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The contributions of education in achieving the modernization of our country since the Meiji Restoration (1868), might be evaluated front various points of view. Recently the interests of countries abroad have centered on the role of education in achieving the economic development of Japan.
The first point which was considered was the economic reconstruction after World War and the prosperity that followed in Japan. The remarkable recovery from the economic losses suffered from the war and the following spectacular economic growth in this country as well as in West Germany is deemed as the miracle in the current world. It is said that this economic development has mainly depended on such human factors as knowledge and talents which had been accumulated since pre-War periods. And such accumulated knowledge and talents are no doubt the very results of education in the past.
The second point to be mentioned is the fact that Japan is included among such countries as Canada, West Germany, Israel, the U.S.S.R. and the U.S.A. which have achieved exceedingly rapid economic growth through this century.
Political, social and cultural factors undoubtedly contributed to the economic growth of those countries, but the effects of these factors varied between countries in both kind and weight. The countries mentioned above as having achieved rapid economic growth, however, have one factor in common: namely, the important role of their educational institutions. Furthermore, it should be noted that the educational systems of such countries were modernized ones intentionally and strongly orientated toward technogical progress and economic development. Japanese modern education also had been developed in this direction.
The third point noted from comparison with other countries concerning the role of education in achieving economic development in Japan, is the overcoming of disadvantages by the introduction and diffusion of a modern educational system during the so-called 'take-off' period.
Japan now is approaching the economic level of developed Western countries, in advance of other Asian-African countries, despite beginning modernization of society and industry later than the European countries, her overcrowded population and her very scarce natural resources. Like Japan in Asia, Denmark in Europe is mentioned as a country which overcame such disadvantages of underdeveloped status, overcrowded population and scarcity of natural resources. A common basis for the economic development of Denmark and Japan has been the introduction of a modern educational system, especially the spread of general elementary education to farm families who constituted the major part of the labor force in the beginning period of modernization. Thus, the role of modern education in achieving economic development in Japan may be said to have been very important.
Education in early Meiji Era, mentioned above as the third point, supported the foundation on which the modern Japanese economic system was created, rather than contributing directly to economic growth. In other words, the difusion of elementary education raised the quality of the people's skills, modernized their thought, and made it possible for them to participate successfully in modern economic activities.
The second point mentioned above shows that Japanese education had successfully met the needs of industries which had developed on the bases founded in an earlier period.
The first point stated above indicates that the unexpectedly rapid revival from the socio-economic collapses following World War , and the following prosperity in Japan resulted largely from the accumulated efforts of pre-War education.
Thus far, the high evaluation of the role of education in achieving economic development in this country should be attributed to the effort of the people who had restricted consumption and invested the money thus saved in education. That the rate of educational expenditures to national income in Japan was among the highest in the world substantiates this statement.
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