Scaffolding excellence: Content-language integration and the development of Japanese ‘global leaders’

2018 IJRSE – Volume 7 Issue 3


MacLellan, Philip*
Hitotsubashi University, Japan (


How does one develop advanced foreign language proficiency, specialized content knowledge, and a global intercultural perspective in the four short years of undergraduate study? This paper provides a descriptive case study of the Global Leaders Program, a broad-based curriculum renewal at a top-tier Japanese national university specializing in the social sciences. It focuses on content-language integration in the Faculty of Economics and the manner in which English language development is scaffolded for students through a progression from Content-based Instruction (CBI) and Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) in the early years to English-medium Instruction (EMI) at advanced levels. Classroom instruction is further interwoven with multiple opportunities to apply theoretical knowledge and benchmark English proficiency through short-term field study tours and subsequent full-year student exchange experiences abroad. Following a description of the program, the paper discusses initial challenges in accommodating the additional English language instruction required by GLP and draws conclusions about a more fundamental hurdle that remains if an international excellence initiative such as the global leader’s program is to be successful in Japan. In addition, the paper offers insight about the contemporary educational practices of top-tier institutions in Japan and East Asia which may be instructive for receiving institutions that have a high intake of students from this region of the world on study abroad and longer-term student exchanges.

Keywords: Japan; higher education; internationalization; global human resource development; English medium instruction; curriculum reform



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