Amid the globalization of Japanese business activities, there is a growing and urgent need for global talents who can take leadership roles in the international business and who can drive innovation not bound by stereo-type notions. Meanwhile, a concern has been voiced over the tendency of young Japanese people to be "inward-looking", as shown in the decreasing number of students studying abroad.
Against this backdrop, Keidanren issued a policy proposal in June 2011 that outlined the qualities and skills of global talents sought by the business community and identified issues that should be tackled by the industry, academia and government. At the same time, Keidanren has proposed three projects under "Keidanren Global-minded Human Resources Development Projects", beginning implementation in fiscal 2012.
Since then, despite a steady progress in the internationalization efforts by Japanese universities, triggered in part by the University of Tokyo's proposal to shift to autumn admissions, a number of challenges still remain unsolved to this day.
Therefore, once again, Keidanren has identified additional measures as well as fields and issues that require educational reform, while taking into account the deliberations at the current government for the development of globally competent personnel.
II. Areas Need Educational Reform
1. Elementary/Secondary Education
First, we propose a drastic upgrade of English education in primary and secondary education. In 2011, Japan ranks 28th out of 30 Asian countries at TOEFL iBT scores, while South Korea ranks 7th, and China ranks 14th. It is necessary to significantly enhance the practical English proficiency of students from the level of elementary and junior high schools. Specifically, it is essential to improve the English skills and teaching capabilities of English teachers, through such efforts as hiring native speakers and mandating a score requirement on the external certification tests for the Japanese applicants at the time of hiring English teachers.
Second, it is necessary to promote the International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum in Japan and increase the number of authorized IB World Schools in the country (MEXT plans to increase the number of IB World Schools from 16 to 200).
Third, it is necessary to review the current 6-3-3 school system and increase the number of integrated elementary and junior high schools as well as integrated junior and senior high schools to conduct distinctive programs, such as educational programs for global citizenship and experience-based/ project based learning under the strong initiatives of local governments and educational institutions.
2. Higher Education
First, it is necessary to introduce an "articulation from high school to university examination" (tentative name) and reform university entrance examination. Implementation of a "articulation from high school to university exam" -- which can be taken multiple times -- would ensure the academic achievement required by students at the time of completing the high school curriculum, and reforming the entrance examination system will ensure comprehensive evaluation of students' motivation, abilities and aptitude. Utilization of the IB diploma and external English language certification tests such as TOEFL should also be considered.
Second, it is necessary to enhance liberal arts education for better training of global citizens. Students in Humanities major are encouraged to take courses in Natural Science, while students in Science and Technology major are encouraged to take courses in Humanities and Social Science.
Third, Japanese universities should further strengthen two-way students exchange and educational collaboration with overseas universities through such measures as promotion of dual degree and joint degree programs. In order to facilitate these efforts, it is necessary to enhance compatibility with academic calendars of overseas countries by introducing an autumn admission system and/or quarter system. Improvement in the English skills and teaching capabilities of university educators is essential as well.
Fourth, it is necessary to encourage students to take a gap year to gain various experiences and widen perspectives.
3. Corporate Initiatives
First, companies need to further diversify hiring activities of new graduates and value their overseas experiences.
Second, companies should enhance the global competencies of Japanese employees by dispatching them for short- and long-term overseas training at an earlier stage.
Third and fourth, companies should create workplace environment / HR policy amenable to international employee's retention and utilization, and enhance global standardization of their human resources and personnel evaluation systems. Positioning of personnel should be carried out from a standpoint of global optimization so that talented individuals can maximize their capabilities.
Fifth, companies should work with graduate schools in Japan and overseas in jointly developing curriculum for recurrent education and executive training.
III. Efforts by Keidanren
In addition to making proposals for universities and the government, Keidanren will enhance, expand and implement the three global talent development projects currently carried out in collaboration with universities and other institutions.