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Japan’s Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda recently updated the so-called Fukuda Doctrine created in 1977 by his father Takeo Fukuda. One of the five pledges he presented for the development of the Asia-Pacific region is dedicated to education, i.e. expanding educational opportunities. An exchange should be set up in a network of academic exchange programmes which will create a better future throughout Asia. Helping students to study and experience other cultures, languages and ways of life would increase their understanding for each other. The transfer of credits would encourage more students from Japan to go abroad and make it easier for foreign students to study in Japan. Thereby creating a sort of Erasmus Programme for Asian universities would help with practical hassles, so students could focus on broader issues.
Japan's initial proposal involves 5 000 students and teachers from universities in Japan, China, South Korea and members of the ASEAN countries within five years. In contrast, European mobility already regards 150 000 students and 20 000 lecturers per year, with nearly 1.5 million grants given out in the 20 years since ERASMUS was started in 1987. However the university systems in Asia not only have different calendars, but entirely different ways of thinking. Class requirements, evaluation methods and educational styles differ considerably from country to country. Another concern is the implementation of this programme. It is planned that five countries are participating at the beginning, with Japan, China and South Korea as core members, and other ASEAN countries will join at a later stage. No wonder that the first step towards this vision has to be – as mentioned by the Prime Minister – "heart-to-heart" trust.