For Japanese companies, faced with a contracting domestic market amid the falling birthrate and aging population, as well as fierce international competition with emerging market economies, it is an urgent task to nurture global talents who can take the lead in achieving innovations or play active roles in global business scenes.
Against this backdrop, in June of 2013, Keidanren published "A Follow-up Proposal for the Development of Global Talents" and therein made a series of recommendations concerning necessary initiatives and educational reforms. Since then, the Government of Japan has been working out specific policies in the field of education, but there remain many issues that still need to be tackled, including reforming the university system and improving the articulation between high school education and university education. Keidanren, therefore, compiled a new set of proposals on educational reforms and projects on which priority should be placed.
Propelling university reforms under the strong leadership of university presidents
First, Keidanren calls for the governance reform at the Japanese higher education institutions. To enable Japanese universities to compete among the ranks of the world's top-level universities, the presidents of Japanese universities must play the leadership role in implementing strategic measures -- such as organizational restructuring as well as compiling and allocating budgets at their educational institutions, reforming the entrance examination system and the academic calendars, and making internationalization efforts -- in ways that maximize the strengths and characteristics of each university. Keidanren proposes that each university voluntarily conduct an overhaul of its own governance and that it reinforce its system for assisting its president and review its selection process of president so that the individual in the top position can exercise leadership.
Secondly, Keidanren proposes that universities thoroughly disclose information and introduce an external evaluation system using objective indicators. Concerning information disclosure, the proposed "University Portrait" system (tentative), a common structure for national, public and private universities to utilize and disclose educational information, is starting from the current fiscal year, but the information subject to disclosure under the system is now limited to that involving educational activities. Keidanren, therefore, proposes that the information subject to disclosure be expanded to include drop-out rates, graduation rates, accreditation, evaluation by the current students, data on globalization and community services, so that students and other stakeholders interested in higher education can access data on the strengths and characteristics of each university on a common website and they can compare universities of their interests.
On evaluation of universities, objective assessment indicators for areas such as education, research, industry-university cooperation and internationalization should be developed. Based on the evaluation of such indicators, Government's subsidies for operating costs at national universities and grants for private universities should be allocated competitively to the universities that receive high evaluations in each area.
Thirdly, Keidanren proposes that the articulation between high school education and university education be improved through measures such as the Advanced Placement Program (APP) and the university entrance examination system be reformed. Concerning university entrance exams, Keidanren requests each university exhibit creativity in implementing entrance exams that place emphasis not only on applicants' knowledge and scores of paper tests, but rather make a comprehensive, multifaceted evaluation on each prospective student in areas including their eagerness and competence, the outcome of their learning while in high school, and diverse experiences outside school. In addition, Keidanren recommends the use of International Baccalaureate (IB) diplomas and the scores of external English certification tests that access students' English skills in four areas (Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking) such as TOEFL, as a part of assessing prospective students through diverse screening methods.
Fourthly, Keidanren requests acceleration of globalization efforts among Japanese universities. Two-way students' exchange, educational collaboration with overseas universities including introduction of double-degree and joint-degree programs, should be promoted further. Changing academic calendar to facilitate student exchange through introduction of autumn admissions or quarter terms should also be encouraged.
Primary and Secondary Education
Guaranteeing quality of high school education and enhancing English and Math/Science education
As for primary and secondary education, first of all, Keidanren proposes the introduction of a system (achievement test) to measure the students' levels of achievement of the minimum-required basic, common learning by the time they finish high school. As the ratio of students going to high schools exceeds 98% in Japan, curriculums at high schools have become diverse and flexible, resulting in less and less required subjects. Given the situation, it is necessary to guarantee the quality of high school education.
Secondly, it is important to enhance science and ICT education. To enhance science education, Keidanren recommends full-time science teachers be placed at elementary schools and further promote giving lessons by the outside professionals who do not have teaching credentials, such as corporate employees, at junior and senior high schools.
Thirdly, in order to implement radical reform of English education, it is necessary to tackle the shortage of capable and highly motivated teachers amid moves to start English lessons early and teaching them higher-level English at elementary schools. Moreover, we also need to secure Assistant Language Teachers (ALTs) with high-level English language capabilities, and develop guidelines for utilizing outside human resources without teaching credentials and private companies.
For Japan, endowed with little natural resources, nurturing global talents is one of the most important growth strategies. Keidanren, in cooperation with universities and other educational institutions, will continue to implement programs and projects to nurture global talents.