(1) Educational Vision which should be pursued over the next Ten Years

 When considering the significance of education for our future in light of the expected development of the knowledge-based society and intensifying competitions inside and outside the country, we come to the conclusion that the country’s sustainable development can never be achieved without promoting education, and that it is necessary to combine our efforts to materialize “an education-based nation.”

 Based on the above-mentioned understanding, this Basic Plan for the Promotion of Education shows an educational vision which should be pursued over the next ten years to realize the principles of education specified by the revised Basic Act on Education, and the vision can be translated into the following objectives.

1) To cultivate, in all children, the foundations for independence within society by the time they complete compulsory education

 Through early childhood education to the completion of compulsory education, the fundamental strengths of individuals need to be fostered through combined efforts of schools, family and local communities. The fundamental strengths, respectively to be fostered at a target stage of education, include the ability to observe basic lifestyles, sociability, etc. that enable children to live in society independently and lead rich lives. It is also necessary to foster qualities essential to the citizens who make up the country and society.

a) To improve the quality of public education and establish trust

 The aim here is to achieve a world-class level of academic abilities for Japanese people as well as a well-balanced development of intelligence, morals and physical health, all of which make it possible for people to live independently as responsible members of society. It is important to foster such strengths in all children, including those in need of special assistance or those with a non-attendance-at-school problem, in a way suited to respective children’s situations. To this end, the government is promoting the improvement of the content of school education and the quality of learning conditions so that all children throughout the country can be taught by excellent teachers in safe school environments.

b) To make society-wide efforts to raise children

 The educational functions of families need to be improved, as families are the starting point of education for children. To facilitate combined regional efforts to raise children, the educational abilities of local communities will be fostered so as to establish a community-based mechanism for school assistance. Through this mechanism, people’s ties and relationships of trust within regions will be strengthened. We believe that this can contribute to the establishment of stronger, stable social foundations.

2) To develop human resources capable of supporting and developing our society and leading the international society

 It is necessary to raise the quality of school education after the compulsory education stage, form world-class education and research centers, and promote the internationalization of universities, which would contribute to the improvement of Japan’s competitive strengths in the world. It is also important to ensure that all people who desire to learn can obtain learning opportunities at any time in their lives in a way suited to their individual character or ability.

a) To guarantee the quality of education at high schools and universities

 In terms of high schools, it is necessary to promote measures for multifaceted and objective assessment of the learning achievements of students, while taking into consideration the diversifying conditions surrounding students. Also, assessment results need to be effectively utilized to improve teaching abilities in schools. Through those efforts, the quality of high school education will be guaranteed and improved. At the same time, it is important to guide students’ decisions to either go on to a higher level of education or seek employment, so as to foster the basic qualities necessary for becoming a promising member of society.

 It is necessary to bring up well-educated people with expertise in various fields, whose strengths embody the qualities and abilities necessary to support and develop society. From this aspect, the government encourages universities to develop their unique characteristics and features and promote education and research activities according to their respective functions. Also, institutional development should be promoted to guarantee and improve the quality of education at universities.

 At the same time, it is necessary to ensure that anyone who desires or needs to learn will have opportunities to learn throughout his or her life.

b) To develop human resources who are capable of contributing to the creation of “intelligence.” To this end, world-class education and research centers need to be formed intensively and internationalization of universities need to be promoted.

 Human resources capable of contributing to the creation, succession and development of “intelligence” need to be developed. To this end, it is important to intensively form education and research centers that are internationally competitive and can boast the collective wisdom of specialists. At the same time, the improvement of academic and research levels of universities need to be promoted.

 The government is promoting its “300,000 Foreign Students Plan” in an effort to facilitate internationalization of universities through enhanced exchanges of excellent Japanese and foreign students.

 Compulsory education is meant to foster the fundamental strengths of individuals as citizens. Introducing adequate education from early childhood is expected to increase the effects, since fundamental abilities and a sense of responsibility could be fostered earlier, which we believe would better contribute to social stability and development into the future. Also, education after the compulsory education stage, particularly higher education, is the driving force of social vitality in the knowledge-based society, and should help build foundations for social development into the future. Each of those education stages should fully function so that lifelong learning will be realized in our society.

(2) Desirable Direction of Investments in Education

 In order to materialize the above-mentioned vision in ten years, it is necessary to encourage relevant parties to enhance their efforts and also improve diverse conditions that support those parties’ activities in education.

 Some point out that the Japanese government’s expenditures on education today are lower than those of other advanced-education countries. For instance, the ratio of public expenditures on education to GDP is 3.5% in Japan, while the ratio is 5.0% on average for OECD member countries. Also, a financial burden on household budgets is quite heavy in Japan especially during the pre-school period and at the higher education stage as well. Although such analysis has yet to be fully reviewed for a complete grasp of the situations by taking into account detailed data, such as the ratio of schoolchildren to the entire population, general government outlay, the ratio of taxes and social security premiums to gross national income and the GDP scale, it is definitely clear that the government needs to respond to the voice of the people concerning various education issues and implement necessary measures.

 Based on an understanding of the great significance of early childhood education, in terms of financial aspects by school stage, some foreign countries have been struggling in introducing free-of-charge education programs for preschool children in recent years. Concerning introduction of such gratuitous early childhood education program, it is necessary to comprehensively investigate into the matters of revenue sources, institution and others, coherently with governmental revenue reform.

 For primary and secondary education stages above the elementary school period, budgets need to be put into measures to improve the quality of education in particular, to allow schools to address diverse issues while setting the environment for teachers to pay one-on-one attention to individual children.

 For higher education involving high schools, the goal is to secure learning opportunities for all people regardless of their family’s financial conditions. At the higher education stage, it is especially important to maintain and improve the level of educational and research strengths of schools and secure their international competitiveness, in view of the global trend of intensified intellectual competition, where countries all over the world make intense investments in their universities to attract excellent faculty.

 In addition, it is also important to establish situations where everyone can learn with safety and security; by improving earthquake resistance of schools and other educational facilities.

 We should be aware of the fact that determination on the scale of public investments in education to be drawn from national budgets is an important political decision of the national government. Especially for Japan, which suffers insufficient natural resources within the country, investments in human resources, or education, are among the high priority political issues. Therefore it is important to seek high-level education in a way that surpasses the levels of Europe and the United States, based on the understanding that public expenditures on education are an important investment that would make it possible for individual people and the society to grow into the future.

 With the above understanding in mind, we need to ensure sufficient investments in education by securing financial sources for necessary budgets, for the purpose of realizing the aforementioned vision of education, while referring to overseas efforts including those of other OECD member countries and their national budgets for education.

 It is important to promote integrated reforms of expenditures and revenues and ensure consistency, and every investment plan is supposed to be proven indispensable.

 At the same time, in the field of higher education, investments should be directed toward a realization of world-class educational and research performance. Also, institutional development should be promoted, including tax privileges to allow research institutes to resort to financial contributions or funds from companies for contract research projects jointly implemented between universities and companies, since those funds play an important part in promoting education.

(Office for the Promotion of Educational Reform, Policy Planning and Coordination Division, Lifelong Learning Policy Bureau)