Global South Embracing Japan-Style ‘Technology Colleges’

The Yomiuri Shimbun/Takafumi Yamasaki
Koichi Hagiuda, left, chairperson of the Liberal Democratic Party’s Policy Research Council, listens to a student presentation at a college of technology in Bangkok on Wednesday.

Many countries in the Global South are increasingly enthusiastic about Japan-style “colleges of technology,” five-year institutions that offer a practical curriculum to foster technical professionals.

Educators in these emerging and developing countries see the system as an ideal way to develop human resources and break away from an industrial structure heavily centered on simple labor. The Japanese government is also willing to support them by dispatching teachers and providing knowledge.

Colleges of technology were established as institutions of higher education in 1962 during Japan’s high economic growth period, with the aim of training mid-level engineers. Students enroll after graduating from junior high school and study for five years to acquire specialized skills and knowledge.

Currently, there are 58 such colleges nationwide, of which 51 are national schools.

Since 2014, the system has been introduced in Mongolia, Thailand and Vietnam as “kosen” (an abbreviation of the Japanese term for colleges of technology), according to the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry. Japan has supported these countries by dispatching teachers and helping create curriculums.

Government officials in Egypt and Uzbekistan have also visited Japan to observe such colleges and requested Japan’s support for adopting the kosen system in their countries.

In an effort to shift from labor-intensive to advanced technological industries, these countries are striving to establish educational systems that can play a role in developing human resources. As part of such efforts, they have looked to the kosen system, which contributed to producing the human resources who supported Japan’s rapid economic growth.

In light of this development, the Japanese government incorporated a policy to globally promote colleges of technology and Japanese-style education in its Basic Policy on Economic and Fiscal Management and Reform, which was approved by the Cabinet in June.

On Wednesday, the Liberal Democratic Party’s Policy Research Council Chairperson Koichi Hagiuda visited the college of technology attached to King Mongkut’s Institute of Technology Ladkrabang in Bangkok, where a research presentation was held.

“The camera of an AGV [automated guided vehicle] recognizes an arrow and changes the direction of travel,” said a fifth-year male student who operated a robot via computer in front of Hagiuda. The robot soon proceeded along a designated route and stopped in front of an obstacle.

“The kosen system is highly acclaimed in many countries as an institution for fostering human resources who will lead the next generation,” said Hagiuda, who promoted support for the college when he served as education minister.

He also expressed his intention to strengthen cooperation between overseas colleges of technology and Japanese companies, among other entities.

Colleges of technology in other nations can provide human resources for Japanese companies that have established operations there. About 400 students have so far graduated from three such colleges that opened in Mongolia in 2014, and more than 70 of them have obtained jobs in Japan.

The colleges that opened in Thailand and Vietnam in 2019 and 2020 also see career opportunities at Japanese companies as future options for their students.