Online seminar: "The ethics and politics of educational export: Japan and Finland in a comparative perspective" 

Photo: Unsplash

Education export has become an important national agenda of Japan and Finland, framed by the understanding that exporting education promotes national economic growth and international cooperation, among other benefits. What exactly is done in the name of education export in the two countries? How are the policies and practices of education export framed by the broader politics and historical legacies of international collaboration in these societies? What ethical and political dimensions of education export are addressed in policy and its implementation? In this seminar, aiming to reimagine the challenges of and fruitful avenues for international collaboration in education, speakers comparatively and critically examine the cases of education export from the Japanese and Finnish perspectives.   

Date: Wednesday, 16 February, 2022

Time: 10:00 – 12:00 (Tampere, EET) / 17:00 – 19:00 (Kyoto, JST) 

Venue: ZOOM meeting room (online seminar) 

Language: English / Japanese (simultaneous interpretation available) 

Registration: Please register by 14 February 2022 on: 


Speakers:   Keita Takayama
                       Professor, Kyoto university, Graduate School of Education 

                      Taeko Okitsu
                       Professor, Otsuma Women’s university, Department of Communication and Culture 

                      Henna Juusola
                       Postdoctoral research fellow, Tampere University, Faculty of Management and Business / TRANSIT 

                      Kimmo Kuortti
                       Doctoral researcher, Tampere University, Faculty of Education and Culture / EduKnow 



Presentation 1: EDU-Port Nippon: Politics and ethics of education export in Japan

Taeko Okitsu (Otsuma Women’s University) & Keita Takayama (Kyoto University)

Our presentation examines the Japanese education export strategy, EDU-Port Nippon (hereafter EDU-Port). Established in 2016 and touted as the public-private consortium, EDU-Port aims to support both for-profit and non-profit entities to transfer ‘Japanese style of education’ overseas and most specifically to the so-called Global South. EDU-Port brands itself as an ‘all Japan’ initiative, with Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) partnering with Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) and Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA). The initiative was ‘historic’ in that it achieved the rare multi-Ministerial partnership in education policy and that MEXT assumed an active role in facilitating educational export, involving for-profit corporations. Our presentation is divided into three parts. In the first part, we outline the key functions of EDU-Port, one of them being assisting a wide range of pilot projects by certifying them as ‘Japanese style of education.’ We then identify a range of political and economic forces, propelled partly by the intensified cross-national educational borrowing, that were at play leading up to the formation of EDU-Port. In so doing, we demonstrate the fundamental tensions and contradictions inherent in EDU-Port, which emerged as a result of the amalgamation of multiple, competing interests, including the MEXT’s. In the second part, we draw attention to the contradictions between the economic interests of Japanese business and industries and the geopolitical interests of the state on the one hand and those of MEXT on the other, wherein mutual learning, horizontal relations, and self-reflection were the preferred languages over market, exportation, and soft-power diplomacy. We argue that the MEXT’s interests not only remain manifested along with the contradictory economic and geopolitical interests within EDU-Port, but more importantly that they constitute the uniquely ‘ambivalent’ features of EDU-Port. Drawing on the normative theory of ethics in international development proffered by Noriyuki Hashimoto (2019), we argue that MEXT’s ‘hesitant’ and cautionary approach to international educational development and interaction helps retain a degree of ethics in Japan’s new educational export strategy. In the last section of the presentation, we will discuss the particular features of Japan’s EDU-Port in comparison to the similarly government-led education export strategy in Finland.

Presentation 2: Education export in the Finnish higher education context: principles and tensions

Henna Juusola (Tampere University) & Kimmo Kuortti (Tampere University)

In this presentation, we approach education export phenomena in the Finnish higher education context by providing an overview of terminology, higher education policy, actors, and implementations. Education export has been a critical issue in Finnish higher education policy since 2010 when the first national strategy for education export was launched. The strategy aimed to make Finnish education a successful export product to ensure national competitiveness by supporting Finland’s country branding and bringing significant economic benefits to the entire nation. In the national education export strategy, higher education institutions were particularly considered to represent the driving forces of education export action. During the last ten years, several national education export strategies have been launched and laws governing higher education have been revised to allow for education export activities (Universities Act 558/2009; Universities of Applied Sciences Act 932/2014). Still, Finnish higher education institutions have been relatively slow in implementing education export activities, although in some faculties and educational units, education export has been established in the past decade as a significant form of action. In this presentation, we highlight the tensions that arise when the underlying principles of education export activities are diverse and partly contradictory. Moreover, we explore the meanings given to Finnishness in the Finnish education export and examine the blind spots of ethics in Finnish education export now and possibly in the future.


  Taeko OKITSU is Professor in the Department of Communication and Culture at Otsuma Women’s University in Japan. She received a D.Phil. in International Education and Development from the University of Sussex, studying policy discourse and practice of participatory school management in rural Zambia. She previously worked at the University of Tokyo as adjunct assistant professor. She began her career as an aid practitioner, having worked for UNICEF, JICA, and Ministry of Foreign Affairs, where she served as the Japanese focal point for “Education for All (EFA)” Working Group. Her current research interests include global education policy, low-fee private schools, and history and politics of Japanese aid.

Keita TAKAYAMA is Professor/Director for the Global Education Office in the Graduate School of Education, Kyoto University, Japan. Prior to the current position, he was Associate Professor at the School of Education, the University of New England, Australia. Much of his research explores the globalization of educational policy and knowledge from a decolonial/postcolonial perspective. He is currently co-editing Asia Pacific Journal of Teacher Education and Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, while servig as an advisory board member for a number of international journals in the areas of comparative and international education, education policy and sociology of education.

Dr Henna Juusola is a postdoctoral researcher in the Faculty of Management and Business at Tampere University, member of the TRANSIT group. In her doctoral dissertation, she focused on Finnish education export from the perspective of quality of education. In her recent research, she has also focused on the legitimation of Finnish education export activities, international educational collaboration, equity in higher education, and youth engagement in societal decision-making processes.

Kimmo Kuortti is a doctoral student in the Faculty of Education and Culture at Tampere University, member of the EDUKNOW group. In his doctoral research, he is studying the development of Finnish education export policy focusing on the governance of education as a service industry.




Oshie Nishimura-Sahi
Doctoral researcher, Tampere University, Faculty of Education and Culture / EduKnow  

Event organisers

EduKnow and TRANSIT, Tampere University
Global Education Office, Kyoto University