INDEPENDENT NEWS

Cablegate: Top U.S. And Japanese Education Officials See

Published: Thu 16 Nov 2006 02:18 AM
VZCZCXRO0271
RR RUEHFK RUEHKSO RUEHNH
DE RUEHKO #6559/01 3200218
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 160218Z NOV 06
FM AMEMBASSY TOKYO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 8348
INFO RUEHUL/AMEMBASSY SEOUL 0997
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 4889
RUEHFK/AMCONSUL FUKUOKA 8826
RUEHNH/AMCONSUL NAHA 1325
RUEHOK/AMCONSUL OSAKA KOBE 2231
RUEHKSO/AMCONSUL SAPPORO 9874
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 TOKYO 006559
SIPDIS
SIPDIS
STATE FOR EAP/PD AND ECA
STATE PLEASE PASS TO DEPT OF EDUC - ROBIN GILCHRIST
E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: OEXC KPAO SCUL JA
SUBJECT: Top U.S. and Japanese Education Officials See
Eye to Eye on Importance of Educational Exchange
1. Summary: In a November 13 meeting, Secretary of
Education Margaret Spellings, ECA State Assistant
Secretary Dina Powell, and JapanQs new Education
SIPDIS
Minister, Mr. Bunmei Ibuki agreed that educational
exchange is essential in a globalized economy. The
Minister also expressed great admiration for the
Fulbright program, saying that such international
exchange programs represent a Qkey diplomatic strategy
for influencing the developing perceptions of nascent
leaders. He noted that Japan would like to see more
American students coming to Japan to study in local
universities. The Minister bemoaned the challenges the
new Abe administration faces in pushing through much
needed educational reforms since any changes, including
allowing for the fostering of patriotism in Japanese
schools, require amending the Basic Education Law
passed in the postwar period. End Summary.
2. While in Japan leading a delegation of U.S.
university presidents, Secretary of Education Margaret
Spellings and ECA Assistant Secretary Dina Powell paid
a November 13 courtesy call on Japanese Minister of
Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology
(MEXT), Mr. Bunmei Ibuki. Ambassador Schieffer joined
the meeting, which also included the MEXT Director
General for International Affairs, Mr. Kenji Seyama,
and the Director for International Affairs, Mr. Kazuo
Watanabe. Both sides also agreed on the importance of
foreign language study and the need for both the public
and private sectors to support exchange programs.
Importance of Student Exchange
------------------------------
3. Minister Ibuki joked that he would like to see more
Americans studying in Japan since right now the U.S.
had a Qtrade surplusQ in this area. Sec. Spellings
explained that ensuring exchanges are two-way was one
of the USGQs main goals. She went on to explain that
new economic conditions necessitate the development of
Qhuman capitalQ and the pursuit of lifelong learning,
which is why the delegation she is leading represents
the various types of American institutions of higher
learning, including community colleges. She also
stated that another goal of her visit was to correct
the misperception that U.S. student visas are difficult
to obtain, underscoring that the current issuance rate
is more than 99 percent. In response to Minister
IbukiQs question regarding whether she would be meeting
with Japanese students, Secretary Spellings explained
that she would be giving a speech at Waseda University
following this meeting.
Exchanges Tool of Diplomatic Strategy but Funding
Critical
--------------------------------------------- -----
4. Minister Ibuki pointed to examples of world leaders
developing a deep affinity for certain countries as a
result of their study abroad experience, going so far
as to call educational exchange a type of diplomatic
strategy. He expressed great admiration for the
Fulbright program and the important role it has played
in Japan. Both Sec. Spellings and A/S Powell thanked
Japan for its support and the work of the binational
commission here. A/S Powell mentioned the new
International Fulbright Science and Technology Award
involving graduate study and work study opportunities
in U.S. institutions in certain key S and engineering
fields, adding that the U.S would be extremely pleased
if Japanese students applied. Sec. Spellings also
emphasized the role of business, pointing to a
longstanding partnership between Ohio State University
and Honda. She explained that the U.S. delegation
would be taking part in a luncheon program at the
American Chamber of Commerce Japan to highlight the
importance of business involvement in education.
Minister Ibuki replied that because of the strengths of
the American educational sector, the number of Japanese
students in the U.S. is likely to rise, particularly as
more Japanese firms chose to send their employees to
the U.S.
TOKYO 00006559 002 OF 002
Overcoming the Language Barrier is Critical
-------------------------------------------
5. Both sides agreed that foreign language study was
critical. Sec. Spellings explained she was seeking
funding for the National Security Language Initiative
she had mentioned earlier. She lauded the work of
Japanese firms such as Nintendo, which were using
technology in new ways to facilitate language study.
The Minister responded that Japan puts great emphasis
on the mastery of English speaking among Japanese
students.
The Challenge of Educational Reform
-----------------------------------
6. Minister Ibuki ended the meeting by highlighting
that the work Prime Minister Abe had asked him to take
on presented formidable challenges, particularly since
many reforms would require revisions to the Basic
Education Law of 1947. One such change sought by the
Prime MinisterQs party would allow the schools to
foster patriotism, which has been banned since the law
was passed in the postwar period. The Minister
elaborated that a decision would soon need to be made
regarding whether the proposed revisions should be sent
to the House of Councilors before December 15 when the
budget process begins.
7. Delegation:
United States:
--------------
-Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings
-Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and
Cultural Affairs, Dinah Habib Powell
-Ambassador J. Thomas Schieffer
-Note taker, Margot Carrington, U.S. Embassy Tokyo
-Interpreter, Yoko Yamamoto, U.S. Embassy Tokyo
(Although we were asked to supply an interpreter,
Minister Ibuki conducted the meeting entirely in
English)
8. This cable has been cleared by Secretary Spellings
and ECA Assistant Secretary Powell.
donovan
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