US-Japan Panel Improving Cultural Relations

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Tokyo - (PanOrient News) The United States-Japan Conference on Cultural and Educational Interchange, known as CULCON, issued a joint statement after convening for a biannual plenary session in Washington, D.C. on June 4-5. The statement emphasizes what areas the panel sees as most important for strengthening U.S.-Japan cultural understanding.

CULCON, established in 1961 during the Kennedy presidency, currently consists of four task forces focused on the areas of educational exchange, Japanese language education for Americans, arts exchange, and nurturing future leaders in the field of U.S.-Japan relations. Nurturing future leaders is cited in the statement as the most pressing issue facing the panel, as a number of key figures are retiring.

One of the panel’s more ambitious goals, set in 2013, is to double the number of study abroad students in each country by 2020. In the 15 years prior to 2013, the number of Japanese students studying in the U.S. dropped 57%, to under 20,000, and although the number of U.S. students studying in Japan increased, the total number only came to 6,000.

A group of CULCON members in 2015

The panel was encouraged by the success of some government initiatives in promoting cross-cultural education. However, challenges to study abroad mentioned in the statement include a lack of financial resources for students, competition from other countries for students looking to study abroad, and the “lack of understanding of the importance of the U.S.-Japan relationship in some U.S. universities.”

As for Japanese language education in the U.S., the panel noted that although the number of Japanese language learners has increased in recent years, the number of Japanese language teachers has fallen. Recommendations from CULCON’s Japanese Language Education Committee include training Japanese language teachers and improving materials for learning Japanese.

CULCON serves as an advisory panel to the governments of both countries and its members come from government, academia and business. Its goal is to increase educational and cultural exchanges between the two allies, working under the belief that people-to-people interactions provide a foundation for country-to-country relations.

CULCON is set to hold its next plenary session in Japan in 2020.

© PanOrient News All Rights Reserved.