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Lifelong Learning in Japan

Section 3. Selected Events Since 1945

This section briefly covers some of the more important events affecting lifelong learning for adults since the end of World War II in 1945.
1949 Social Education Law
The Fundamental Law of Education, enacted in 1947 as a statement of the purposes and principles of Japanese education, addressed adult education in Article 7:
The state and local public bodies shall encourage home education and education carried out in places of work and elsewhere in society. The state and local public bodies shall endeavor to attain the aim of education by the establishment of such institutions as libraries, museums, citizens' public halls, etc., by the utilization of school institutions, and by other appropriate methods. (Thomas 1985, 59)
The 1949 Social Education Law defined the roles of the national, prefectural, and municipal education bodies, and it encouraged the establishment of kôminkan (citizens' public halls) in municipalities. Section 4 of this essay discusses in detail the roles of different government levels and the activities of kôminkan. The most important aspect of the 1949 Social Education Law was that it made "social education a legal right for the Japanese people, and that it is mandatory that the several levels of government provide it" (Thomas 1985, 61).
Ad Hoc Council for Educational Reform (1984-1987)
The Ad Hoc Council for Educational Reform (rinji kyôiku shingikai or rinkyôshin) was set up in 1984 as an ad hoc advisory committee to Prime Minister Nakasone. The Council, whose membership included prominent leaders from education and other areas, was assigned to address long-term educational reform. The Council issued many specific recommendations in four reports to the Prime Minister during three years of deliberations until 1987. The recommendations of the Council specified "education in the future should have 'lifelong learning' as its basic premise" and emphasized a transition to a lifelong learning system away from an education system divided into school education and social education (Kawanobe 1994, 485; Makino 1997, 9).

As a result of the reports from the Ad Hoc Council for Educational Reform, the Ministry of Education (Monbushô), known for its conservatism, experienced a loss of complacency, as noted by such statements as, "We should constantly strive to reform the educational system, envisaging what our society should be in the coming years". Monbushô's summary of the four reports states, "the most fundamental ideas for the current educational reform are, firstly, to carry out actively the transition to a life-long learning system, . . ." (Stephens 1981, 156).

1990 Law for the Promotion of Lifelong Learning
In 1990, the Japanese Diet enacted the Law for the Promotion of Lifelong Learning. The law prescribed such measures as: establishment of Lifelong Learning Councils at national and prefectural levels, support for local promotion of lifelong learning, provisions for development of lifelong learning in designated communities, and surveys for assessing the learning demands and needs of prefecture residents (Kawanobe 1994, 487; Makino 1997, 3-4). This law will also be discussed in the next section on "Government Structure" and in Section 5 on "Centralized Bureaucratic Control". A White Paper published by Monbushô in 1996 reiterated and expanded on the goals found in the 1990 Law for Promotion of Lifelong Learning (1996a).
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Introduction | Section 1 | Section 2 | Section 3
Section 4 | Section 5 | Section 6 and Bibliography
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