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1.Why is Educational Reform Necessary Now?

Today,as we stand before the dawn of the21st century,Japan is seeing the rapid advancementof an elderly society with a dwindling birth rate,the information society and internationalization.In addition,economic activities,which had beenconsistently increasing and developing duringthe postwar period,now have long been at astandstill,employment issues are worsening andother problems are emerging.Therefore,we arenow said to be gearing toward a new phase ofreform following the Meiji Restoration and therevival after the period of the Second World War.Consequently,bold reforms have been movedforward as existing systems are reviewed acrossvarious sectors of society,including politics,ad-ministration,finance and the economic structure.

In the field of education,the cornerstone of all social systems,there is a need to move for-ward actively and swiftly with spearheading reforms befitting a new age while being based on the results of education to date.Since the end of the Second World War,edu-cation in Japan has been conducted under the fundamental ideology of realizing equal oppor-tunity education,in which opportunities for edu-cation are equally ensured in accordance with capability,aptitude and will and irrespective of gender or household income.It has spread re markably,promoted by the nationality that set great store by education and the improvement in income levels of the Japanese people to among the highest in the world.The remarkable dis-semination of education itself has served as the engine for what we can only call Japan's mi-raculous development.At the same time,a dwindling birth rate,nu-clear families and the advancement of urbaniza-tion have now borne witness to a striking decline in the educational strengths of the home and local community-which had always shoulder'ed the responsibilities of teaching children how to behave with people,cultivating self-discipline and collective spirit,and passing on culture and traditions.Such circumstances have formed a backdrop against which various problems have emerged,including bullying,non-attendance at school and the worsening issue of juvenile de-linquency.Moreover,increased competition in examinations has resulted in school education being reduced to a form in which knowledge is one-sidedly instilled in students,thus leading to the neglect of education and activities that culti-vate thinking faculties,creativity,and human-ness.Indeed,with the excessive emphasis placed on equal opportunities in education,the original concept of education in accordance with the individuality and capabilities of each and every child has not been taken into full consideration.These are many points upon which we must reflect.

2.From what sort of perspectives is educational reform being moved forward?

The educational reform required today is notmerely concerned with a quantitative expansionof education per se or as a means to respond tothe rapid and wide-ranging changes occurring inthe socioeconomy.Rather,educational reformmust take an accurate grasp of changes in the21st century in which global-scale competition isset to increase further,and the future cannot beaccurately perceived.Indeed,this aspect cannotbe overemphasized when considering that a timescale of10years is required to plan educationalreform,move toward its implementation andbring its efficacy to the fore.

In recognition of this,the Ministry of Educa-tion,Sports,Science and Culture is currently moving forward with unequivocal educational refonn from the following four perspectives.First,to enhance emotional education.In this form of education,it is imperative to reform the trend in overemphasizing intellectual education and the cramming system of education,and to cultivate in children a"zest for living,"i.e.the room to learn,think and act for themselves.To this end,it is also vital to ensure that children can clearly learn for themselves the rules and other elements of social life from infancy and to enhance emotional education that cultivates hu-manness blessed with a sense of justice,sense of ethics and a compassionate mind.Further,amidst the rapid progression of internationaliza-tion,it is indispensable to raise Japanese people who appreciate Japan's history,tradition and culture and have an enriched international mindset.To this end,a great emphasis on emo-tional education is required.Second,to realize the school system that helps children develop their individuality and gives them diverse choices.Across the entire system of education,it is necessary to rectify the overemphasized egali-tarianism and uniformity prevalent to date and to initiate a shift toward education that respects the individuality and ability of each and every child.From such a perspective,it is vital to realize a brand-new education system in which children are able to make diverse choices based on their individuality and in which they can be given a second chance at any stage of the education.This can be achieved by expansion of the scope of curriculum selection,as well as initiating a multi-channel school system(such as the pro-motion-of unified lower and upper secondary school education),and allowing greater flexibil-ity in university entrance age requirements and transfer systems.It is therefore essential to real-ize a school system which provides second chances.Third,to reorganize the school system for promoting individual school's autonomy.Reforms have been made for the purpose of de-centralizing the adiministrative systems which support school education since overemphasized egalitarianism and uniformity of school educa-tion arise from the malfunction of educational administration systems and operations.In view of this,it is essential that individual local gov-ernments and schools conduct independent school operations for which they will be wholly responsible.Fourth,to promote university reform and research activities.In order for Japan,a nation lacking natural re-sources,to maintain its competitiveness within the international community and ensure a highly vibrant society,it is vital to develop outstanding human resources who can serve as an impetus to the nation,and to further innprove the level of basic research and cutting-edge technology as we aim for establishing Japan as a nation based on the creativity of science and technology.Therefore,it is essential to further advance the promotion of university reform and research activities.

3.Toward further progress in educationalreform

The series of educational reforms currently be-ing advanced have fundamentally been under-taken in accordance with the four reports of the National Council on Educational Reform(1984-1987)while responding flexibly to changes in society since then.MESSC has continued to move forward with educational reform and is consistently making efforts to provide better education.However,needless to say,administrative efforts alone will not ensure the realization of educational reform.Reforms will not bear fruit unless we can con-duct them together with a wide-range of entities involved in education,including schools,house-holds,local cornmunities and corporations.This and other problems require a change in awareness of each and every Japanese person.Therefore,we must not only relax excessive examination competition and change entrance examination systems and operation methods,but we must also change Japanese people's aware-ness.To this end,MESSC has made efforts to bring the various measures we are taking for education-al reform to a wider audience,such as by pro-ducing and publishing the Program for Edaca-tional Reform,which highlights the concrete themes and schedules for educational reform.However,it is also true that opinions have been raised among Japanese people,such as:"MESSC say that they are moving forward with educational reform,but has education really changed?"and"What will schools of the future be like as a result of educational reform?"This edition of Japanese Government Polici-es in Education,Science,Sports and Culture includes a section in Q&A format in order to provide readers with an easy-to-understand in-troduction to the recent trends in educational reform.It has been designed with the intention of outlining as clearly as possible what is changing through educational reform and how.For example,we have included a chronological table showing trends over the last15years that allows for a comparison with the present.It is our great hope that people in households,communities and schools will understand the purposes of educational reform through this edition,make efforts together and move forward together with educational reform in the new century,ensuring that children,who will be re-sponsible for future societies,are able to develop robustly and humanely.

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