The Increasing Importance of Syllabus Translation

The Increasing Importance of Syllabus Translation

September 5, 2016

Add to Hatena Bookmark
 Syllabus, Translation, Importance

As birth rates in Japan decline and the number of applicants for admission to institutions of higher education decreases, universities are faced with the challenge of securing student numbers, providing interesting classes, and retaining engaging teaching staff. The demand for syllabuses--which give an overview of classes and courses--is increasing, since they serve as reference materials when choosing schools and courses. They are also an important resource in helping foreign exchange students to understand accreditations, and thus the necessity for their translation is on the rise. Let's take a closer look at the historical background of syllabuses and their translation.

The History of Syllabuses in Japan

The environment surrounding higher education at institutions such as universities and junior colleges is undergoing major change. Following the end of World War II, the number of universities and junior colleges skyrocketed, accompanied by a rise in student numbers and increased rates of progression to higher education. However, today student and applicant numbers are on the decline as birth rates drop and population aging continues. Amid these circumstances, improvements and reforms to higher education led by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) are in progress, and improvements to curriculum composition as well as enhancement of courses are being carried out, alongside the creation of syllabuses by each educational institution.

A syllabus, simply put, is a detailed course plan. It contains information on the course such as the learning objectives, targeted outcomes, overviews of classes, contents and format of each lesson, required preparatory study, textbooks and reference books used, grading criteria, and methods of assessment.

Syllabuses serve as important reference materials when choosing a uni-versity or class. They aid students in making choices better suited to their ambitions and goals. They also play a role within universities' systems of internal evaluation.

The Increasing Importance of Syllabus Translation

In Japan, where declining birth rates and globalization are taking hold, universities are forced to open their doors to students from all over the world. The number of people studying abroad during their time at college, or after graduation, has also increased. Universities are dealing with both foreign exchange students coming to Japan and Japanese students going abroad to study, and as such the translation of syllabuses is essential.

For example, in the case of a student from Japan studying at an overseas university, submission of a translated syllabus is required for the foreign university to recognize credits from courses taken in Japan. Since they serve as a resource for de-termining whether or not the contents of courses taken meet the entry requirements of the foreign universities, it is important that their translation covers all of the required information. Similarly for foreign exchange students studying in Japan, translations of syllabuses are necessary in order for their home university to recognize credits ob-tained in Japan upon their return.

There is a good chance that even universities currently without foreign exchange students will be dealing with them in the future. If syllabuses and their translations are considered only after such a time arrives, there is a danger that they will be hastily prepared and may not include adequate information. Universities first need to prepare satisfactory syllabuses in Japanese so that they will be ready to handle foreign exchange students when the time comes.

Considering Translation When Preparing a Syllabus

Syllabuses still have a short history in Japan, and they do not follow a standardized format. Consequently, individual universities prepare their syllabuses through a process of trial and error. MEXT suggests including clear descriptions of the learning content and targeted outcomes of each course, specific instructions on prepar-atory study, and clarifications on methods and criteria of grade evaluation when creat-ing syllabuses, but outside of these the contents are left to the universities themselves to determine.

It is a good idea to refer to the formats used by overseas universities in places such as the USA when preparing syllabuses, in consideration of their future translation to support foreign exchange students. Creating the Japanese version of a syllabus based on those of foreign universities makes for a relatively smooth transla-tion. Of course, the contents also need to be worded in simple, uncomplicated language.


The environment surrounding universities is undergoing major change, influenced by phenomena such as declining birth rates and globalization. In order to survive as an appealing university, it is essential for institutions to enhance the quality of their lessons and academic staff, and to publicize this information. Syllabuses are an important resource for judging the appeal of schools or the classes they offer, as well as for securing recognition of credits obtained while studying abroad. If syllabuses are prepared in a style similar to those of foreign universities, in consideration of the fact that numbers of foreign exchange students will increase in the future, their translation can also be handled smoothly.

Related Services

Add to Hatena Bookmark
<< The Spelling Alphabet -- A Solution to Spelling Mistakes Over the Phone! Developing "Global Human Resources" through Compulsory English Activities in Elementary Schools >>

To Contact Us Regarding Our Translation Services

For urgent needs, call:

Back to Top