In light of recent events related to Davao’s IT industry and that of Japan’s, I’d like to bring your attention to the state of Japanese-language education in Davao City. These events are:
the growing interest of Japanese entities
the same level of interest in the city’s IT manpower;
the activities of some sectors aimed at attracting Japanese investments here.
This is just an overview. I welcome your input, as well as any support towards arriving at a more in-depth, research-based study of advancements made in this field.
It is probably safe to assume that the first Japanese-language educational institution in Davao is the Philippine Nikkei-Jin Kai (PNJK) . Established in 1985 as an organization of Japanese-Filipino descendants, they started offering Nihongo instruction to the general public in the early 1990s. There are a handful of other language schools that also carry basic Nihongo classes, but it is only PNJK that has been able to sustain its program. Perhaps a good reason for this is the dedicated support that the PNJK receives from its principals and from the Japan Foundation – Manila Office(JFMO). The JFMO is an agency of the Japanese government that, in a nutshell, oversees Nihongo education all over the world.
In 2001, the same people behind PNJK established Mindanao Kokusai Daigaku(MKD, or Mindanao International College). MKD accepted its first batch of students in June 2002. This unique institution offers social development courses, as well as a program on international studies. All students are required to pass 18 units of Japanese-language studies in order to graduate. One indicator of the level of maturity of MKD’s Nihongo program is this remarkable factoid: each year since 2003, MKD students have been winning top places in the prestigious Nihongo Speech Contest, which is conducted annually by the JFMO in Metro Manila.
Today, most of the major universities in Davao offer Japanese-language education. However, except for MKD, none of them teach Nihongo beyond the basic levels. To date, only MKD students have been able to pass the Japanese-Language Proficiency Test(JLPT)Level 3 and above.
The JLPT is the global standard for mastery of the language; much like TOEFL and IELTS are for English. Level 1 is the highest, and Level 4 is for beginners. In order to pass Level 1, a learner must possess a minimum of 6,000 words in his Japanese vocabulary.
A downside to MKD is the absence of IT-related courses in its curricula. The college is perhaps still unaware of, or unimpressed by, the huge IT manpower deficit present in Japan today. According to the Japan External Trade Organization, Japan’s IT industry is in serious need of 150,000 warm bodies this year. Fulfilling this demand could be a wonderful challenge for MKD. With their leadership in Nihongo education in Davao, this college has the potential to be a catalyst of progress for our IT industry.
You see, with a significant number of Japanese-speaking IT workers in Davao, our city will not only become a more desirable source of IT manpower, but a viable and feasible investment destination for Japanese IT firms as well.
In the interim, Davao IT professionals and students can benefit from the presence of the Philippine National IT Standards Foundation(PhilNITS), which was inaugurated here in late 2007. This Foundation, for one, acts as a conduit between the IT industries of Japan and the Philippines. It could also become a venue for Dabawenyo programmers, computer engineers, etc. to pursue studies in the Japanese language.
At present, there are virtually no Nihongo-proficient IT professionals in Davao. I believe it is high time we started producing them in order to arrive at a critical mass that will attract high-value business investments into the city.