Education in Japan to Favor Business Skills

Japan is rethinking its higher education programs, forgoing liberal arts subjects in cooperation with a business-first society keen on better-skilled graduates.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s aspiration is to change Japan’s government-sanctioned universities into global frontrunners in scientific exploration or vocational training schools. Abe has called on Japan’s higher educational programs to “redefine their missions” and transform their expected criteria.

The 86 Japanese public universities were instructed by the ministry of education to send their plans to restructure their educational format by the end of June to continue receiving their funds contributed by the government.

In accordance with this decision for adjustment, many of the country’s companies have altered their training programs, counting on universities to train more for business skills. The expectation for young professionals with teamwork, managerial and social abilities is higher than ever in Japan.

This change is inspired by Abe’s decision to rejuvenate the country to become a world leader. The Prime Minister wants universities to include innovative schooling techniques that are more demanding of students for the betterment of the Japanese economy.

Despite Abe’s assurance of this success, many feel as though exempting liberal arts subjects will be detrimental to the experience and value of learning in higher education. This debate started long before Japan’s educational reformation, earning a lasting presence in the United States’ arguments over education. Nevertheless, Japan’s critics are worried about the quality of educational instruction because of the miscommunication between expectations of Japanese employers.

The Dean of Temple University’s Japan campus, Bruce Stronach, said that society needs people who contribute to all aspects of humanity, including social issues.

“That’s why those traditional fields like arts, literature, history and social sciences are also—and will always be—important,” Stronach said.

Despite Stronach’s negative reaction to these changes, not all Japanese educators are displeased with Abe’s declarations.

Katsushi Nishimura, a law professor at Ehime University in Japan, said that students need to learn how to work according to society’s expectations.

“We also need to come out of the ivory tower and listen to the real world,” he said.

According to Nishimura, the university’s funding for the humanities and education departments’ courses will be cut and given to an improved business training plan created by a board of business and academic leaders. Originally, according to Nishimura, the teaching staff was in charge of altering education courses.

In addition, Nishimura said that the new programs will highlight training for local industries such as tourism and fisheries.

Like Nishimura, Japanese educators will likely abide by Abe’s decisions. Education in Japan fueled the country’s rapid economic growth and is one of the driving forces toward the production of high technology.

No doubt, even without liberal arts courses, Japan will continue to be a large contributor to the international economy.

Fallon Lineberger

Sources: Ehime, OECD Observer, The Australian, Wall Street Journal
Photo: GaiginPot