Global competence and foreign-language learning in Japan: an exploration of stakeholder perspectives on the goals and challenges of global competence-oriented FL education in Japanese higher education
Tertiary institutions worldwide are under pressure to produce globally competent graduates. In Japan, industry demand for global talent has prompted a series of government-funded initiatives designed to promote the cultivation of global competence among university students. Associated policies tend to foreground English as a foreign language (EFL) proficiency, and the job of fostering global competence in Japan thus falls primarily to EFL educators. The precise goals of global competence education, however, remain ill-defined in the Japanese context. This has resulted in a tendency to focus on linguistic proficiency goals and neglect other aspects of global competence, and there is widespread concern that university graduates in Japan are not developing the necessary capabilities or attributes.
Many frameworks describing the desirable attributes and abilities for global competence can be found in the literature, but these are predominantly Western-centric: developed in Western contexts and underpinned by Western cultural norms. They thus tend to overlook the role of languages and interpret important factors through a Western lens. Locally developed definitions and frameworks are scarce and often lack a clear foundation in research, leaving educators and administrators in Japan with few reliable and appropriate options to guide global competence education efforts.
This exploratory mixed methods study aimed to address the lack of clarity around global competence education in Japan and enrich the existing literature by contributing a perspective from Japan. Q-methodology was integrated into a Modified Delphi study to collect, refine and analyse stakeholder and expert opinions, and determine (a) what students in Japan need in order to be deemed globally competent; (b) the primary challenges of global competence development for students in Japan; and (c) the role of FL education in global competence development in Japan. Students, teachers, researchers and global workers participated in the study: exchanging, revising and extending their opinions through the iterative Delphi study. Incorporating Q-methodology facilitated the identification of shared viewpoints, which were then presented back to the participant group for further validation and clarification.
The study’s findings highlight the inadequacy of the existing literature to capture the global competence construct and desirable objectives of global competence education in the Japanese context. A framework for global competence in Japan is presented based on the findings and the implications for the global competence literature and for global competence-oriented FL education in Japan and beyond are explored.