Prof. Fujita (left) representing Japanese Consortium Japan Side
Canadian counterpart, Prof. Shubet (2nd from right) Canada Side
On March 27, a roundtable discussion meeting was held at Chinzanso-Four Seasons Hotel, organized by the Embassy of Canada in Tokyo and the AUCC (Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada) to facilitate collaboration between Canadian and Japanese universities in education and research exchange, in connection with the 2008 APAIE (Asia-Pacific Association for International Education) Conference at Waseda University, March 26-28. After brief welcoming remarks from Mr. Etienne Lambert (Canadian Embassy) and introductory remarks from Mr. Jean-Philippe Tachdjian (Canadian Ministry of Foreign Affairs) and Mr. Tom Tunny (AUCC), self-introduction was made by participants representing about a dozen universities on each side. Then Mr. Tunny offered an overview of Canada-Japan university collaboration and the state of internationalization of at Canadian universities, where he emphasized that internationalization is the mainstream of education and research in Canada and more resources such as scholarships are being allocated for that purpose. Reciprocal efforts have been made on the Japan side and, in particular, the Canada-Japan Student Exchange Program is being established by about 30 Japanese and Canadian universities under the leadership of Professor Naoharu Fujita (Meiji University) and his counterpart, Professor Adrian Shubet (York University). For other programs to support academic collaboration, see the references below. The most interesting part of the meeting was a free discussion session, where some realistic obstacles and challenges facing both Japanese and Canadian institutions were pointed out by participants on the both sides. Among other things, strong concerns were expressed over difficulties in promoting exchange programs especially in science and engineering, although there seem to be some successful examples even in this field at a couple of science-oriented universities on each side. As many of the participants pointed out, the language problem and possibly the gender element might be an obstacle to further promotion of exchange programs generally, and particularly in the science and engineering field. Toward the end, however, a few good ideas were presented to overcome some of those difficulties such as utilization of the results of Eiken English Test, which is more common and popular than TOEFL in Japan, to evaluate English proficiency of Japanese students. After the discussion, a networking reception was held by including those members who could not make it to the roundtable meeting due to their participation in the ongoing APAIE Conference at Waseda University. Overall, it was a very informative and fruitful meeting for me and, I am sure, for all the other participants as well.
Then, I joined a group of participants led by Mr. Sylvain St-Amand (UQAM), who attended a reception offered by the Tokyo Office of Quebec Government at a nearby hotel, and enjoyed talking to Madame Suzanne Ethier, Tokyo Office Representative, and other members about further promotion of academic exchange between Japan and Canada in general and Quebec in particular.