STUDY destinations in Japan and China have seen an increasing number of enrolments from Malaysian higher education students these past few years.
Their affordable fees, the similarity in society and culture, as well as excellence in education and research attract students by the hordes.
There is also an opportunity to master languages such as Mandarin or Japanese during their stay in the countries.
High world university rankings also contribute to the trend. Japan, for instance, has nine universities in the top 200 QS World University Rankings 2017.
A large number of Chinese universities in China are also recognised by the Malaysian Qualifications Agency. These include Beijing University, Renmin University of China, Tsinghua University, Beijing Jiaotong University and Beijing University of Science and Technology.
Malaysian students who are interested in furthering their higher education studies in Japan are advised to prepare at least nine months to one year in advance.
Embassy of Japan in Malaysia education attache Sentaro Ishikawa said once students decide to pursue their studies in the Land of the Rising Sun, they will need to research into their choice of programme.
“Take note of application dates and the standardised admission tests as well as admission procedures,” added Ishikawa.
The application period for April 2019 intake is from June through November 2018.
“For courses beginning in September, the application period is usually from December of the previous year through February.”
The student selection for university admission in Japan is a process in which universities independently decide the enrolment through the entrance examination uniquely set by each institution.
The process varies depending on the applicant’s school of choice and the entrance exam commonly consists of one test or a combination such as test of academic ability, interview, short essay, competence and aptitude tests, and Examination for Japanese University (EJU) Examination (evaluates international students’ Japanese language and academic abilities to study at a higher education institution in Japan).
“Students sit the entrance exam by applying directly to the university of their choice and they are advised to check the school’s Application Guideline for International Students for the latest update.”
There are three pathways for Malaysian students to further higher education in Japan.
Those with 12 years of formal education and who are proficient in English can apply for Japanese undergraduate courses offered in English.
“They have to submit a certificate of proficiency in English (IELTS/TOEFL), a certificate of academic achievement, scores of a high school graduation standardised examination in the home country and short essays in English in the first round of screening of applications.
“The second round comprises an interview, which will either be conducted in the country or region where applicants live or via an online interview.
“Those who are proficient in Japanese can apply to sit the EJU Examination and apply for Japanese undergraduate courses offered in Japanese.
“Japanese universities especially the national-type institutions usually conduct their primary assessment of potential international students based on EJU Examination scores,” added Ishikawa.
Malaysian students, who have no knowledge of the Japanese language but wish to apply for a course conducted in Japanese, have to study the language for at least a year in one of the designated Japanese language institutes before applying for admission into higher education institutions in Japan.
“Those who have less than 12 years of formal education are required to do at least a year of University Preparatory Course (or pre-university programme), inclusive of learning the Japanese language at institutes designated by the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT, also known as Monbukagakusho) Japan to be eligible to apply for admission into universities in the country.
“Only 25 Japanese language institutes offer the University Preparatory Course. One is located at Kuala Lumpur, the rest are in Japan.”
University of Malaya’s Special Preparatory Programme to Japan is one of the sponsored courses which send students to study in the country, .
Programme coordinator Mohd Norhaswira Hasan said the course aims to equip students with a basic education in Japanese and three core subjects of science — mathematics, physics and chemistry.
Upon completing the programme, they will further their studies at select Japanese universities.
Students are assisted in the selection of university from a list provided by MEXT.
This selection and application process take place in October, and the results are announced in February.
Students will then make their selection (three choices of university and course) in October. In early November, they sit EJU.
The EJU results, which are announced in January, determine the university the student will enrolling in February.
Mohd Norhaswira, who is an alumnus of the Special Preparatory Programme to Japan, said he applied for the course because of his interest in the Japanese language.
He started learning Japanese as his third foreign language from Form One.
“I was motivated by my Japanese language teacher, Zubaidah Ali, during my early years in secondary school,” said Mohd Norhaswira, who studied mechanical engineering at Nagoya University and graduated in March 2007.
As Japanese universities have become more globalised, there are emerging programmes at universities and graduate schools where students can obtain a degree by taking classes entirely in English.
The number of Malaysian students who pursue courses offered in English at both the undergraduate and postgraduate levels is increasing over the years.
“Of course, they also have the chance to learn Japanese at the university. Therefore, they gain a significant advantage, especially if they wish to work in Japan after graduation.
“Over the years, more companies in Japan are hiring international students with diverse backgrounds, who understand Japanese language and culture.
“Similarly in Malaysia, students who graduated from Japan are also very much sought after as they not only possess a wider perspective and a global viewpoint due to their studies abroad but they also embody the unique qualities of Japanese ethics,” Ishikawa added.