By ZACHARY COE/Montana State News

The Long-term Educational Administrator Program (LEAP) was founded in 1997 to give select Japanese higher education staff members the opportunity to travel to the United States.

The program is sponsored by the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) and is meant to help improve English skills, create career opportunities and provide an impressive internship opportunity for those involved.

Japanese students that choose to follow through with this program are doing so in order to enter a familiar education system. According to World Education News & Review (WENR), the Japanese school system is “…modeled on and heavily influenced by its American counterpart.”

During the 1947 occupation of Japan, the American influenced Fundamental Law of Education was passed to give the education system a 6-3-3-4 (years in each level of education) structure that is nearly identical to its American counterpart.

This familiar structure is an obvious pull factor that lures students to America, but the growing competition within well-respected university enrollment is another factor that makes the U.S. appealing. According to WENR, in 2005, over 3 million students applied for enrollment in roughly 1,200 universities and colleges in Japan.

These colleges, by Japanese standards, are considered the weakest part of the education system. In a study done by MEXT, nearly 97 percent of Japanese high school students graduate on time and with honors. Comparatively, the United States only graduates 70 percent of its students in its mandatory four years of high school. The problem that exists, up to this point, is how such an impressive population of students distinguishes themselves.

Once in college, students breeze through the simple work on an average of three years, causing a massive backup in job opportunities across the country. This issue has become so troublesome that the education board is constantly pushing for a higher credit requirement for graduating students, which also creates an emphasis on programs that send students abroad to expand their knowledge and skill set.

This is why the LEAP program sees such a high volume of Japanese students. They are able to reenter an education system that they thrive in, create more resume opportunities, and improve other vital skills to return to the highly competitive job market in Japan with some added assets gained in a helpful and familiar program.

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