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Special Feature 1: Toward Implementation of Educational Rebuilding

*As a general rule, the descriptions in Section 1 are based on trends and statistical data up to fiscal 2012, but a part of the descriptions are based on trends and statistical data up to June 2013.

Section 1 The Process of Educational Reform in Recent Years

1 The Context of Educational Reform

 As well as enriching life by allowing the diverse personalities and abilities of individuals to shine, education is the foundation for implementing future development in society as a whole. Through the steadfast efforts of each and every individual citizen, education in Japan realizes the ideal of equal opportunity, raises the education standards of the nation, and responds to the needs of the times while making significant contributions to the development of society. As a result, education has achieved major successes, including the affluent economic society and secure lifestyle of the postwar period.

 On the other hand, in the midst of rapid change around the world with the advance of globalization, Japan finds itself in an extremely critical situation where the country is faced with serious issues such as the hollowing-out of industry, and the decrease in the working-age population, a situation that came to the fore and gathered momentum when the Great East Japan Earthquake struck. We may well say that these developments raise major questions about the way people live and the state of a society that is premised on the material affluence of the past.

 If we turn our attention to education, there are tragic incidents involving the safety of children such as issues with bullying and corporal punishment in schools. As well as concerns about a decline in children’s motivation to study, their healthy development is influenced by the decline in normative consciousness in society as a whole, and the change in values where family and local community are concerned. This is how confidence in Japanese education has been shaken, leaving the country to confront several major problems.

 With this situation in mind, the Second Basic Plan for the Promotion of Education (Findings) was compiled at the Central Council for Education (referred to as the Central Council below) on April 25, 2013, and on June 14 in the same year, the Second Basic Plan for the Promotion of Education was endorsed by the Cabinet. This section presents an overview of past educational reforms linked to the formulation of the Basic Plan for the Promotion of Education.

Fig.1-1-1 Educational reform up to the Second Basic Plan for the Promotion of Education

2 The Beginnings of the Third Educational Reform (The 46 Report)

 Starting with the enactment of the Basic Act on Education and the School Education Law in 1947, the postwar system of school education was successively improved and augmented based on proposals by the Educational Renewal Committee (renamed the Educational Renewal Council in 1949), which was established by the Cabinet as a parliamentary organization for studying educational reform in Japan, and as of 1953, the findings of the Central Council for Education. However, as of the late 1960s, the system was beset with a lot of organizational and content-related problems set in a context of technological innovation and rapid economic growth, the ensuing changes in local communities and the family environment, as well as a large expansion of the school education sector in reaction to the rise in the rate of students advancing to high school and university. Therefore, in the year 1967, twenty years after the inauguration of the new school system, the Central Council for Education was asked to carry out a consultation into Basic Measures for the Comprehensive Expansion and Improvement of Future School Education. This was the third educational reform, following the first educational reform in the Meiji period and the second educational reform after the end of the war.

 After accepting the consultation, the Central Council for Education conducted broad and comprehensive investigations and deliberated over a long period of four year and two terms before compiling the so-called 46 Report in 1971. The Headquarters for Implementation of Educational Reform, led by the Vice-Minister, was established at the Ministry of Education to implement the proposals in the report. As a result, progress was relatively favorable where the conditions and large expansion of school education, or improvements to the curriculum were concerned. For example,

  • Improved conditions to secure excellent teaching staff including planned improvements in teachers’ salaries based on the Law for Securing Human Resources
  • A shift from quantity to quality in higher education including increased checks on non-committed students and planned improvements to organizations for higher education, while simultaneously introducing subsidies toward the cost of operating private schools
  • Introducing the Joint First-Stage Achievement Tests, and diversifying the university system such as establishing a new format for graduate schools that was not based on university departments,

 but reforms that dealt fully with revisions to the school system, the classification of universities, and other basic structures of the educational system were not implemented.

 Later, the educational environment for children grew increasingly severe with urbanization and the trend toward the nuclear family. School education was criticized for being standardized, ossified and unable to adequately respond to delinquency, school violence, bullying, refusal to go to school and other circumstances of the so-called “decay of education,” which indicated the negative effects of the so-called education-conscious society.

 Meanwhile, social education, which had had a fresh start after the war, lagged a little behind school education, but as of 1949, legislation and financial support was implemented, and citizens’ public halls, in particular, spread rapidly across the whole nation, preparing the ground for an out-of-school learning environment that is unique to Japan and rooted in the local community. In addition, from the latter half of the 1960s to the 1970s, UNESCO and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) advocated the need for continuing studies throughout all stages of life such as lifelong integrated education and recurrent education. On this basis, the Central Council for Education also started to advocate the importance of Lifelong Learning.

3 The National Council on Educational Reform

 In this context, the National Council on Educational Reform (below, the National Council) was inaugurated in 1984 as the Prime Minister’s advisory body for engaging with educational reform on behalf of the government as a whole. This marked the second time since the second educational reforms of the Educational Renewal Committee that an advisory body was established under direct supervision by the Cabinet to deal with issues in postwar education.

 Regarding postwar educational reform implemented on the basis of equal opportunity in education and other fundamental values, the achievements at the National Council became the driving force for development in Japanese society, and were acclaimed for the remarkable spread of education coupled with improved income levels and a national trait that emphasizes education. On the other hand, when we look at the big picture of postwar educational reform, the outcomes were a straight emulation of education in the Meiji period, which is standardized, ossified, exclusive and lacking in aspects that strengthen the personality of the individual. Its harmful effects were bullying, refusal to go to school, school violence, juvenile delinquency and other phenomena of the decay of education, which pointed to a range of problem points and limitations
Based on this situation, the National Council identified the following three perspectives for advancing educational reform in the findings of four reports.

(1) The principle of respect for the individual

 It is important to abolish standardization, ossification and exclusivity, and to establish respect for the individual, freedom and discipline, and the principle of individual responsibility, i.e., the principle of respect for the individual.

(2) Shift to a system of lifelong learning

 It is essential to change attitudes that are focused on schooling and academic background, and to devise a comprehensive reorganization of the educational system revolving around a shift to a system of lifelong learning.

(3) Response to change

 Refers to responses to internationalization and computerization, which are the most important issues confronting education.

 Subsequent to the National Council, many educational reforms were based on these three fundamental concepts, and evolved after scrutiny of actual policy at the relevant councils, including the Central Council. For example, there were improvements to the content and methods of education such as the alterations to the courses of study implemented in 1989 as a result of the findings of the Curriculum Council, which aimed to enrich education by capitalizing on individuality, and to foster the ability to initiate responses to changes in society and the desire to learn. To promote diverse education suited to the individuality of students, new types of high schools such as the credit-system high schools and integrated courses were also established. This was also the time when government subsidies were started to provide computers for educational use in order to respond to developments in ICT. In addition, a range of policies were promoted including new “joint testing” to replace the Joint First-Stage Achievement Test brought forward by the National Council, which was later implemented as the National Center for University Entrance Examinations (NCUEE).

4 The outlook for education in the 21st century at the Central Council for Education subsequent to the National Council

 In the 1990s, Japanese society underwent great transformations. After the findings in the four reports by the National Council, the Cold War structures between East and West crumbled, and socioeconomic globalization advanced, but on the other hand, the phenomenon of “class disruption” became evident in schools, and juvenile crime and child abuse turned into social problems. With the imminent arrival of the 21st century, the Central Council started to study future models for education based on the prospects for future society.

 The Central Council deliberated for two years after the findings of 1995, compiling two reports on The Model for Japanese Education in the Perspective of the 21st Century (Findings) which made a range of proposals premised on nurturing “zest for life” in children, and the necessity to focus on education that matches the abilities and personality of the individual to realize self-fulfillment and a richness of spirit. In 1998, the University Council reported on A Vision for the University of the 21st Century and Future Reform Measures (Findings), which proposed policies aimed at creating universities that would allow individuality to shine in the competitive environment of the 21st century.

5 The National Commission on Educational Reform

 At almost the same time, the National Commission on Educational Reform under the leadership of the Prime Minister was inaugurated in March 2000 in light of the need for a broad-based national discussion about returning to the basics in education in order to respond to the social changes since the report of the National Council. The Commission compiled its final report in December the same year. The report listed seventeen concrete proposals for making changes to education including “be aware that the basis of education is in the home,” “remedy standardized education and introduce a system of education that develops individuality,” “promote education that nurtures careers and employment,” “introduce schools and boards of education to the concepts of organizational management,” and “promote the establishment of new types of schools (School Management Council System (Community Schools) etc.).” The report also proposed a review of the Basic Act on Education with a view to its suitability for the new age.

 The following three aspects were indicated as requirements of a new Basic Act on Education
 (1) Considering the changing times, there is a need to nurture Japanese people who now live in a new age.
 (2) Develop and respect traditions and culture to be handed down to future generations
 (3) Stipulate concrete policies, not only ideological matters, in the Basic Act on Education in order to deliver an education that is suitable for the future. From this perspective, and similarly to other Basic Acts, it is necessary to include provisions for the formulation of a Basic Plan for the Promotion of Education.

 On receipt of the proposals of the National Commission on Educational Reform, discussions aimed at revising the Basic Act on Education went ahead at the Central Council.

Dr. Esaki Reona, Chairman of the National Commission on Educational Reform, delivers the proposals to (former) Prime Minister Mori Yoshiro
Dr. Esaki Reona, Chairman of the National Commission on Educational Reform, delivers the proposals to (former) Prime Minister Mori Yoshiro
Source: The website of the Prime Minister of Japan and his Cabinet

6 Revisions to the Basic Act on Education

 In November 2001, the Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology requested a report on a Basic Act on Education and Basic Plan for the Promotion of Education befitting to the new times from the Central Council. After deliberations that lasted about one year and four months, the Central Council reported back with the Basic Act on Education and Basic Plan for the Promotion of Education Befitting to the New Times (Findings) in March 2003. In the report, the Central Council put forward proposals about the need to revise the Basic Act on Education in order to once again clarify the ideas and principles of education aimed at nurturing strong-willed Japanese people with the strength of mind to lead the way in the 21st century.

 Subsequently, the Ruling Party Council studied the proposals for close to three years, and after deliberations taking up nearly 190 hours in the Diet, the new Basic Act on Education was enacted in December 2006.
The revised Basic Act on Education clarified principles that are now considered extremely important. It retained the universal ideals adopted by the previous Basic Act on Education while setting great store by the normative consciousness of Japanese people such as their public-spiritedness and their respect for the traditions and culture that have nurtured these norms.

 As the aims of education, Article 1 stipulates individual fulfillment and educating citizens, who are sound in mind and body, to become the people that shape the state and society. As the objectives of education, Article 2 stipulates the matters that are considered important in order to realize the aims of education. As the ideals of education, the Act adds a new stipulation for “the concept of lifelong learning in addition to “equal opportunity in education.” The revised Act reiterates the education-related matters that are considered important including provisions for the concept of lifelong learning (Article 3), universities (Article 7), private schools (Article 8), education at home (Article 10), early childhood education (Article 11), and partnership and cooperation among schools, families and the local community (Article 13).

 In addition, in paragraph 1 of Article 17, the revised Basic Act on Education newly stipulates that the government shall formulate a basic plan (Basic Plan for the Promotion of Education) to comprehensively and systematically advance policies to promote education. The second paragraph of the same article stipulates that local governments shall also endeavor to formulate a basic plan suited to their local circumstances by referring to aforementioned plan.

 As a result, the Special Committee on the Basic Plan for the Promotion of Education was established at the Central Council in February 2007, and on receipt of the findings in April 2008, the first Basic Plan for the Promotion of Education was endorsed by the Cabinet on July 1, 2008.

 Section 2 describes the concrete content of this Basic Plan together with the content and the circumstances of the second Basic Plan for the Promotion of Education

Enactment of the Basic Act on Education (Ibuki Bunmei, (former) Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology)
Enactment of the Basic Act on Education (Ibuki Bunmei, (former) Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology)

7 The Education Rebuilding Council

 In October 2006, the Education Rebuilding Council was set up with the aim of rebuilding education and structuring an educational system befitting the 21st century. The Council carried out studies of policies to rebuild education that rely on society as a whole.

 The Education Rebuilding Council compiled three reports over a period of approximately one year and four months, as well as a final report aimed at securing the efficacy of the policies. To start with, in January 2007, the Council compiled the first report, which zeroed in on urgent issues in elementary and secondary education with a focus on compulsory education and the issue of bullying. Referring to this report, the Central Council discussed concrete system designs before implementing revisions to the so-called three laws on education, i.e., the School Education Law, the Law Concerning Organization and Functions of Local Educational Administration, as well as the Education Personnel Certification Law and Special Law for Education Officials, at an ordinary session of the Diet in 2007. In addition, the MEXT gave notification of firm guidance and discipline for students in relation to the issue of bullying.

 Redesigning Compulsory Education for a New Era (Findings) (Central Council for Education, 2005) also indicated the need for a nationwide survey of academic performance, which was conducted in 2007 after a hiatus of about 40 years.

 The second report proposed placing the focus on improving academic performance, moral education, reforms at universities and graduate schools, and the fiscal basis of education. The third report proposed developing flexibility in the 6-3-3-4 system of integrated education in elementary and junior high school, reforms to English language education, local autonomy, and comprehensive support for children, young people and families. Based on this, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology revised the courses of study in elementary schools, lower and upper secondary schools in 2008 and 2009 based on Improving Courses of Study for Kindergartens, Elementary Schools, Lower and Upper Secondary Schools, and Schools For Special Needs Education (Findings) by the Central Council. Also, in order to promote fall enrollment at universities, the Ordinance for Enforcement of the School Education Act was also revised to abolish the principle of April enrollment.

 In February 2008, the Education Rebuilding Council passed the baton to the Meeting on Education Rebuilding, which was established by the Cabinet and compiled four reports over a period of one year and nine months. The reports followed up on the proposals by the Education Rebuilding Council, investigated the state of education, and made proposals about initiatives to enhance social security in the first half of life. At the recently established Cabinet-level Council for the Implementation of Education Rebuilding, the whole Cabinet is vigorously pushing ahead with education rebuilding based on the abovementioned discussions and the actual results of the Education Rebuilding Council. Section 3 will describe the Council for the Implementation of Education Rebuilding in more detail.

 Educational reform is not completed in one day, and it is essential to proceed with the support of society as a whole while collaborating and cooperating with all citizens. Society is always changing and it is necessary to revise educational policies according to the requirements of the times. In the future, we will continue to tackle educational reform with a sense of urgency in the consistent hope that “everyone with the inclination can access educational opportunities in line with their abilities, grow their potential to the fullest extent, strive for self-fulfillment, and lead satisfying lives.”

The first Education Rebuilding Council (October 18, 2006)Source: The website of the Prime Minister of Japan and his Cabinet
The first Education Rebuilding Council (October 18, 2006)
Source: The website of the Prime Minister of Japan and his Cabinet

Section 2: The Second Basic Plan for the Promotion of Education

1.The Basic Plan for the Promotion of Education

(1) Defining the Basic Plan for the Promotion of Education

 As indicated in the chronology in the preceding section, Japan’s first Basic Plan for the Promotion of Education was formulated in July 2008 based on paragraph 1 of Article 17 of the Basic Act on Education (the First Basic Plan). The Basic Plan for the Promotion of Education is the government’s basic plan for the fundamental guidelines, measures to be adopted, and other important matters concerning measures to promote education in order to plan for comprehensive and systematic implementation of measures relating to the promotion of education. The First Basic Plan clarified the educational vision for the next ten years, codified the four basic policy directions for measures that should be addressed over a five-year period (2008 to 2012), and comprehensively and systematically implemented a range of initiatives in accordance with the basic policy directions with the goal of realizing the educational ideals indicated in the Basic Act on Education.

Educational vision for the next ten years

  1. To cultivate, in all children, the foundations for independence within society by the time they complete compulsory education
  2. To develop human resources capable of supporting and developing our society and leading the international society
    Four basic policy directions of measures to be implemented over a period of five years
    • Basic Directions 1: Engage all society to improve education
    • Basic Directions 2: Build the foundation for people to live as individuals and as members of society who respect individuality and grow their potential
    • Basic Directions 3: Nurture persons of intellect who possess the education and expertise to support social development
    • Basic Directions 4:Ensure the safety and security of children, and maintain a high-quality environment for education

(2) Progress of the First Basic Plan for the Promotion of Education

 Here, we provide an overview of the state of progress based on the four directions listed in the First Basic Plan.

Fig.1-1-2: Progress of the First Basic Plan for the Promotion of Education (Basic Directions 1)

Fig. 1-1-3: Progress of the First Basic Plan for the Promotion of Education (Basic Directions 2)

Fig. 1-1-4: Progress of the First Basic Plan for the Promotion of Education (Basic Directions 3) 

Fig. 1-1-5: Progress of the First Basic Plan for the Promotion of Education (Basic Directions 4)

 In light of the circumstances described above, there is still some way to go before we achieve the “educational vision for the next ten years” outlined in the First Basic Plan. New issues are also emerging such as the issue of the education divide, the importance of cooperation with the local community and the use of ICT, as well as the need to create innovation.

 As described in the previous section as well, most educational reform in the past has focused on 21st century society including social demise and the maturation of the economic society, and has been intended to catch up with and overtake the West. In particular, the First Basic Plan was a comprehensive plan first formulated under circumstances where the majority of the principal industrialized countries were formulating medium to long-term plans that included results objectives, and were strategically advancing educational policies. By means of these reform efforts, conditions for education have been improved, but several problems that had been repeatedly pointed out still remain unresolved and have become more complex and tangible. Also, as far as the new issues that have recently arisen due to rapid changes in society are concerned, we can hardly say that all issues have been adequately addressed.

2. The Second Basic Plan for the Promotion of Education

 When formulating the Second Basic Plan, the abovementioned changes in social circumstances and the situation around the implementation of the First Basic Plan, as well as the impact and lessons of the Great East Japan Earthquake were carefully verified and assessed, and on this basis, clarification of basic guidelines and measures for a new approach to promoting education were requested. In June 2011, the Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology consulted with the Central Council for Education about formulating a Second Basic Plan. The Second Basic Plan for the Promotion of Education (Findings) was compiled on April 25, 2013 after a period of approximately two years and 23 consultations by the Committee on the Basic Plan for the Promotion of Education.

 Then, after modifications by the government, the Second Basic Plan for the Promotion of Education was endorsed by the Cabinet on June 14, 2013. Here, we touch on its content.

 The Second Basic Plan covers a period of five years from fiscal 2013 to fiscal 2017. The foreword presents the concept of the Basic Plan as “what Japan requires now is for each and every individual to engage proactively with learning aimed at independence, collaboration and creativity,” and, additionally, “to specify clear objectives to ensure educational outcomes, as well as the concrete and systematic measures to deliver on them.”

 The Second Basic Plan is broadly divided into three parts. Part 1 addresses the overall image of future education in Japan in the form of general remarks; Part 2 is a detailed discussion about the educational measures that should be implemented in the next five years; and Part 3 describes each of the matters required for the comprehensive and systematic promotion of said measures.

Mimura Akio, Chairman of the Central Council for Education, delivers the report to Shimomura Hakubun, Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology
Mimura Akio, Chairman of the Central Council for Education, delivers the report to Shimomura Hakubun, Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology

(1) Part 1 (General Remarks) Overall Image of Future Education in Japan

[1] Issues for Education in Japan

 The Second Basic Plan emphasizes that Japan is in an extremely critical situation, faced with an industry that is hollowing out, a decrease in the working-age population, and several other serious issues in the midst of rapid change worldwide due to the advance of globalization. The critical situation became more evident and gathered momentum when the Great East Japan Earthquake struck, raising major questions about the way people live and the state of a society that is premised on the material affluence of the past. On the other hand, Japan does possess various strengths including the bonds between people admired worldwide and a high average level of basic knowledge and skills. On this basis, there are demands to build a new social model adapted to a mature society, and not only to pursue economic growth.

 To evaluate the First Basic Plan, it could be summed up by the following points, which suggest that in terms of the current situation and the challenges for education, Japan is still en route to achieving the “educational vision for the next ten years” advocated in the First Basic Plan.

  • Lack of perspectives for drawing out the strengths of individuals
    During the period of rapid economic growth, a sense of values, homogeneity and affinity among human resources were the criteria for Japanese society, but as a result of focusing on these criteria, there was no perspective for drawing out the strengths of individuals.
  • Lack of connections between the stages of schooling, and between school and society
    Sharing the ideals of the lifelong learning society is still lacking, enhanced cooperation across society as a whole where education is concerned, seamless connections between the stages of schooling and between school and social life have not been developed, and there is a tendency to fall into compartmentalized perspectives.
  • Lack of adequate PDCA cycles
    Setting clear goals such as “What outcomes are we aiming for?” or “What skills acquisition are we aiming for?”, carrying out objective verification of the outcomes of the initiatives based on actual data, providing feedback on issues that have been clarified, and reflecting this in new initiatives – this is the Plan-Do-Check-Action cycle (PDCA cycle) and it has not been entirely effective at the level of education administration, schools and learners.
[2] Lessons from the Great East Japan Earthquake

 In addition to evaluating the First Basic Plan, the discussions at the Central Council for Education aimed at producing a report on the Second Basic Plan also perceived the lessons from the Great East Japan Earthquake as having application for the whole country. Based on the need to examine measures for moving forward with a sense of hope for the recovery in the disaster areas and the nation as a whole, the Central Council conducted deliberations based on interviews with boards of education and universities in the disaster areas.

 The Great East Japan Earthquake was not only an earthquake and a tsunami, but also a complex and huge event that also involved an accident at a nuclear power plant. Yet, in the images of children responsibly engaged in volunteer initiatives in the disaster areas, or studying hard on their own in difficult learning environments, or the devoted and assertive actions of local citizens and volunteers, there were many situations where hope and the presence of the human bond could be felt.

 On this basis, the Second Basic Plan includes hints (lessons), found in the experience of great disaster, for defeating the crisis that is confronting Japan. The following are some examples.

  • The importance of the ability to accurately understand a situation and to act on your own initiative, and not to give up, even when confronted with difficulties.
  • The importance of revitalizing and building a future-oriented society through innovation to produce new social and economic value, and to develop the appropriate human resources.
  • The importance of preparing an environment where all children and young people can learn the skills they need in safe and secure school facilities where earthquake resistance has been implemented, regardless of residential area, or the environment where children and young people find themselves for economic reasons.
  • The importance of the coexistence of people and nature, and of the connections (bonds) that exist between people and regions, and among countries.
[3] Future Directions in Society

 Based on the crisis confronting Japan, the assessment of the First Basic Plan, and the lessons gained from the Great East Japan Earthquake, three keywords identify the future direction of society. They are the “independence” of the individual, “collaboration” with different people, and the “creativity” of new values, and to implement them, we need to build the lifelong learning society.

  • Independence: A lifelong learning society where people can develop their individuality and potential, and independently create a rewarding life.
  • Collaboration: A lifelong learning society where individuals and social diversity are respected, where the strengths of each and everyone serve to mutually support and enhance participation in society.
  • Creativity: A lifelong learning society that allows the creation of new value through independence and collaboration

 Based on these key concepts, we can draw up the following scenarios for avoiding the crisis described above.

  • To enable the full use of people’s latent abilities in various parts of society, all members of society build a society modeled on “lifelong participation by all” that allows people to do justice to their varied individuality and abilities, improves the social divide, and increases the number of social actors in the future.
  • To foster and secure human resources with advanced professional skills, who are active at the global level, and who deliver innovation to create new industry and revitalize
  • To create bonds between individuals, and in society as a whole, to form social capital.

Fig. 1-1-6 Model for independence, collaboration and creativity

[4] The Four Basic Directions in Education Administration

 As well as achieving the “educational vision for the next ten years”, advocated in the First Basic Plan, various measures intended to rebuild education will be promoted during the term of the Second Basic Plan under the banner of constructing the lifelong learning society to implement a new social model based on the principles of independence, collaboration and creativity.

 Based on the above, the Second Basic Plan perceives the nature of education from the four perspectives outlined below, which cut across all opportunities for learning, and codifies the necessary measures as basic policy directions.

  1. Develop social competencies for survival
    Develop conditions that guarantee education outcomes amid drastic change in society, so that anyone can acquire the social competencies for survival on their own initiative in order to achieve independence and collaboration.
  2. Develop human resources to implement rapid progress toward the future
    Develop the human resources who will create and initiate change and new values to deliver innovation, and who will be able to lead the global society in every field, i.e., the human resources who will implement rapid progress toward the future.
  3. Build safety nets for learning
    Amid indications of a social divide and other problems in the harsh economic climate of the present, the basic conditions for achieving the abovementioned two points are to reduce educational expenditure and to develop earthquake-resistant school facilities to give access to rewarding educational opportunities in a safe and secure environment, i.e., to build safety nets for learning aimed at independence and participation in society.
  4. Build bonds and establish vibrant communities
    To promote greater efficacy of the abovementioned initiatives, it is important not to leave matters to the initiatives of individuals, but to promote relationships of cooperation in society as a whole, and to replenish the so-called social capital. Therefore, amid indications of weakening social connections, the aim is to build bonds and establish vibrant communities where there are learning opportunities inside and outside school education, mutual support, solutions to a range of issues, and support for the creation of new values.
[5] The Nature of Investment in Education

 As far as the nature of investment in education is concerned, it provides the backing to implement the abovementioned directions, and the results of education are then ploughed back into society as a whole. Investment in education needs to be guaranteed by the whole of society, not only the students. Specifically, based on present issues in education, improvements will focus on the following three points:

  • Build an environment that facilitates high-quality education including cooperative and interactive learning
  • Alleviate the burden of educational expenditure on household finances
  • Build safe and secure environments for education and research (earthquake-resistant school facilities etc.)

 Rebuilding education is one of the maximum-priority policy issues, requiring the implementation of a high-quality education that surpasses the principal countries in the West.

 Therefore, with reference to the educational investment situation, including public and private expenditure in the OECD countries and other foreign countries, financing will be made available for the budget required to implement the basic measures and achieve all outcome objectives, as well as to ensure real investment in education during the term of the Second Basic Plan.

Fig. 1-1-7 Second Basic Plan for the Promotion of Education Part 1 General Remarks

(2) Part 2 (Detailed Discussion) Educational Measures to Be Implemented in the Next Five Years

[1] Basic Concepts for Implementing the Four Basic Policy Directions

 To share the significance of educational policies with citizens and to implement them in ways that are effective and sound, it is important to put into practice a cycle of verification and improvement (the PDCA cycle) that sets clear objectives and objectively verifies the outcomes, giving feedback on proven issues, which is then reflected in new initiatives.

 Therefore, to implement the four basic policy directions indicated in Part 1, Part 2 indicates (1) the outcome objectives, (2) the outcome indicators to verify achievement of the outcome objectives, and (3) the required concrete measures to deliver the outcome objectives during the five-year period of the Second Basic Plan. In addition, all outcome objectives are systematically organized for the elementary and secondary education stage, the higher education stage, and for lifelong learning.

 Measures concerning any of the four basic policy directions are positioned as measures for preparing the environment to support the four basic policy directions, and as one of the pillars of the recovery and rebuilding support after the Great East Japan Earthquake.

[2] Measures based on the Four Basic Policy Directions

 Below, we introduce the eight outcome objectives for delivering the four basic policy directions with examples of outcome indicators and basic measures. The introduction is brief since there are detailed explanations in Part 2.

4 Visions (Basic Policy Directions), 8 Missions (Outcome Objectives), 30 Actions (Basic Measures)

(★ (star) indicates examples of outcome indicators, ◆ (diamond) examples of basic measures)

1.Develop social competencies for survival

1 Develop zest for life (kindergarten to high school)
⇒ Ensure development of the abilities for independent learning, thinking and taking action, which will form the foundation for lifelong learning

★ Place among the countries at the top level for average score on international surveys of academic performance. Also, increase the higher proficiency level, decrease the bottom level.
★ Increase the proportion of correct answers where the questions are identical to past surveys, and decrease the proportion of unanswered questions on the National Assessment of Academic Ability.
★ Improve the situation for bullying, non-attendance at school, and high school dropouts etc. (Increase proportion of resolved bullying cases among cases of recognized bullying, reduce proportion of students not attending school among all students, and proportion of high school dropouts etc.)
★ Aim to have children’s physical fitness exceed the 1985 standard in the next ten years.
 ◆ Improve language activities based on the new course of study
 ⇒ Promote initiatives to improve language activities through all subjects to effectively nurture the abilities to think, make decisions, and express oneself.
 ⇒ Facilitate the use of Saturdays for experiential activities or attending Saturday classes based on the actual situation in each region
 ◆ Promote cooperative and interactive learning through ICT
 ⇒ Promote cooperative and interactive lesson reforms through improvements to the methods and systems of instruction, including the use of ICT, to effectively train academic abilities
 ◆ Cultivate richness in mind
 ⇒ Further expand Kokoro no Note, and distribute it to all elementary and junior high school students
 ⇒ Examine ways to develop lessons in moral education based on new frameworks
 ◆ Consistent initiatives to deal with bullying, acts of violence etc.
 ⇒ Promote moral education, human rights education, and experiential activities to forestall bullying, facilitate initiatives such as organizing classes in delinquency prevention
 ⇒ Facilitate legislation concerning measures to prevent bullying etc.
 ◆ National Assessment of Academic Ability (continue implementation of all assessments)
 ⇒ Continue to implement all assessments
 ⇒ Include detailed surveys that facilitate understanding and analysis of household situation and academic achievement, and analysis of the changes over the years
 ◆ Examine school systems, including what they should be, for the purpose of building a flexible system of education that is appropriate to the growth of children
 ⇒ Conduct survey research of school systems and their administration including the 6-3-3-4 system, promote broad investigations based on the circumstances

2 Acquire the ability to question issues (Universities and up)
 ⇒ Nurture the ability to lead on the best solutions for “unanswerable problems” in any environment.

★ Increase time spent studying (to a standard equal with the West)
★ Improve systems for education and learning across universities including systematizing the curriculum, implementing systematic education, and enhancing the syllabus
 ◆ Qualitative change in university education by instituting independent learning
 ⇒ Establish university-wide management of education and learning with a functioning innovation cycle focused on the university president
 ⇒ Change the timing for starting employment and recruitment activities from the perspective of securing opportunities for a variety of experiences including time spent studying, or study abroad etc.
 ◆ Contact between high schools and universities to focus on quality guarantees
 ⇒ Promote seamless links and coordination between high schools and universities including improvements to the selection of students for university enrollment (Radical reform to entrance exams including the use of results of student assessment tests in high school)

3 Acquire the skills for independence, collaboration, and creativity (lifelong)
 ⇒ To be able to learn the social competencies for survival throughout life

★ Increase the proportion of people who enroll to deal with contemporary and social issues
★ Improve the situation for experiential activities and reading activities (increase the number of students involved in experiential activities, increase the proportion of schools conducting reading activities for the whole school)
 ◆ Promote studies dealing with contemporary and social issues
 ⇒ Facilitate the formation of the gender-equal society, facilitate opportunities to learn about human rights, environmental protection, consumer lifestyle, regional disaster prevention and safety, sports etc.
 ◆ Promote a variety of experiential activities and reading activities inside and outside school
 ⇒ Promote experiential activities specifically aimed at young people such as social activities and international exchange, promote reading activities grounded in the Basic Plan for the Promotion of Children's Reading Activities
 ◆ Guarantee the quality of learning and promote assessment of learning outcomes
 ⇒ Develop and promote structures for assessment and information disclosure, promote certification systems for educational support staff etc.

4 Nurture the ability for social and professional independence 

★ Improve awareness of career choices among students (increase the proportion of students with future dreams and goals etc.)
★ Improve the implementation of experiences in the workplace and internship programs
★ Improve the acceptance of adult students at universities
 ◆ Enhance systematic career education
 ⇒ Guidance through all educational activities at school according to the stage of development of the child or young person
 ◆ Enhance continuing education opportunities for adults
 ⇒ Strengthen the functions of universities as places for lifelong learning, encourage understanding of continuing education at corporations, and prepare the environment including flexible utilization of scholarship loan programs etc.

2. Develop human resources to implement rapid progress toward the future

5 Develop the global human resources who will promote new value

★ Increase the number of participants in international science and technology contests
★ Double the number of research universities competing globally in 10 years
★ Double the number of Japanese overseas students by 2020
★ 50% of junior and senior high school students to achieve the target for proficiency in English based on the course of study (at graduation from junior high school: Eiken Grade 3 or higher; at graduation from high school: Eiken Grade Pre-2 or Grade 2, or higher)
★ Proportion of English language teachers who have achieved the target for English language ability required of English teachers (Eiken Grade 1, TOEFLiBT 80 points, TOEIC 730 points or higher) (Junior high school: 50%, Senior high school; 75%)
★ Increase the implementation rate of classes taught in foreign languages at universities (Classes in foreign languages/all classes)
★ Introduce more flexibility into university enrollment (increase the number of students enrolling at other times than April)
 ◆ Promote structures for developing exceptional talent and individuality
 ⇒ Promote initiatives to use early admission entrance system at all universities
 ⇒ Examine system of early graduation at the high school stage
 ◆ Support internationalization initiatives at universities and high schools, implement foreign student exchange and international exchange, and boost foreign language education
 ⇒ Start English languages classes in the earlier grades in elementary school, increase instruction hours, develop materials, examine different ways of instruction
 ⇒ Use external examinations such as TOEFL for the university entrance exams
 ⇒ Create new systems of public-private cooperation including endowments and benefits to reduce the economic burden on foreign students
 ⇒ Create super-global high schools to nurture global leaders who can compete internationally from the higher school stage
 ◆ Support radical reform of graduate school education
 ⇒ Support the development of human resources through cooperation between society, including industry associations, and graduate schools, as well as the radical reform of graduate school education for the purpose of developing doctoral courses that go beyond the limitations of specialized fields

3. Build safety nets for learning

6 Secure learning opportunities for everyone who has the inclination

★ Reduce the number of high school dropouts for economic reasons
★ Improve the impact of the economic situation in households on academic ability
★ Improve the ratio of successful applicants for scholarship loan programs
★ Improve the ratio of students from low-income households who are exempt from tuition fees
 ◆ Reduce the burden of tuition fees throughout all stages of schooling without breaks
 ⇒ Examine free-of-charge or subsidized early childhood education, implement study assistance at the compulsory education stages, enhance learning support for high school students from low-income households, enhance support for students from low-income households at universities and vocational schools
 ◆ Provide opportunities for continuing education to children and young people who have failed, or encountered difficulties
 ⇒ Provide opportunities for continuing education, or attentive guidance such as supplementary tutorials at schools with many students who find it difficult to acquire academic ability due to the home environment etc.

7 Ensure a safe and secure environment for education and research

★ Improve the rate of earthquake resistance in school facilities (complete the seismic corrections of public schools as soon as possible, or by fiscal 2015)
★ Reduce injury to students caused by incidents or accidents and disasters during school supervision
 ◆ Make schools resistant to earthquakes, reinforce disaster protection functions including earthquake safety measures for non-structural elements, implement countermeasures against the deterioration
 ◆ School safety education such as disaster prevention education to nurture the attitude of acting on own initiative, promote school safety in collaboration with the local community, households and concerned organizations

4. Build bonds and establish vibrant communities

8 Form vibrant communities through mutual cooperation

★ Build collaborative structures between schools and the local community such as School Support Regional Headquarters in all school districts
★ Expand community schools to one tenth of all public elementary and junior high schools
 ◆ Expand community schools and promote School Support Regional Headquarters etc.
 ⇒ Facilitate community school expansion and implement effective school officials, evaluation facilitate expansion at the discretion of schools, enhance initiatives by the School Support Regional Headquarters etc.
 ◆ Implement the concept of the university as a center of the community (COC concept)
 ⇒ All regional institutions of higher education collaborate, and students participate in problem-solving aimed at regional issues that are difficult to resolve etc.
 ◆ Boost support for education at home
 ⇒ In order to support learning by parents, set up local functionality at elementary schools or accessible places in the community where parents can go for exchange and advice

Preparing the Environment to Support the Four Basic Policy Directions

 ◆ Radical reform of boards of education
 ⇒ Establish systems to make boards of education accountable, examine radical reform to respond swiftly and correctly to problems in the field
 ◆ Set up systems of school personnel instruction for attentive and high-quality education
 ⇒ Promote reduction of class sizes, enhance achievement-based teaching and specialized instruction in elementary schools, supplementary study support to eliminate disparity etc.
 ◆ Strengthen governance functions at universities
 ⇒ Establish organizational management that enables appropriate decision-making under the leadership of the university president, well-balanced distribution of basic expenses
 ◆ Establish a financial base for universities and facility improvements
 ⇒ Establish a financial base including subsidies for private schools and management expenditure grants for national universities, and well-balanced allocation of basic expenses
 ◆ Stimulate private schools
 ⇒ Enhance and implement public financial support for basic expenses and other measures, alleviate the economic burden on students
 ◆ Strengthen structures for implementing social education
 ⇒Social education administration coordinates and collaborates with various protagonists, supporting local governments engaged in finding solutions to local issues etc.

Fig. 1-1-8 Second Basic Plan for the Promotion of Education Part 2 Outline of Detailed Discussion

Fig. 1-1-9 Schematic image of the Second Basic Plan for the Promotion of Education

 In Section 3, accurate dissemination of information, understanding and reflecting the opinions of the nation, progress inspections and revision of plans are cited as the matters required for the comprehensive and systematic progress of the policies.

 At the heart of the Second Basic Plan, there is a sense of crisis with regard to the situation where Japan finds itself. There are no blanket solutions, and everyone concerned shares the sense of crisis, in full awareness that doing nothing is the greatest risk. It is more important than ever to investigate the issues we have to accomplish, and to take action in the field.

 As the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, we believe in the power and potential that education holds on the basis of the Second Basic Plan, and we are committed to doing our best for education reform in the future while cooperating with each and every citizen in society.

Section 3: Important Issues for the Purpose of Rebuilding Education

1 Launching the Council for the Implementation of Education Rebuilding

(1) The Cabinet Decision

 Educational reform is promoted as one of the most important issues for the Cabinet in order to put the rebuilding of education into effect and to build an appropriate education system for Japan in the 21st century. Therefore, the administration endorsed the launch of the Council for the Implementation of Education Rebuilding (below, the Council) by Cabinet decision on January 15, 2013.

At the inauguration ceremony of the Office for the Council for the Implementation of Education Rebuilding Photo courtesy of the Cabinet Public Relations Office
At the inauguration ceremony of the Office for the Council for the Implementation of Education Rebuilding
Photo courtesy of the Cabinet Public Relations Office

(2) Composition and Purpose of the Council

 In addition to the Prime Minister, the Chief Cabinet Secretary, the Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology and Minister in Charge of Education Rebuilding, the Council comprises 15 experts from the education sector, the economic sector, local governments and a broad range of other fields including Professor Kamata Kaoru, Chairman, and Mr. Tsukuda Kazuo, Vice Chairman. The Council’s brief is to examine a range of measures to implement rebuilding of education.

 Based on the proposals and results from the Education Rebuilding Council, active from fiscal 2006-2007, the Council is carrying out an intensive and urgent review of the basic policy directions for the matters to confront in order to implement education rebuilding.

Fig. 1-1-10 Members of the Council for the Implementation of Education Rebuilding

 In his address at the inaugural meeting on January 24, 2013, Prime Minister Abe stated that rebuilding education is the top prioritized issue of Japan, along with the economy, that the ultimate and major objective for rebuilding education is to guarantee opportunities to acquire academic ability and awareness of the importance of discipline at the world’s top level, and that every possible effort should be made to rebuild education while implementing the ideals of the 2006 revised Basic Act on Education.

At the Council Photo courtesy of the Cabinet Public Relations Office
At the Council
Photo courtesy of the Cabinet Public Relations Office

(3) Implementing the Proposals of the Council

 The Council has proposed a series of policy directions to reform approaches to bullying, the reform of the board of education system, university education and global human resources development, and other themes. Receiving the proposals, MEXT and other authorities concerned are examining and implementing measures needed to put the proposals into effect. The Central Council for Education, in particular, is examining and discussing concrete implementation measures for matters where system reform is required. In this way, the whole Cabinet, centered on the MEXT Minister and Minister in Charge of Education Rebuilding, is making every effort to swiftly put the proposals into effect.

2 Responses to the Issue of Bullying and corporal punishment

(1) The First Proposal

 To help children who are even now suffering the distress of bullying, the Council discussed the problems of bullying and corporal punishment as its first theme, and compiled a report on “Responses to Bullying and Corporal Punishment (First Proposal)” on February 26, 2013. The report included proposals for (1) radical improvement to moral education and examined ways to designate moral education as a school subject within a new framework, (2) legislation to confront bullying, and (3) consistent prohibition of corporal punishment. These proposals were reported at a Cabinet meeting on March 1 and because of the urgent nature of the issues of bullying and corporate punishment, Prime Minister Abe instructed Shimomura Hakubun, the MEXT Minister and Minister in Charge of Education Rebuilding, to tackle the implementation of the proposals with a sense of urgency and in cooperation with the Cabinet Ministers concerned.

(2) MEXT Responses on Receiving the First Proposal

 In reaction to the First Proposal, MEXT convened a panel to discuss the improvement of moral education. The panel started to examine the ways to revise Kokoro no Note thoroughly, improve the teaching ability of teachers, and designate moral education as a school subject within a new framework. The Ministry also implemented a comprehensive set of measures to counter bullying, sent out a notification of prohibiting corporal punishment and providing thorough guidance based on teacher’s understanding of pupils and students, and created guidelines for school sports club activities.

 In addition, the measures to counter the bullying problem have been taken a step further based on the Law for Measures to Prevent Bullying passed by the 183rd National Diet.

Chairman Kamata delivering the proposal to Prime Minister Abe
Chairman Kamata delivering the proposal to Prime Minister Abe

Fig. 1-1-11 Responses to Bullying and Corporal Punishment (Outline of the First Proposal by the Council for the Implementation of Education Rebuilding)

3 The Reform of the Board of Education System

(1) The Second Proposal

 Next, the Council discussed the board of education system. Several issues involving boards of education have been identified including (1) the lack of clarity about the seat of authority and responsibility, (2) the thoughts of the local community are inadequately reflected, (3) deliberations by boards of education lose substance, and (4) they lack promptness and flexibility. On this basis, members of the Council even observed meetings of boards of education and compiled a report on “The Reform of the Board of Education System (Second Proposal)” on April 15, 2013. The report proposes (1) to clarify the authority and responsibilities of local educational administrations and to create a system with responsibility anywhere in the country, (2) to clarify the roles and review the authority of the state, the prefectures and the municipalities to facilitate responsible education, (3) to appropriately reflect the thoughts of the local community in local educational administration and school management. The proposals were reported at the Cabinet meeting on April 16, 2013, where Prime Minister Abe gave directions to soundly implement the proposals, which he perceived as erecting the foundation for education rebuilding by means of radical reform of the boards of education more than fifty years after the system was established.

Fig. 1-1-12 The Reform of the Board of Education System (Outline of the Second Proposal by the Council for the Implementation of Education Rebuilding)

(2) MEXT Responses on Receiving the Second Proposal

 To that end, MEXT has consulted with the Central Council for Education regarding more specific reform measures including the modality of the necessary amendments to legislation. After obtaining the report released by the Central Council for Education, we aim to work on implementing the proposals by submitting a draft of amendments to the legislation to the Diet.

At a meeting of the Council Photo courtesy of the Cabinet Public Relations Office
At a meeting of the Council
Photo courtesy of the Cabinet Public Relations Office

4 University Education and Global Human Resource Development for the Future(The Third Proposal)

 Subsequently, the Council discussed university education and developing global human resources, compiling a report on “University Education and Global Human Resource Development for the Future (Third Proposal) ” on May 28, 2013. The report proposes (1) to create an educational environment for responding to globalization, (2) to build educational and research environments for the creation of society-leading innovation, (3) to strengthen educational functions for training students and sending them into society, (4) to strengthen universities and professional training colleges’ continuing education functions, and (5) to strengthen their management by reforming universities’ governance and enhancing universities’ financial bases. The proposals were reported at the Cabinet meeting on May 31, 2013, where Prime Minister Abe gave directions to thoroughly implement the proposals as a national strategy for reforming universities to become globally competitive. The content of the proposals were endorsed by Cabinet decision on June 14, 2013, and incorporated in the government’s Japan Revitalization Strategy with the whole Cabinet working on initiatives for its implementation.

Fig. 1-1-13 University Education and Global Human Resource Development for the Future (Outline of the Third Proposal by the Council for the Implementation of Education Rebuilding)

(2) MEXT Responses on Receiving the Third Proposal

 Going forward, MEXT will undertake initiatives to embed the third proposal based on the Japan Revitalization Strategy, including deliberations at the Central Council for Education concerning matters that accompany system amendments and revisions to the related laws or ordinances where necessary.

5 Scheduled Future Deliberations

 At present, the Council is discussing connections between high school education and university education, and the modality of university entrance examinations. Subsequently, the Council will examine the modality of the school system (6-3-3-4 system).

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Lifelong Learning Policy Bureau Policy Planning and Coordination Division.

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