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Yoshiaki Takaki - Minister of Education

Education in a New Era

By Minister Yoshiaki Takaki

First, I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to everyone around the world who graciously sent us their sympathies and aid following the Tohoku–Pacific Ocean earthquake that struck Japan on March 11. The event devastated the Tohoku region.

Nevertheless, at the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), we intend to secure the safety of children, students and researchers, and dedicate our efforts to preventing secondary disasters while mobilizing all our resources to realize reconstruction, recovery, and the creation of new horizons.
We hope that foreign researchers and students give due consideration to accurate information on current circumstances and return to their activities in Japan, as educational and research activities are now operating as normal at Tohoku University and other higher education institutions in disaster stricken areas.

In this second decade of the 21st century, economic and societal globalization has continued its unfettered acceleration. Amid this milieu, Prime Minister Naoto Kan unveiled his government’s new program, Heisei no Kaikoku (sometimes translated as “The Heisei Era’s Second Opening”), which features several innovative solutions to various issues, unprecedented changes, and new values faced by the world community.

Aside from addressing globalization, the program prioritizes the development of a new generation of pioneers and a highly connected network of information- based societies. I believe the Japanese people must develop a refined sense of cosmopolitanism, with powers of expression that they can utilize on the world stage confidently, articulating their principles and beliefs clearly.

MEXT intends to achieve this objective by enhancing foreign language education.

In April, it introduced foreign language education in elementary schools, to cultivate communication ability throughout the elementary, junior high and high school education process.

Also, MEXT supports the project to send young Japanese English language teachers to the United States, as well as high school students who aspire to study abroad.

Additionally, it is important for Japanese universities and graduate schools to attract overseas students if we are to cultivate globally minded people in an environment rich with internationally orientated human interaction. To this end, we will promote high quality international student exchange programs, backed by quality assurances from each university.

Furthermore, MEXT shall promote, in conjunction with American universities, cooperative and collaborative education, joint degrees, two-way student exchanges, strategic dispatch of young researchers overseas, and the active recruitment of foreign researchers.

The ministry plans to institute new measures to further develop outstanding personnel, from the primary and secondary levels to the higher education level.
We are currently reorganizing the education system to have as a social safety net, so that all students who show initiative and talent, regardless of financial ability, are guaranteed opportunities for education.

I believe that Japan possesses tremendous potential as we head further into the 21st century. No other country of similar scale has achieved a ranking on par with Japan on the OECD’s Program for International Student Assessment or PISA survey.

The high standard of research conducted in Japan has been evident in recent years given the numerous Japanese Nobel Prize awardees, making the country an attractive destination for foreign researchers.

The objective of education to cultivate “humanity and wisdom” endows Japan with the means to resolve the numerous problems that it currently faces, and will ultimately lead to meaningful contributions to the whole international community.

Japan is an attractive country that embodies friendship, faith, and trust. I hope that foreign students and researchers will enjoy these aspects to the full during their stay in the country.

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Japan 2011 was prepared for and originally printed in Foreign Affairs magazine.

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