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Report to the Prime Minister

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Following are excerpts from the recommendations of a seven-member panel, the Conference on Culture and Education, appointed by Prime Minister Nakasone in June 1983 to examine problems in schooling. The panel, chaired by Masaru Ibuka, founder of Sony Corporation, released its findings last March. Panel members included: Isao Amagi, director general, National Center for New Media in Education; Tadao Ishikawa, president of Keio University; Kenji Suzuki, chief announcer, Japan Broadcasting Corporation; Ayako Sono, author; Michitaro Tanaka, professor emeritus of Kyoto University; and Shichiehei Yamamoto, critic and president of Yamamoto Shoten Publishers.

Basic Viewpoint

  • ... We must go back to the essential mission of education and aim at fostering persons capable of coping flexibly and independently with the future society, which is expected to undergo a drastic transformation, while striving for the selective inheritance of Japanese culture and its creative development. It is thus necessary to assume a basic stance of carefully restructuring the education system in a long-term perspective.
  • Moral character and life customs ... are necessary for individuals, as social beings, to live a smooth social life with others ...
  • It is imperative to rectify the evils of education that puts excessive emphasis on ... the mere cramming of established knowledge, and to promote intellectual education designed to have children learn the basics of knowledge, nurture their ability to discover and settle problems, and enhance their creativity. Moreover, they should be led to possess the vigor for study, learn the pleasure of study, and acquire the attitude and methods of self-study.
  • With the advent of an aging society, it is necessary to promote the health and physical strength that will constitute the basis of human activities through a lifetime ... [There is a] need to have children experience a spiritual uplift through physical activity.
  • There is a complaint about spiritual poorness amid material affluence. In order to foster a rich humanity and cultural sense, efforts should be made to nurture sensitivity further through art [and related activities] as well as through intelligence.
  • Education is not limited to school education, nor to childhood and youth. The significance, role, and limits of school education should be re-confirmed in the context of lifelong learning, starting from the time of birth, and the educational roles of the home, society, and work places should be livened up. At the same time, it is necessary to aim at a learning society capable of creating social institutions and practices that will enable and promote lifelong learning.


Early-Childhood Education

... special emphasis should be placed on discipline as the foundation of self-control ... [on the] fostering of voluntary life habits, and [on the] enrichment of sensitivity through affection and trust. Parents should be [given] a clear-cut consciousness regarding these matters, and the educational role of the home should be enlivened. ... Cooperation and solidarity in the regional community [and] in the neighborhood are strongly called for. ...

... Research on human development from the prenatal stage, which has just started, should be promoted ... [and] its results [used widely] in educational activities, especially education of parents.

... Due to the increase in single children families and working mothers, there is a need to ensure coordination between the functions of kindergartens and those of day nurseries. ...

Compulsory Education

... Intellectual, moral, and physical education should be conducted thoroughly from the basics, while efforts should be made for the careful selection of educational contents and the improvement of methods of guidance.

In order to prevent "dropping out," guidance should be provided by finding children's first stumbling blocks and enabling them to overcome them. ...

Up to the middle of the elementary-school life, children should be led to do their own affairs on their own. In the remaining period, they should be guided so that they can voluntarily do various things for others.

In addition to the education on subjects, efforts should be made to enrich children's lives in general at their schools. ... They should be encouraged to take positive parts in youth-group activities, social-service activities [and the like] outside schools, in order to promote their study through experience in solidarity, labor, service. ...

Secondary Education

Secondary education covers the period ... when the foundation of the individual is formed, the growth period when one's ability, interest, and aptitude become gradually diversified and ... the will to study voluntarily throughout life [must be nurtured]. ... Yet this is the very point of criticism today. ...

... The need is recognized both theoretically and practically to diversify and make flexible education during this period ... However, such reform has been hindered by a general tendency to aim at famous universities ... and by the demands for equality and uniformity. ... Opinions may be divided over various points, such as diversification of the standards and methods of entrance examinations and a higher degree of continuity in lower and upper secondary education ... but it is necessary to take measures, including a review of the school system.

... [There is a need] to conduct a thorough examination [of the course content in] Japanese language, mathematics including geometry, and foreign languages. ...

Higher Education

... A system of mutual recognition of credits between diversified institutions of higher education [should be established] ...

Universities should give strict education to students, rather than carry out strict entrance examinations, so that students eligible for graduation will be rigidly selected. Foreign teachers and students in Japan have pointed out that the Japanese university education is lacking in severity.

... Japan's university education is marked by an ambiguous character of general education and incompleteness of specialized education. The idea of general education at universities should be restrucin light of the new needs of the times, and the existing distinction between general and specialized education should be abolished ... integrating these two types of education in keeping with the aims and purposes of the respective universities and faculties.

... In light of the need to elevate the standard of academic research, foster researchers, and bring up persons qualified to assume highly professional jobs or play active international roles, urgent efforts should be exerted for qualitative improvement of universities and graduate schools, giving consideration to the high ratio of private institutions.

Assessment of Persons

... Deep-rooted trends and practices concerning human assessment at the time of employment and school admission currently constitute the biggest impediment to the reform of the education system...It is self-evident that multilateral assessment standards and formulas are needed to evaluate the diverse abilities and aptitudes of human beings. ...


... Teachers are not mere workers. ... Among opinions [the panel] received from the general public, those which ranked first in number expressed ... dissatisfaction with the current situation.

... To obtain qualified personnel for teaching, it is imperative not only to improve the training system and qualifications, but also to introduce an "internship" system for a certain period before acceptance as full teachers.

It is desirable for many full-fledged members of society to be accepted into teaching. ... To that end, it is demanded to improve and expand training facilities. Moreover, consideration should be given to improving working conditions, enabling teachers to devote themselves to education.


At a time when interdependence and interrelations between countries are becoming ever closer, ... it will become increasingly important to widen the nation's attention to both the domestic and international scenes. ... Redoubled efforts by schools, society, and the government are needed in regard to exchanges with foreign youths both ..., acceptance of foreign students into Japan, proper evaluation of Japanese children's study and experience abroad, active use of foreign teachers, the study of foreign languages, the teaching of Japanese to foreigners [and other measures].

The Educational System

... We must no longer avoid the diversification and flexible operation of the school education system ... to meet the various expectations of the people and the diversified needs of society, [even if this must include the] reorganization of the school system [to] leave room for choice to those who want it.

Next week, in part two of Schooling in Japan, a closer look at Japanese high schools, their students, and the phenomenon called "examination hell."

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