Neither learning nor earning

A bird’s eye view of the ‘Learn and Earn’ program in Japan now shows that most of the 700 Bhutanese students never had a chance.

The program which was first started by Japan in 2008 was meant to get foreign students to learn the Japanese language in two years and then take a course in a vocational school or university in Japan to eventually become a skilled Japanese worker.

However, the program suffered from fundamental flaws right from the beginning.

It was originally meant mainly for Chinese and Korean students who had a similar Kanji script like the Japanese, and as a result, could pick up the language much faster.

But when these students left or stopped coming after the 2011 earthquake, the desperate language schools in Japan looked for students in non-Kanji countries like Bhutan.

The other issue is the very contradiction in the phrase of the program ‘Learn and Earn.’ Both were not possible, especially when Bhutanese students came with a Nu 700,000 loan and had to pay more in the coming year.

The course was first of all next to impossible to learn unless one gave it full dedication, but how could one dedicate oneself when a student had to also earn a lot of money to pay the loan, tuition fees and meet expenses. Some were even expected to send money home.

Apart from the foundational flaws in the LEP program itself, the problem was made far worse by the unethical behavior of the agents and the Japanese language schools.

Bhutanese students allege that the BEO agent assured them that they could make enough and learn Japanese -but neither happened.

BEO’s Japan partner SND is accused of taking hefty commission from language schools to give them Bhutanese students and SND is even accused of taking a cut from the wages of Bhutanese students.

The language schools also did not hesitate to pressurize and exploit Bhutanese students.

The MoLHR must also be held accountable for not doing better homework on the whole program.

People who exploit others come to spend an enormous amount of energy wondering about and justifying that exploitation.
Mary Beard

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