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Administration, Finance, & Educational Research

The Ministry of Education, Science, Sports and Culture (often shortened to Ministry of Education) represents the central educational authority in Japan. It is headed by the minister of education, who is appointed by the prime minister and serves on the prime minister's cabinet. The Ministry oversees many national institutions such as universities, museums, research institutes, and youth centers. It gives assistance to all levels of education throughout the country, especially at the municipal and prefecture level. Following are some of the specific responsibilities of the Ministry:

  1. Plans and coordinates educational projects at all levels
  2. Provides advice upon request from educational units around the country
  3. Gives financial assistance to enhance education
  4. Operates many educational institutions including universities, junior colleges, and technical colleges
  5. Gives final approval for establishing public and private higher education institutions
  6. Promotes lifelong learning throughout the country, because Japan has been making the cultural shift to this sort of system
  7. Requires heads of municipal and prefecture governments to submit reports about their organizations, as deemed necessary
  8. Orders local authorities to make adjustments in policies, procedures, or situations that may be in violation of regulations or laws
  9. Oversees the curricula
  10. Coordinates the selection of textbooks
  11. Controls the programs for the training of teachers
  12. Establishes standards for various types of equipment used in the schools

The Ministry has purview over essentially all educational institutions and serves as a central clearinghouse for proposals that aim to improve the national system of education.

Japan is composed of 47 prefectures. Every prefecture has a board of education that coordinates education in that geographic unit. Each board comprises five members who are appointed by that prefecture's governor, approved by the legislative assembly, and serve for a four-year term. Some of the main responsibilities of the board are as follows:

  1. Manage the wide variety of educational units in the prefecture, from secondary schools and schools for the handicapped to museums and public libraries
  2. Promote events and activities related to physical education and the social education of youth
  3. Provide advice and financial assistance to the mayors and municipal boards within the prefecture
  4. Establish or close down kindergartens, upper secondary schools, special education schools, special training schools, and miscellaneous schools
  5. Issue certificates to teachers

In addition to the board having a wide range of responsibilities, the governors of the prefectures are charged with the following tasks: managing universities and junior colleges in the prefecture, approving the establishment of a variety of schools, and overseeing the drafting of budgets for a variety of educational activities.

Education administration at the municipal level is handled by a municipal board of education. Each board includes five members selected by the mayor of the municipality with the agreement of the elected assembly. Holding office for four years, these board members have the following responsibilities: selecting a municipal superintendent of education from among its own membership, managing a variety of educational institutions in the municipality, promoting cultural activities, and selecting textbooks for elementary and middle schools. Then the municipal mayor has the responsibility to oversee the municipal universities and junior colleges and the process of preparing educational budgets.

Several advisory councils assist the minister of education. The most important is the Central Council for Education, established in 1952 for the purpose of studying possible changes related to education, culture, and the arts and sciences. Composed of up to 20 members appointed by the minister of education, with the approval of the cabinet, the council has taken on a variety of issues—some of them quite controversial—during its tenure. In its first few years its work was primarily related to instituting compulsory education, maintaining the teaching profession as a politically neutral group, and improving the system by which textbooks are compiled. In the 1960s the council issued reports on subjects such as the junior college system, technical and scientific education, and financial aid for students.

In 1984 the Central Council for Education suspended its work and was temporarily replaced by the Provisional Council on Educational Reform, an advisory group installed by the cabinet to address serious issues related to the reform of the entire educational system in Japan. It consisted of 25 members, a strong staff of technical specialists, and a chairman, Okamoto Michio, a well-known figure in Japanese education and the former president of the prestigious Kyoto University. All four major reports completed by the Provisional Council focused on the importance of reinforcing a respect for individuality at all levels of education. The council offered proposals to improve adult and continuing education; create new university admission tests that would apply to national, public, and private universities alike; convert the separate three-year middle school and three-year high school systems into a six-year secondary school system; initiate a more flexible system for high schools whereby students could graduate after completing three years of work and a prescribed number of credits; and improve the training provided to teachers during their first year on the job. In the late 1980s the Ministry of Education began working to put a number of the group's recommendations into practice throughout the country. After the Provisional Council completed its work, the Central Council for Education was reconvened in 1989 and issued several important documents at that time.

In 1995 the Central Council for Education was reorganized by the Ministry of Education and asked to consider the educational challenges ahead for Japan in the twenty-first century. In its first report, issued in July 1996, the council showed that it was willing to take on many of the difficult challenges that would confront Japanese education in the new century. Following are a few of its observations and recommendations:

  1. Advancements in information technology will change the nature of education in the coming years, and Japan must be prepared to incorporate these new technologies into the classroom.
  2. Excessive focus on completion, especially for entrance to many levels of schooling, is a problem that must be addressed because it works against the need to nurture "competencies for positive living"—or balance—in the lives of children of all ages.
  3. The family, schools, and community must do a better job of working together to solve growing problems such as school truancy and bullying within the schools.
  4. The curriculum of schools should be reformed to include less straight memorization and more emphasis on critical thinking and independence of mind.
  5. Schools should supplement the traditional classroom activities with additional programs in sports, volunteer work, nature studies, and other means of developing the full personality of the child.
  6. There should be more emphasis on the importance of the home in the education of children, for example, with the use of new media and with the expansion of networking among groups of parents.
  7. All elementary and secondary schools should begin to make the transition to the five-day school week, and "special attention should be paid to the following needs: the enrichment of children's out-of-school activities; an increase in the educational functions of the home and community; the mitigation of excessive competition for entrance examinations; the securing of some latitude in children's life; and the implementation of the five-day school week for all schools irrespective of different categories: national, local public or private" (Outline of Education in Japan 1997).

As a result of the council's 1996 report and the many other recommendations for reform in the years leading up to and following the report, the Ministry of Education has implemented a number of significant changes in all levels of education. The last few decades have witnessed serious efforts to reform education by the administrative units charged with overseeing the Japanese educational system.

Finances: Three main entities share financial responsibility for supporting public education: the national, prefectural, and municipal governments. Through the use of taxes and other means of acquiring income, each of these units funds a diverse array of educational programs at its level.

At the national level, the Ministry for Education funds two main units: first, the national educational establishments, such as universities; and second, various public and private educational institutions at the prefecture and municipal level. In 1999, the budget for the Ministry of Education was a little over 7 percent of the entire national budget. About half of that amount was related to liability of the cost of compulsory education, about a quarter was devoted to subsidizing national institutions such as universities, and the remainder was devoted to programs such as life-long education. At the level of the local governments, the relative expenditures for education are as follows for a typical year, in this case 1997: 35 percent for elementary schools, 20.8 percent for junior high schools, 18.3 percent for senior high schools, 17.3 percent for social education, and 5.6 percent for education administration.

Special mention should be made about the significant level of financial support provided to private institutions by the national government. The part that private institutions play in Japanese education is huge. In 1995, for example, the following percentages of Japanese students were enrolled in private schools: 74 percent of students in universities and junior colleges, about 30 percent of high school students, and about 80 percent of kindergarten students. Because of this major contribution, and the important research that goes on in many of these organizations, the government provides major subsidies under the provisions of the Private School Promotion Subsidy Law. Assistance is given to private universities, junior colleges, colleges of technology, secondary schools, and elementary schools.

As for scholarship aid, student aid programs are available through many private and public organizations. The primary benefactor is the Japan Scholarship Foundation, a public corporation supported by the national government, by prefectural and municipal governments, and by not-for-profit organizations. The foundation provides students with loans, either with or without interest. The no-interest loans are mainly directed to students attending upper secondary schools, universities, junior colleges, graduate schools, colleges of technology, and special training schools. The loans with interest generally are geared for students in universities, junior colleges, master's degree programs in graduate school, and specialized training schools. These loans do not accrue interest while the students are enrolled. Upon graduating, students begin to repay the loans, which have a relatively low annual interest rate. The heads of educational institutions have authority to choose the students who will receive loans in their respective institutions. In fiscal 1996, about 484,000 students received such loans.

Educational Research: Research on education in Japan is conducted both by government agencies and by private academic societies. The first main unit to support such research was formed in 1949 by the Ministry of Education. Originally called the National Institute for Educational Research, this agency had nine departments and had a wide range of official duties both within and outside the country. In particular, it coordinated research work being done by both private and public organizations throughout the country. Also, it linked up with research institutes in other Asian countries. In 2001 the institute was reorganized by the government and also renamed. Now called the National Institute for Educational Research, the organization has added to its agenda of research topics the study of educational policy.

In addition to the National Institute sponsored by the Ministry of Education, there are many other consortiums and academic societies that support educational research. A prominent one is the National Federation of Educational Policy Research Institutes, which in 2001 had a membership totaling 279 educational institutes throughout Japan. As for academic societies that support research in education, the most well known one is the Japan Society for the Study of Education. Founded in 1941, as of May 1999 it had 2,920 individual members and 340 organization members, of which 255 are universities and research institutes and 85 are bookstores.

Besides the Japan Society for the Study of Education, many other groups are involved with research in education, such as the following:

  • Council for Improvement of Education through Computers (CIEC)
  • History of Educational Thought Society (HETS)
  • The Japanese Association of Educational Psychology (JAEP)
  • The Japanese Association for Methods of Moral Education (JAMME)
  • The Japanese Association for the Study of Educational Administration (JASEA)
  • The Japan Academic Society for Educational Policy (JASEP)
  • Japan Association for Women's Education (JAWE)
  • The Japan Educational Administration Society (JEAS)
  • Japan Society of Educational Information (JSEI)
  • The Japan Society for Education System and Organization (JSESO)
  • The Japanese Society for the Education of Young Children (JSEYC)

In addition to the above organizations, each subject taught within the school system is represented by its own society of education.

Additional topics

Education - Free Encyclopedia Search EngineGlobal Education ReferenceJapan - History Background, Constitutional Legal Foundations, Educational System—overview, Preprimary Primary Education, Secondary Education