[ Nippon Keidanren ] [ Journal ]
Messages from "Economic Trend", March 2008

Fostering the Next Generation of Japan's Science and Technology Leaders

Vice Chairman of the Board of Councillors, Nippon Keidanren
President and Electronics CEO, Sony Corporation

In December of last year, the OECD published the results of its Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) targeting 15 year olds in 57 member countries and regions. The ranking of Japanese high school students declined in all competencies compared to the previous PISA assessment in 2003, including a ranking of 6th in "using scientific evidence" (compared to 2nd in 2003). Of particular concern is the waning of interest in science, with a mere 8% of Japanese students stating that they "expect to pursue a science-related career" compared to the OECD country average of 25%. As a nation which prides itself on being a world leader in science and technology, Japan must sit up and take notice of these results.

In 1946, one of Sony's founders Masaru Ibuka stated in the company's Founding Prospectus their aims "to establish an ideal factory that stresses a spirit of freedom and open-mindedness" and "to promote the education of science among the general public". Then in 1959, the company established the "Sony Fund for the Promotion of Science Education" under the notion that science education in elementary and junior high schools is of paramount importance for ensuring that Japanese children, who underpin the future of Japan's development, possess a healthy interest in science. This education support project continues to this day. To Japan, devastated by the war and lacking in resources, the goal of nation building with a focus on both science and technology also represented a hope to regain its strength and standing among international society.

Today the issue of bolstering Japan's international competitiveness has become a pressing one, as the advance of the global economy and emergence of new nations causes a shift in the economic tide and Japan tries to come to grips with its own declining birthrate and aging population. Japan needs to remind itself that scientific capabilities and technological strength lie at the core of its competitive prowess in the 21st century and that the education of its young talent, who will shoulder the weight of this challenge, is now more important than ever before. We also need to devote ourselves as a society to fostering children capable of understanding science and developing their curiosity and creativity so that they may experience the happiness and sense of accomplishment that comes from creating something new.

In order to achieve these aims, it is essential for corporations to take an interest in the state of Japan's education and make the development of the next generation their social responsibility by becoming actively involved in the long-term enhancement of education. Providing children with opportunities where they can experience science and technology firsthand, for instance, is an effective way of allowing them to learn just how interesting science, technology and making things can be. Granted, a number of companies already offer such opportunities but we believe that further coordination on an industry-wide scale would prove beneficial in nurturing the talented individuals who will sustain Japan's future.

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