Between Aspiration and Reality: Cultural Conflict in a University Classroom

Internationalisation is the buzzword in Japanese universities, and the pressure to increase the number of international students is high. Yet, aside from the problem of offering courses in English, which is a challenge in itself, what appears overlooked is the issue of handling cultural and religious differences among students. Neither the faculty nor university staff members are equipped adequately to handle the problems that arise among students who come from vastly different backgrounds (ethnicity, culture, religion as well as the political situation in the home countries) with different expectations for coming to Japan to study. A high cultural context country like Japan creates a classroom where not only there is a fault line between Japanese and international students, but also between international students, leaving little room for common ground to buffer, address, mediate and reconcile what can only be described as screams of irreconcilable differences. The situation, unless addressed squarely, may have disastrous implications on the Japanese government’s future immigration policy. This presentation is based on a personal experience of teaching classes that are comprised of students from wide range of countries to flesh out the challenges to encouraging multi- and inter-cultural conversation and awareness in Japan.

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Posted by IAFOR