Việt Nam’s authorities said they are closely following Japan’s investigation into 700 foreign students absent without leave from a Tokyo university that was attended by many Vietnamese.
According to Kyodo news agency’s report on Monday, the students of the Tokyo University of Social Welfare dropped out of classes last April and the school could not get in touch with them.
These students — mostly from Việt Nam, China, Nepal, amongst others — are part of the university’s campus in Tokyo with foreign student body of 2,600. They have been cut from the university’s student register, Kyodo reported.
The investigation was opened after some of the dropouts were found to have overstayed their visas and similar incidents have occurred in previous years.
The university has not made any comment on the case.
A Vietnamese official in Tokyo told Việt Nam News the Social Welfare University is a special case because it provides a prep course, mostly to improve Japanese proficiency, for students hoping to go on to formal courses at universities and colleges.
“Japanese higher education institutions require N4 or N5 – the highest levels on the Japanese language competency test – and those with basic command of the language, N2 or N3 levels, can apply to these prep courses to get to the required levels,” the official said, adding that the Tokyo school may have lax admission criteria and accept a lot of foreign students.
Many international students are discouraged by the difficulty of the prep courses and decide not to continue. In some cases, they find that the facilities or teachers are not up to par, so they opt to work and earn money to send home instead.
The problem at the university in question maybe that they have not been thorough in the management of the student body, the official said. They may take attendance infrequently or fail to maintain updated contact details, meaning it could take a long time for the institution to notice that a significant portion of the students have stopped showing up to classes.
Phạm Quang Hưng, Director General of the International Education Department under the Ministry of Education and Training, told Giáo dục & Thời đại newspaper the education ministry is in contact with the Vietnamese embassy in Japan – which is directly responsible for managing and supporting Vietnamese students in the country – to monitor the case’s developments.
Hưng said it is possible the students are not all staying in Japan illegally. Instead, the school could have failed to update their contact information when they moved on to study at colleges and universities.
“We need to wait for official results from Japanese authorities,” he said
He also took the occassion to condemn several study abroad agencies in Việt Nam that have sold interested students on the misleading ‘working and studying’ model by saying they could earn both a degree and a handsome income. Even though Japan is in demand for labour due to the country’s falling birthrate and aging population, students whose schools report are working more than the permitted 28 hours per week and are missing classes might have their visa renewal requests rejected by Japanese authorities, which might cause a severe disruption to their studies and prompt many to illegally remain in Japan despite their expired visa.
Many Vietnamese students have borrowed large sums of money to get to Japan only to be disheartened by the harsh reality. They had no choice but to work hard in long hours, sometimes at the expense of class attendance and academic performance, to pay off the loans and to cover the high cost of living in the country, leading many to resort to commit crimes.
Hưng urged Vietnamese people who wish to work and study in Japan to carefully consider the legitimacy of the many available agencies and services and contact only the official coordination agencies listed on the education ministry’s website and avoid those it has blacklisted.
Việt Nam’s education ministry signed a memorandum of co-operation with the Japanese justice and education ministries on the management of Vietnamese students and trainees in Japan, under the witness of Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe last October.
The Japanese embassy in Việt Nam recently announced a more stringent procedure to process overseas study applications to Japanese language schools. The emabassy also said Japan would tighten the visa review process for asylum-seekers and would expel all students and workers found to be illegally working in the country.
There are currently are about 170,000 Vietnamese students studying abroad in 40 countries. Most are self-funded, and Japan remains the most popular destination.