Japan - Education
At a glance
Japan is the fifth-largest donor to education; increasing focus on training for industry, science, and technology
Japan was the fifth-largest donor country to education in 2016 (the latest year for which multilateral and bilateral data is available), contributing US$748 million (in 2018 prices) in education ODA according to data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). In relative terms, Japan ranked 21st out of members of the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC) countries in 2016, allocating just 5% of its total ODA to education. This is below the OECD average of 8%.
Some countries — including Japan — report the 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. Excluding these costs, Japan ranked fourth among the 29 OECD donor countries in absolute terms, overtaking France, which disbursed over half its bilateral education ODA (59%) for such scholarships and tuition costs. Japan’s spending on scholarships and hosting students has increased since 2016, representing 30% of its bilateral education ODA in 2018.
Total spending by Japan in the education sector has declined over time, from a peak of US$1.0 billion in 2011 to US$748 million in 2016, a decrease of 28%. This is partly explained by Japan’s increasing focus on developing human resources in industrial, scientific, or technological settings, which can be categorized under other sectors such as infrastructure or health.
Japan includes education in its Development Cooperation Charter, noting it as a prerequisite for quality growth and poverty eradication. Japan has more recently expanded upon this framing in its education strategy ‘Learning Strategy for Peace and Growth - Achieving Quality Education through Mutual Learning’, developed in the context of the SDGs in 2015. The three priority areas identified are:
- Inclusive, equitable and quality learning;
- Human resource development for industry, science, and technology as well as sustainable social economic development; and
- Establishing an international/regional network for educational cooperation.
Bilateral education ODA makes up a large majority of Japan’s total education ODA. It stood at US$577 million in 2018, its highest level since 2013. In 2016, bilateral education ODA made up 73% of Japan’s total education ODA, slightly above the OECD DAC average of 70%. As Japan has made relatively few large commitments to education multilateral in recent years, it is expected that this distribution will continue.
Roughly half of Japan’s bilateral education ODA in 2018 was allocated to programs in post-secondary education (49% or US$285 million). Around half of this funding (US$173 million) was for the costs of scholarships and fees to support students from partner countries studying in Japan. In 2018, 28% (US$164 million) of Japan’s bilateral education ODA went to general education system strengthening. This comprised spending on education facilities and training as well as education policy and administration. Basic education received 11% (US$64 million) of bilateral ODA to education in 2018, which was largely made up of support for primary education.
Japan works with a limited number of multilateral organizations in the education sector, the largest recipients of which are the IDA (75%), the Asian Development Bank (19%) and the African Development Fund (3%). Japan also contributes to the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), with total contributions of US$30 million since joining in 2008. For the third replenishment covering the period from 2018 to 2020, Japan pledged US$5 million.
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 Aya Yoshida, 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 developing countries studying in Japan. JICA’s department for Human Development (led by Senior Vice President Nobuko Kayashima) is also involved in education project formulation, especially related to bilateral funding.