Across 43 JAOS members – private-sector study abroad agencies – who responded to a March 2021 survey saw the number of students taking part in study abroad fall by 76% in 2020.

“The total in Japanese students going abroad through these membership organisations in 2020 was 18,374, a shocking but at the same time somewhat expected, 76% decrease from 2019,” said JAOS in a statement.

“However, a bright sign is that even amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, JAOS study-abroad agencies continue to receive daily inquiries from those desiring overseas educational opportunities when the pandemic settles.

“The encouraging sign is also seen in the student exchange sector where some countries have resumed receiving students internationally.”

Whether due to border restrictions or perception of risk among students, some destinations fared better than others when it came to how many students they lost.

The US, UK and neighbouring Asian countries saw the largest decreases in student numbers in 2020 over 2019. China saw a drop of 94%, the US 85%, Taiwan and South Korea 83% and the UK 82%.

Singapore, France and Spain saw numbers drop by less than half, while Germany dropped by only 15%. Italy saw more students in 2019 over 2020, with 37 Japanese students heading there compared to 33 the previous year.

“JAOS study abroad agencies are receiving many inquiries about the safety issues in the destination countries”

“In spite of the severe difficulties to study abroad amidst the current Covid-19 crisis, highly committed Japanese youth are studying abroad while taking full precautions,” the organisation continued.

“As most developed countries are proceeding with vaccinations and study abroad is becoming more feasible, JAOS study abroad agencies are currently receiving many inquiries about the safety issues in the destination countries.”

JAOS has also created guidelines on student safety to provide information on possible risks and advice.

“[The guidelines will] convey its policy and commitment to student safety, promising appropriate and accurate professional help to prospective study abroad students,” it added.

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