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|Main Points of Chapter 1
For Japan to maintain economic and social vitality and build a society where children can embrace their dreams and hopes and cultivate their future, it is necessary to position education as the most important political task and steadily promote educational reform to improve human resources as a national strategy.
The Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) has promoted educational reform by presenting its roadmap with specific policies and steps, while considering the opinions of the Central Council for Education. In January 2006, Minister Kenji Kosaka announced the Essential Action Plans for Educational Reform.
This Chapter introduces programs promoting educational reform to date, programs to revise Fundamental Law of Education, and the most recent movements for compulsory educational reform.
Part 1 Basic Approach to Educational Reform
1.Current Status of Education
Education in Japan has provided dynamism for social development through cultivating talented people. It started with the steady efforts of the teaching staff and the people to realize equal opportunity principles and improve the national education level, and has been responding to the demands of each generation. This has been highly evaluated by the international community as well. However, on the other hand, when we view the current status of education, confidence in the system is fading and that education faces a number of significant challenges.
Various issues are occurring today, such as domestic child abuse, considerable downturn in educational functions of families and communities, bullying in schools, non-attendance at school, school violence, and other serious incidents committed by youth that were unimaginable until now.
Urbanization, the progressive decline in birth rates, as well as the declining sociality, sense of justice, and moral values among youth have been noted as the cause. Together with the social trend towards an excessive emphasis of individual freedom and rights, it has also been noted that this is largely related to the significant change in environment surrounding children and fewer opportunities for children to refine themselves through interpersonal relations and society.
Today, the Japanese education system and the people concerned with it must adequately respond to rapid global changes such as economic and market growth caused by rapid technological developments, population flow on a global scale, and the advent of the IT society.
2.Educational Reform Viewpoint
The 21st century is said to be the era of “knowledge-based society,” and it is essential for a country like Japan, that is not blessed with natural resources, to foster excellent talent in order to maintain its vitality and further develop as a nation with wealth and education. However, there are challenges with regard to children's Academic Ability, as children are not always sufficiently equipped with the ability to apply knowledge and skills they have learned, such as reading comprehension. In addition, it is especially concerning that Japanese children have a poor desire to learn and have not mastered good learning habits. We must foster Academic Ability for the children to master the basics so that they can learn to educate themselves, think for themselves, and have the ability to solve problems even better.
In addition, it is important to raise children to have a rich sense of humanity and sociality, such as the sense of norm, ethical value, value for life, consideration towards others, and rich sensitivity. As such, it is essential for schools and the like to enrich moral education and to encourage volunteer and experiential activities, reading, career education, and culture and arts experiences, as well as adequately address undesirable behaviors and non-attendance.
Furthermore, today, declined physical fitness, unbalanced nutrition and bad eating habits, and increased obesity have also become issues. It has become essential for schools, families, and communities to work in cooperation to help growing children practice and have enthusiasm and abilities for practicing sports, and adopt desirable eating habits to have a healthy food life.
For Japan to maintain economic and social vitality and build a society where children can embrace their dreams and hopes and cultivate their future, it is necessary to position education as the most important political task and steadily promote educational reform to improve humanity as a national strategy.
For these reason, the MEXT promotes the following as goals for the 21st century: () foster robust Japanese citizens that possess self initiative, () foster top-level talents that will lead the “century of knowledge,” () foster Japanese citizens who will inherit and create an emotionally enriched culture and society, and () foster Japanese citizens educated to live in the international community. As such, MEXT promotes various educational reforms, including university reform, aimed at establishing Academic Ability, ethical value, public spirits and consideration for others, and sound bodies.
In order to realize this educational reform, the MEXT is working for the entire education system to respond to public expectations and demands promptly and to be more sensitive to social change, through such efforts as improving the quality of teachers, schools, and boards of education responsible for education, increasing independence of regions and local schools, information disclosure and emphasis on accountability, and appropriate evaluation and improvements based on these results (see Part 5).
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