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Japan’s International Cooperation in Education: Pursuing Synergetic Results

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International Education Aid in Developing Asia


Japan has persistently emphasized human resources development and self-help, based on its own experiences of economic and social development. This philosophy has been captured in the ODA charter, the fundamental policy on Japan’ Official Development Assistance, as well as in its policies on international cooperation in the education sector. This chapter illustrates main focuses of Japan’s ODA policies, the trend, tools, and characteristics of its assistance for the education sector, typical cases of technical cooperation projects, and the way it contributes to the formulation of the global development framework. After analyzing strengths and challenges of Japan’s education assistance, the chapter concludes by stressing that Japan has a room to further build on its bottom-up approach, strengthen its capacity to translate the rich stock of knowledge and experiences of field-level improvement for policy processes, thereby realizing its potential toward the post-2015 era of leveraging the international practices of education aid effectiveness in terms of education quality improvements on the ground.

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  1. 1.

    An international organization established in 1950 in Colombo, Sri Lanka, to provide development assistance to countries in South and South-East Asia and in the Pacific.

  2. 2.

    The Society for Economic Cooperation in Asia was established in 1954 for technical cooperation, which later absorbed other organizations with similar functions and became the main body of today’s Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), while Overseas Economic Cooperation Fund (OECF) was established in 1961 to implement ODA yen loans. OECF merged with Japan Export–Import Bank forming Japan Bank for International Cooperation in 1999, and merged with JICA in 2008.

  3. 3.

    The first Medium-Term Target covered the period of 1978–1980, marking the shift from the phase of war reparations to expanding economic cooperation. The volume of Japan’s ODA in fact increased since from 1.4 billion dollars in 1977 to 7.4 billion dollars in 1987. During the decade of 1990s, the amount of Japan’s ODA was the biggest among bilateral aid (MOFA 2004a).

  4. 4.

    Recently, some important initiatives have been made. A committee under MOFA produced an ODA review report. It advocated for more strategic and effective aid, strengthening the program approach and the field-level functions, with a focus on outcomes (MOFA 2010). In June, 2014, a group of intellectuals submitted a report to Minister for Foreign Affairs. It proposes to expand the scope of ODA to a wider development cooperation while maintaining the key philosophy of pursuing peace without recourse to military means, support for the self-help, human-centered approach and sharing Japan’s experiences and knowledge. It prioritizes quality growth and poverty reduction, good governance, and sustainable and resilient international community (MOFA 2014). A new charter is set to be developed based on the latter.

  5. 5.

  6. 6.

    Japanese yen appreciated by 15 % during this period against the US dollar (by the mid-year exchange rate).

  7. 7.

    OECD Aid Statistics website.

  8. 8.

    Originally, OECF. See footnote 2.

  9. 9.

    JICA defines basic education to include early childhood development, primary education, lower secondary education, nonformal education, and education administration, for the purpose of an internal statistical reporting. This is somewhat different from the information provided to DAC/OECD for the Creditor Reporting System.

  10. 10.

    The project is called SMASE-WECSA: Strengthening of Mathematics and Science Education in Western, Eastern, and Southern Africa.

  11. 11.

    MDGs comprise eight goals which are: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger (Goal 1), Achieve universal primary education (Goal 2), Promote gender equality and empower women (Goal 3), Reduce child mortality (Goal 4), Improve maternal health (Goal 5), Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases (Goal 6), Ensure environmental sustainability (Goal 7), and Develop a global partnership for development (Goal 8).

  12. 12.

    Regional conferences were held in Karachi (1960) and in Addis Ababa (1961) in which education leaders in the respective region of Asia and Africa abided themselves to achieve universal primary education by 1980 in these regions.

  13. 13.

    See Schultz (1961) and Becker (1964).

  14. 14.

    Project information is based on JICA Knowledge Site.

  15. 15.

    The international dialogue for further improving aid effectiveness has continued to be held in Accra, Ghana, in 2008, and most recently in Busan, South Korea, in 2011 to monitor the progress of the commitments and to formulate new modes of operation for aid effectiveness.

  16. 16.

    Discussions on this section draw on Yoshida (2012) and (2013).


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Correspondence to Kazuhiro Yoshida .

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Yoshida, K. (2015). Japan’s International Cooperation in Education: Pursuing Synergetic Results. In: Cheng, IH., Chan, SJ. (eds) International Education Aid in Developing Asia. Springer, Singapore.

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