Four Basic Policy Directions Set by the Second Basic Plan

When we consider the social situation described in Section I and the educational situation in Section II, it is clear that in the period of the Second Basic Plan, it will be necessary to promote several educational measures to rebuild education and construct a lifelong learning society. The goal is to create a new social model with independence, collaboration, and creativity as core principles, as well as to achieve the Educational Vision for the Next 10 Years laid out in the First Basic Plan.

Given the declining birthrate, aging population, and, as a result, the diminishing productive age population, in order to accomplish sustainable development, Japan needs to develop the skills of each social member to the extent possible, to develop education compatible with further globalization, to construct a system to stop the increase in social disparities, to promote social independence as well as cooperation, and to improve communities through learning.

Based on this, in the term for the Second Basic Plan, necessary measures shall be arranged according to the following four cross-sectional viewpoints at each opportunity.

In addition, in the promotion of such measures, it is paramount to respect the diversification of education, to vertically connect toward the realization of a lifelong learning society, to collaborate and cooperate horizontally in focusing on the role of each sector, and to facilitate collaboration and cooperation between the national and local governments to revitalize education.

Developing social competencies for survival

Students should develop social competencies for survival, which are active abilities for independence and collaboration in the rapidly changing society.

Developing human resources for a brighter future

The nation should develop human resources for a brighter future, who can initiate and accomplish changes, seek innovation, create new values, and lead their respective fields in the global society.

Building safety nets for learning

It is said that the current society has issues related to financial difficulties (e.g., social inequality). As a solution, we can develop safety nets for learning, which allow students access safe, secure, and adequate learning opportunities. This will ensure their social participation and independence, which are basic requirements to achieve the two Basic Policy Directions above.

Building bonds and establishing vibrant communities

In order to promote the above measures, it is important, not just to rely on individuals, but also to draw on the cooperative relationships of the whole society (i.e., enrichment of social capital). For this purpose, in an age when the relationships within society have become very thin, we aim to forge bonds and establish vibrant communities so that students can learn from various environments in and outside of school, support each other, solve various problems, and create new values.

1. Developing social competencies for survival : Independence and collaboration in a diversified and rapidly changing society

Power toward independence and collaboration with various people

In order to survive in a society that is changing and globalizing at an unprecedented speed, one needs more than the ability to understand, reproduce, and repeat the information corresponding to needs and provided by mass production, circulation, and consumption—In addition to these, one must have the power to respect the diversification of individuals and society in order to create new values, founded in broad knowledge of cultures and flexible thinking, and also be able to work with others.

In other words, various types of knowledge are produced and circulated in society, and as the current issues are so complex that a single solution cannot be applied to all situations, developing individuals’ subjective and positive power can enable them to continue learning throughout their lives and to apply their knowledge and skills practically in various real life situations, including cooperation with others.

Finally, we should be aware of a particular survey that found Japanese secondary school students have relatively low self-affirmation compared with their counterparts in other countries.(*1)

 *1 Secondary School Student Self-Identification: According to a 2009 survey conducted by the Japan Youth Research Institute, for example, in response to the statement “I feel like a failure,” 65.8% of upper secondary school students in Japan responded “Strongly agree” or “Somewhat agree” (compared to 45.3% in Korea, 21.6% in the U.S., and 12.7% in China). This number was 56.0% for lower secondary school students (41.7% in Korea, 14.2% in the U.S., and 11.1% in China). Japan recorded the highest rate of agreement with the statement among the four countries.

Lessons of the Great East Japan Earthquake

Especially after the Great East Japan Earthquake, among the aforementioned powers, it has become clear that with the power to act flexibly utilizing communication skills, even if people face irregular or unexpected events, or various hardships in their social or professional lives, they can judge the situation properly and subjectively without giving up.

The future of learning

The significance of the power described above and the necessity of education to develop this power in individuals are the subjects of the process to transition Japan to a knowledge-based society and to attain international common sense, represented by the key competencies that have been identified by international OECD leaders. The zest for life and the “ability to explore and tackle issues”(*2) that Japan has been trying to develop also go along the same direction as these skills.

From here on, education should progress, not only through one-way teaching (i.e., lectures) or group lessons, but by utilizing ICT to adopt a new learning method that allows students to do the following: gain basic knowledge and skills through classes that match each individual’s skills and specialties; learn together among other children; and identify and tackle issues by cooperating with people in their neighborhood or in foreign countries to experience various events in order to sufficiently develop a will to live, a will to learn, and intellectual curiosity.
At the same time, considering the present situation, in which teachers are extremely busy and schools face increased social requirements, in order to allow teachers to have enough time for teaching, it is necessary to make school duties more efficient by utilizing ICT and to cope with various people living in and outside the local area.

A standpoint of not just “what to teach” but also “what is gained” is further important, not only for students, but teachers as well.

At the same time, from the viewpoint of the establishment of a sustainable society, there is a call for the promotion of Education for Sustainable Development (ESD)(*3), which seeks to nurture persons who can respect connections and relationships with others. ESD leads to the development of one’s key competencies.

 *2 Various skills and natures suggested until now:

  • Key competency (an internationally approved skill deemed necessary in a diversified and mutually connected world in order to achieve success in life and for a normally functioning society.): the skill to mutually utilize language, knowledge, and technology; the skill to form human relationships with people from various groups; the skill to act autonomously; and the ability to utilize the three skills listed above
  • Zest for life (The Central Council for Education recommended this as a necessary attitude that students are expected to develop in elementary and secondary education, even if society has changed.): basic abilities and skills to discover, learn, consider, and judge issues independently and to act in order to solve problems in a better way; rich humanity in order to control oneself, collaborate with others, and think of others; and the health and physical strength to live vigorously
  • Basic and general abilities (The Central Council for Education recommended these as necessary abilities for social and vocational independence, and smooth linkage into society and employment): They are needed for social and vocational independence, regardless of one’s field or profession. The focus is on obtaining jobs from a realistic, active point of view, using the four skills of “Forming human and social relationships,” "Self-analysis and self-management skill,” “Problem-solving skill,” and “Career-planning skill.”
  • Ability to explore and tackle issues (an ability which should be fostered at the university, as proposed by the University Council): abilities to correspond to changes subjectively, pursue future problems by oneself, and make flexible and synthetic judgments from a broad viewpoint
  • Graduate ability (reference indicator concerning learning outcomes for undergraduates as recommended by the Central Council for Education): understanding knowledge (systematic understanding of the basic knowledge of a special field, knowledge of other fields, and knowledge of the culture, society, and nature); a comprehensive learning experience and creative inclination (the skill to comprehensively utilize the gained knowledge, techniques, and attitudes to solve issues); general skills (communication skills, quantitative skills, information literacy, logical thinking, and problem-solving power); and attitude and intentionality (self-management, teamwork, leadership, a sense of ethics, responsibility as a citizen, lifelong learning)
  • Basic ability to work in society (recommended by the study group concerning the basic ability to work in society): This is classified into 12 elements, including the following three abilities that constitute the basic skills to work with various people in a company and society.
    - power to step forward (action)
    - power to think (thinking)
    - power to work as a member of a team (teamwork)

*3 In order to achieve education to develop persons who shall achieve a sustainable society, the government comprehensively links education and learning related to the fields of international understanding, environment, multicultural symbiosis, human rights, peace, and disaster prevention, etc.
At “The World Summit on Sustainable Development (Johannesburg Summit)” held in 2002, Japan proposed the “Decade of the Education for Sustainable Development” (DESD). At the 57th United Nations General Assemblies in 2002, a resolution to make the decade after 2005 into “UNDESD” was adopted while the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) was designated as lead agency of UNDESD.

Fostering sociality and normative consciousness

We hold that no school children should commit suicide due to bullying. We must instill a rich sense of humanity in children by teaching sociality, normative consciousness, respect for life, and consideration for others.

Learning from various environments in and outside of school

Social abilities, volition, will, self-affirming feelings, sociality, and normative consciousness shall be instilled using school education as a foundation, as well as collaboration with various people and contact with heterogeneous situations, values, and cultures, and experience with success and failure. For this reason, it is imperative to establish opportunities and systems that will allow people to have these experiences, in and outside of school, throughout their lives.

Therefore, according to this plan, in order to enable the possibility of such learning activities, the government will comprehensively execute measures to improve educational conditions in every stage of education and raise the level of consciousness throughout the society and educational system. These measures include fostering connections between related departments at each school or schools and different professions, learning contents, and methods of education (e.g., subject field, collaboration type, and interactive learning). In addition, the measures will address the condition of human resources (e.g., professional quality improvement, ensuring teacher quality, and cooperation with external human resources), material conditions (e.g., facilities and equipment needed for new learning), and management (e.g., school management that spearheads creativity in the educational scene, such as through participation and collaboration in the community; educational administration; and construction of a system to guarantee educational quality).

Abilities to be gained by the end of elementary and secondary education and measures for these abilities

Zest for life, which the new Course of Study aims for, shall be the basis of lifelong learning and commonality for all people.(*4) Meanwhile, as explained previously, there are various issues to consider in cultivating it. In preschool, compulsory (elementary and lower secondary), and upper secondary school education, the government aims to develop in all children a definite zest for life by promoting collaboration and cooperation among schools, families, and communities and by completing the PDCA cycle in order to examine and improve educational contents and methods, educational environments, and the educational system, based on objective data.

The enrollment rate in upper secondary education has grown to 98%. Thus, the educational institutes at this level of education are for all. The government will promote quality assurance by improving upper secondary education to correspond to each student’s ability, aptitude, and courses as well as by reviewing the system that allows students to properly confirm their achievement level by themselves. In addition, through practical vocational education, etc., the government will support measures to guarantee and improve the quality of education specifically at upper secondary specialized training colleges, which shall support various young people’s independence.

 *4 Zest for Life in the new Course of Study includes the following skills and abilities: basic knowledge and skills; ability to think, make decisions, and express oneself to solve problems utilizing one’s knowledge and skills; the concrete educational outcomes of solid academic abilities, richness in humanity, and a sound body, all of which require a subjective attitude toward learning as an important factor.
The new Course of Study has been implemented since 2010 at elementary schools and since 2011 at lower secondary schools.

Abilities students should gain prior to graduation from the higher education stage and the plan

Concerning higher education, various trials for improvement have been conducted; however, not all universities have produced sufficient results to satisfy students’ and the general population’s expectations concerning the changing role of schools in contemporary society. Now there are critical evaluations and survey results showing that the time students spend on learning is insufficient; yet dedicating time is necessary for subjective learning.

At the higher education stage, which proves the most difficult to predict, the following objectives are set for students in order to build and maintain their foundation of a zest for life:

  • To discover unsolved issues, then obtain specialized knowledge and general abilities and think in order to arrive at the best solution;
  • To gain the required skills and abilities, supported by intellectual fundamentals, born of high quality and efficient education in conjunction with practical training and experiential activities;
  • To recognize that, in a globalizing industrialized society, English and media literacy are becoming indispensable.

For this purpose, it is necessary to consider the diversified roles and policies of universities. However, we will make efforts to support each university’s independent and active practices for the improvement of educational quality, focusing on substantially increasing and securing quality learning hours and assuring the quality of university education.

Maintaining a flexible learning environment corresponding to various working lives 

When we consider environmental changes in employment and labor and the liquidity of the labor market in recent times, it becomes clear that we must maintain a flexible learning environment where all people can obtain the knowledge and skills they need to improve their abilities, as well as the freedom to select and change jobs throughout their lives.

For this purpose, the government will seek to enrich vocational education in each level of education by positively recognizing the significance of practical vocational education and by clarifying the system, with special attention given to the diversified nature of upper secondary schools, universities, junior colleges, colleges of technology, and specialized training colleges. Furthermore, the government will seek to create smooth pathways to further education or job fields. To do this, it will take measures to create opportunities for people to continuously update or learn new knowledge and skills even after they enter the workforce.

2. Developing human resources for a brighter future : Human resources to initiate and create changes and new values through leadership in various fields in society

Maximum development of diverse individuals’ abilities

For Japan’s continuing growth and development, as well as recovery from the Great East Japan Earthquake, it is necessary to create new social and economic values in accordance with globalization. To achieve these goals, educational environments shall be provided in which diverse individuals can enhance their own abilities and apply them in society.

Basic abilities as social competencies for survival

Basic abilities are essential for daily life in local communities as well as for the leading positions of each field. In other words, they are necessary, not only for those with important roles, but for all individuals. Therefore, it is the government’s first priority to increase the standards for a person’s fundamental abilities by developing social competencies for survival (see Section III-1 for details).

Particular abilities for a globalizing society

In addition, while developing social competencies for survival (by having diverse experiences through relationships with various peoples) in a globalizing society, individuals will also need more important abilities such as the following: creativity and willingness to take on challenges in a brighter future; leadership to govern organizations with quick decisions and strong determination; language (e.g., English) and communication skills for transnational collaborations; cross-cultural understanding; and a Japanese identity.

Developing human resources for a brighter future

This section will describe the goals and specific measures to develop human resources such as the following: individuals who take leading roles for creating changes and new values in society, individuals who are or may become leaders in each field in society, and individuals who are assertive and cooperative with various types of people anywhere in the globalizing world.(*5)

 *5 Ideas shown in other guidelines
Long-term Strategic Guidelines “Innovation 25” (Cabinet decision on June 1, 2007): These guidelines defined “innovation” as “creating new values and great changes in the society by introducing completely different ideas or structures, as well as technological innovations.” They listed the basic five attitudes as follows.

  1. Ambitious goal-setting and challenges for the future
  2. Appropriate measures for globalization and the advancement of information
  3. Taking the viewpoint of ordinary citizens
  4. Changes in diversity and innovations toward a society with abundant potential
  5. Human resource development as the first priority: e.g., encouraging unique talents (“the nail that sticks out”)

The description of (1) mentions the starting point, stating that there have been “seemingly impossible high level goals,” “individuals willing to face challenges but who face barriers to realizing their dreams,” and “individuals with great aspirations.”

Science and Technology Basic Plan (Cabinet decision on August 19, 2011): Responding to the need for strategic development of and support for diverse personnel in science, technology, and innovation from a mid- and long-term standpoint, the Science and Technology Basic Plan states that efforts to cultivate and attract outstanding human resources will be enhanced, from the standpoint of a nationwide commitment to vigorously promote science, technology, and innovation.

Global Human Resource Development Strategy (prepared by the Committee for Promotion of Global Human Resource Development on June 4, 2012): The following three points are listed as requirements for “global human resources.” In reference to the first requirement, it is noted that in the future, language and communication abilities should continue to be developed among the people, to ensure a certain population who are capable of bilateral and multilateral negotiations, which is essential for the nation’s economic and social development within the global community.

  • Language ability, communication ability
  • Autonomy/self-motivated mind, Willingness to take on challenges, Cooperativeness/flexibility, Sense of responsibility/mission
  • Cross-cultural understanding and Japanese identity

Important perceptions for human development

In order to develop the human resources mentioned above, the perceptions or measures indicated below are prioritized:

  • increase opportunities to go abroad and see Japan from different points of view at a younger age;
  • foster environments that enhance superior talents and individuality;
  • foster environments that encourage the fusion of different talents;
  • establish venues for competition among ambitious youths who have diverse backgrounds and various values and are free from the existing frameworks or common preconceptions; and
  • share respect for human rights and social responsibilities as common perceptions.

Specifically, higher education institutions play great roles in developing students’ expertise at higher levels. In cooperation with industries and governments, they are expected to achieve several tasks: encouraging students to study abroad or to share experiences and cooperate with international students; internationalization of universities and colleges, which will provide students with high quality education in graduate school; and preparation for fall admissions.

A review of these measures must take into account the situation and quality of teachers. For example, higher education institutions should consider recruiting talented persons from non-academic fields.

3. Building safety nets for learning : A wide range of learning opportunities accessible to everyone

Education as an essential requirement to play a role in society

In the course of an individual leading a satisfying life or the society achieving equality, fairness, and vibrancy, everyone should receive equal opportunities to develop his/her potential and utilize it in society, regardless of economic or social circumstances.

It is indispensable for stakeholders in schools, households, and communities to communicate with each other and take on their own responsibilities to help individuals contribute to society through attaining essential knowledge and the ability to be independent. Education functions as a safety net for individuals and the entire society. Therefore, considering the following three points, we develop social competencies for survival (see Section III-1) and the “society with security for education” by establishing learning environments that ensure educational opportunities for all who want to access them, regardless of any restrictions on finance, time, or distance. These environments are found within universalized higher education and outside school learning activities, as well as in elementary and secondary education.

Eliminating the reproduction of disparity

It is considered that differences in educational opportunities and academic abilities due to individuals’ finances or family circumstances lead to disparities in both employment and wages. There is a concern that such disparities may be reproduced and become fixed over generations, which will spawn difficulties in maintaining social solidarity. Some have noted that the high burden of education costs is one of the reasons for Japan’s declining birthrate.

To avoid the reproduction and entrenchment of disparities, measures for assisting pre- and school-age children are needed. Financial, educational, and lifestyle-related assistance should be given where appropriate, according to one’s family circumstance or academic ability.

Meticulous measures for students with various difficulties

In addition to needs for learning assistance (e.g., for victims of the Great East Japan Earthquake), there are educational needs among increasing populations of people who have various difficulties or problems due to changes in the nation’s economy or employment environment: people in need, non-attending students, dropouts who need second chances, part-time workers, the unemployed (including youth), business people who want to brush up their skills, and retired senior citizens who feel as though they have lost their purpose in life. To meet their needs, it is necessary to promote meticulous measures to ensure learning opportunities and educational achievement.

Safe, secure, and high quality educational environment

We will ensure children’s safety and security against natural disasters (e.g., earthquakes and tsunamis) and risks of hazardous incidents or accidents. Schools serve as the primary emergency evacuation facilities in their local communities; therefore, the government will promote strengthening the earthquake resistance of school facilities and reinforcing their disaster protection function (including earthquake resistance measures for nonstructural members), as well as countermeasures against deterioration. Also, safety education to encourage independent attitudes and actions for emergency is encouraged, as is greater collaboration among communities, families, and relevant organizations.

Along with measures for disaster prevention, other steps are to be taken to develop better educational environments: providing adequate school facilities corresponding to various educational activities, promotion of eco-schools, promotion of barrier-free environments, ICT in schools, and enrichment of school libraries, including teaching materials.

4. Building bonds and establishing vibrant communities : A virtuous circle where society nurtures people and people create society

Importance of bonds and support among people

A sustainable and vibrant society is realized through various individuals’ social bonds and support (social capital) in communities, as well as the abilities of each person. Having relationships with diverse people cultivates an individual’s social skills and helps him/her understand different ideas. The social support that results from people’s social bonds strengthens the society. In the areas affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake, some of the communities where evacuation centers operate smoothly exhibit good collaboration between schools and residents. This demonstrates the importance of maintaining good relationships, bonds, and support among people in the community. For that reason, the creation of communities where there is collaboration and mutual support among residents and schools should be strongly promoted through learning opportunities.
The situations of local communities seem to vary by area, for example, urban versus rural. Thus, measures must be taken with a sufficient consideration of local situations.

The importance of each community solving local problems by itself

When local communities solve their own problems, it is important for all the members in the community, including both the working generation and older, retired generation, to collaborate with each other based on the principle of “support and cooperation” to address the task.

In the super-aging society we are facing, retired persons in particular have essential roles in their second life stage to voluntarily contribute to the community by utilizing their life experiences, knowledge, and skills in order to foster the next generation and solve local issues.

Now that diverse forms of family and lifestyles are increasing, more people who have become socially isolated experience difficulty accessing assistance and education in their neighborhoods. Therefore, there are growing calls for the materialization of a society in which people have relationships with many individuals in different positions and from different generations and backgrounds. The hope is that these communal bonds and the resulting systems will, among other things, provide households with assistance for childcare.

System for a virtuous circle where society nurtures people and people create society

Focusing on the above points, we aim to establish a system for a virtuous circle in which society nurtures people and people create society through learning activities.

Namely, we need to understand that local communities, with diverse individuals in different positions and different generations, are the fundamental platform for education. In addition, the community’s educational attitudes make it more vibrant and serve as a source of abilities to appropriately solve its own problems. In this sense, schools and citizens’ public halls must play important roles as the centers for community activities. We maintain the following policies:

  • We develop networks for various individuals and build bounds among participating people of various backgrounds (e.g., parents and local residents) and learning, based on regarding schools and citizens' public halls as centers for the local community. We also rebuild social education public administration from this perspective.
  • Residents in the community are provided with opportunities to learn together about the problems in our modern society, and also with chances to utilize their knowledge in their lives. The aim is to cultivate the “strength to survive in society,” which cannot be accomplished by formal education alone, and develop human resources responsible for bettering their own communities.

Considerations for various forms of communities

It is important for people in local communities to have a communicative relationship with NPOs, companies, and universities/colleges outside the area, not only their local community organizations. A deeper relationship among people of various backgrounds both in and outside the community may facilitate collaboration that results in new values.

(Lifelong Learning Policy Bureau, Policy Planning and Coordination Division)