(Original in Japanese)

Keidanren Proposes on

Developing Japan's Creative Human Resources

- An Action Agenda for Reform in Education and Corporate Conduct -

March 26, 1996



The economic system that sustained the nation's development until now, characterized by the "catch-up and pass" mentality and dependent on "government-private sector cooperation", has come to a complete dead end. Today Japan is on the threshold of a period of major change. When we look towards the approaching 21st century, it is clear that the nation must create a humanistic society that generates abundant economic vitality, which can be realized through comprehensive deregulation.
In order to realize this ideal society, Japan will need a creative work force to work vigorously in all fields of society -- so the development of "creative human resources" is a matter of great urgency. In order to develop creative individuals, we must implement comprehensive reforms in the areas of education, corporate behavior, and institutional customs and practices that are now preventing individuals from manifesting their creativity.
On the basis of this belief, Keidanren established the Ad-Hoc Committee on Nurturing Creative Human Resources in February 1995, with the participation of a panel of advisors from the education community and a variety of other fields. The Ad-Hoc Committee, chaired by Keidanren's Vice Chairman Ken-ichi SUEMATSU (Chairman of the Sakura Bank, Ltd.), has now compiled its report, after conducting a comprehensive survey of different approaches to developing creative human resources, including: the role of schools from primary to undergraduate education, necessary reforms in human resources management and the role of the family and community in education.
Initiatives in industry-led corporate reforms are also advocated which will allow the corporate community to facilitate the creation of an environment conducive to the development of creative human resources.
We hope that these proposals will serve to accelerate the pace with which educational reform is instituted throughout the nation.

Five Proposals and Seven Action Agenda for Development of Creative Human Resources

In postwar Japan, education and human resource development was concentrated on producing employees who could fulfill the goal of "catch-up and pass" -- that is, who could assist in Japan's economic recovery and permit it to out-perform Europe and the United States.
During this period, the emphasis in education was quite naturally focused on national economic success.
The individuals that the educational system produced to attain this goal were people who were highly educated and who would dedicate their loyalty and cooperation to the corporation in which they were employed.
It can be said that, in general, the focus of education was placed on retaining a great deal of factual knowledge for solving given problems. Students were encouraged to conform and not stand out conspicuously in a given discipline, while they were expected to maintain good grades across the board.
Under the current educational system, which has succeeded in raising the nation's average educational level, unless a child is able to maintain a certain average, his/her potential will never be realized even if he/she possesses superior ability in a certain field.
The key failing of education today is the fact that students are taught to learn the methodology of solving problems as a form of knowledge that must be memorized. No importance is placed on development of skills that are indispensable for nurturing creativity, such as the ability to "analyze without haste", "develop alternative approaches", "redefine the goal". As a consequence, there has been a general increase in the number of individuals who are lacking in key skills that enable them to set personal goals, define and solve problems throughout their lives. At the same time, our society has fallen into a state in which it is unable to define a national vision which enable them to nurture creativity, will be able to bring out their students full potential and help them to become the creative individuals of the future that will "carry the next generation on their shoulders".
Japanese society will need a work force consisting of creative individuals who act independently and possess a strong sense of individual responsibility. In order to develop such human resources, it will be necessary to create a system that evaluates people with "comprehensive perspective selections system" and offer "multiple track" advancement routes, allowing everyone to choose the kind of education and course of study and career, tailored to the realization of their own personal goals and allows them to fulfill their potential.
It is from this standpoint, with the purpose of developing creative human resources, that Keidanren offers the following proposals. This agenda for action is presented in the hope that substantial progress will be made in the reform of our education system and that the corporate community will initiate necessary internal reforms critical to the future of the country.

Five Proposals for Educational Reform Within the Home, School and Community

  1. Advocate Deregulation on the Education System
  2. Creative individuals cannot readily be nurtured by a uniformly standardized education. Educational institutions must compete among themselves and should attempt to use its particular strengths and distinctive characteristics to provide an education that reveals the individuality and personality of each student and to improve the overall quality of education. In promoting internal reforms, it is necessary for educational institutions to implement many forms of deregulation, such as making curricula and school choice more flexible.

  3. Promote Educational System that Brings Diversity of Educational Goals
  4. To enable students and their families to choose the school that is in keeping with the student's ambitions and abilities, we must abandon the current structure. The conventional pyramid structure of ranking schools must be replaced with a multi-summit-structure educational system characterized by a diversity of educational goals and opportunities with a variety of advancement route, entrance and intermission possibilities, to be realized at a large number of excellent schools. Educational institutions must promote diversity and individuality through the reform of their curricula. Furthermore, transfer quota and the interchangeable unit system used in universities must be expanded in order to widen the field of schools to which students will want to advance.

  5. Comprehensive Evaluations on University Entrance Examinations Requested
  6. Japan's "examination war", which can be regarded as the key factor promoting the pyramid structure of educational institutions which distorts education, must be reformed. The current university entrance examination format, which evaluates the volume of knowledge by means of points, must be replaced by an examination which includes evaluation of a student's scholarship, cognitive ability, interests and basic potential. The examination given by the University Entrance Examination Center must be reformed into an aptitude test and should test only the student's basic scholarship while each individual university's exam should creatively consist of essay writing and an interview.
    Efforts should also be made to upgrade the quality of courses by compilation of a syllabus and adoption of a student evaluation system for courses.

  7. Education Must Emphasize Creative Thinking and Experience
  8. Children should be taught to act independently, setting their own goals and tasks, through lessons that place value on creative thinking and experience. New emphasis should be placed on teaching English and other foreign languages as well as computers, since these subjects are essential to literacy in the next century. Educational flexibility should be achieved through integration of junior and senior high-school education. To encourage the development of creative individuals who can become world leaders, a system which identifies superior potential and ability at an early age should be instituted and alternative systems such as "grade-skipping" should be tried.

  9. Restore Home and Community-Based Education
  10. Families and communities should not leave the responsibility of education to the schools alone. They must contribute to the education of their children in whatever way they possibly can and they must form community networks to share information on education. Families must realize anew the importance of their roles as educators and teach children the basic social skills they may not learn in school. At the same time, families should advise children on choosing their educational future in accordance with their potential and abilities and should foster their children's interest in the world and society around them. Fathers, in particular, who often have had broad experience in society due to their careers, should play an active role in their children's home education.

Seven Action Agenda for the Corporate Community

  1. Promote Open Recruiting: Do Not Ask Candidates Which School They Attended
  2. An inordinate amount of importance is placed on which school a candidate graduates from, due to the recruiting method followed by most corporations. Firms should abandon this method of recruiting by not asking the name of the school that the candidate attended, demonstrating through their action that they are not prejudiced. This change would be brought smoothly by expanding the open entry system and down-scaling the recruitment system currently used. As part of this reform effort, each corporation should indicate the kind of employees they are seeking, by recruiting for specific job classifications and by giving greater attention to evaluating individual skills categories such as "subjects studied in school", "individual's perception of problems", "personality", etc.

  3. Abolish the Company Entrance Ceremony: Move to Year-round Recruiting
  4. Corporations should make every effort to employ a diverse work force by increasing employment opportunities for candidates who have studied abroad and for people with prior work experience. This can be accomplished by adopting a system of year-round recruiting and of autumn recruiting, which will facilitate more careful recruiting and allow more time for evaluation of candidates than is possible under the conventional method of recruiting all new employees at one time.

  5. Expand Employment Opportunities for Experienced Personnel: Do Not Only Recruit Fresh Graduates
  6. An organization's creativity and vitality is generated by employees who possess a variety of abilities and skills. Many firms are already recruiting people who have had experience in other firms to fulfill their human resource requirements. This practice should be expanded by maintaining a policy of hiring experienced employees throughout the year and sharply increasing the percentage of experienced personnel hired from other firms.
    If this approach leads to the expansion of the labor market for experienced employees, the current thinking that one must join a company immediately upon graduation will dissipate and the existing excessive competition in the school days will probably be eased.

  7. Adopt a Flexible System of Evaluation and Reward: Assessing an Employees' Full Potential
  8. A flexible system of evaluation and management should be adopted so that individuals will be able to use their capabilities fully after joining a company. Employees should have expanded opportunities to choose their jobs and the career path they want to follow, so they will be able to use their full potential. This should be accomplished through innovations such as instituting a system for open in-house recruiting to provide ambitious employees with a path to greater accomplishment, as well as adoption of a special career path for providing greater opportunity to individuals with sophisticated expertise.

  9. Keidanren Will Build an Education Support Network
  10. Keidanren will encourage its members to increase their support for education in both the schools and communities in which they are located, through having employees serve as guest lecturers in the schools, providing training to teachers at corporate offices, and opening corporate facilities for visits and use by teachers and students. Keidanren will establish an "Education Support Network" for the purpose of gathering information relating to these support activities and disseminating it over the Internet and paper publication for use by the global education community.

  11. Keidanren Will Support Education Activities: Overseas Teacher Training
  12. With the goal of developing creative human resources, Keidanren will establish a mechanism to support education through programmatic and financial initiatives. In the past, Keidanren has provided assistance to graduate and high school students for overseas study and has provided scholarships to foreign students for study in Japan. These programs will be expanded and new projects will be launched simultaneously. If we are to facilitate the development of creative children it is essential that we first enhance the creativity of their teachers. Therefore, Keidanren is considering undertaking a project to send Japanese teachers abroad to study first hand how other nations approach the educational challenges of teaching students to be creative individuals and to deepen their understanding of the need for creative human resources in our society.

  13. Establish a "Follow-up Committee"
  14. In addition to building an education support network and establishing support programs, Keidanren will vigorously follow-up on these efforts to ensure effective implementation of its proposals. Keidanren will encourage all parties concerned to undertake the necessary steps to realize the proposed reforms and deregulation measures, and will also consider additional initiatives. Regarding the proposals on corporate reform of recruiting and human resource management, a progress report will be compiled on the corporate community's response to the issues, based in part on a survey that Keidanren will undertake. The report will be released to the public and will hopefully serve as an effective tool for students in choosing the jobs and companies they wish to pursue. In terms of the corporate community, the survey will serve as an incentive for firms to take actions to develop a creative work force for the future.
    Keidanren also intends to exchange views on education with a variety of counterparts including politicians, educators, labor organizations, and economic organizations around the globe.

Home Page in English