formulation, especially related to bilateral funding.