Cover Image
close this bookPolicy Development and Implementation of Technical and Vocational Education for Economic Development in Asia and the Pacific - Conference Proceedings - UNESCO - UNEVOC Regional Conference (RMIT, 1997, 520 p.)
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentIntroduction
View the documentUNESCO UNEVOC Regional Conference 1996 - Steering Committee
View the documentResolutions
View the documentGuidelines for Policy Framework Development for TVE Asia Pacific Region
View the documentUNESCO UNEVOC Regional Conference 1996 - Conference Program
View the documentUNESCO UNEVOC Regional Conference 1996 - Conference Delegates
View the documentUNESCO UNEVOC Regional Conference 1996 - Conference Papers Listing
View the document'Vocational and Technical Training, Retraining and Job-Release Agreements: Public Policy and Employers Participation in Malaysian Manufacturing'
View the documentStrategic Planning in a Technical Education Environment - A Malaysian Experience
View the documentPiloting Tafe Accredited Courses on the Internet
View the documentEmerging Directions in Training of TVET Teachers and Trainers in the Asia-Pacific Region
View the documentReasonable Adjustment and Assessment: Strategies to Implement the Principles
View the documentDilemmas in the Pacific
View the documentPublic Expenditure on Education and Training in Australia: Some Basic Data
Open this folder and view contentsNew Policy Directions for Reforming Vocational and Technical Education in Korea
View the documentTechnical and Vocational Education in Australia's Aid Program
View the documentPolicy Development and Implementation to Address the TEVT Needs of Disadvantaged Groups
View the documentThe Role of Technical and Vocational Education on the National Economic Development of Cambodia and that of the Greater Mekong Subregion Economic Growth Zone
View the documentFrom Central Command to Doi Moi: Transforming and Renovating the Vietnamese Technical and Vocational Education System
View the documentCrossroads: Training Technical and Vocational Education Practitioners in Australia
View the documentPolicy Development for TVE
View the documentPlanning and Provision of Technical Education and Vocational Training in a Rapidly Changing Economy: The Case of Hong Kong
View the documentArticulation and other Factors Effecting Status - Implications for Policy Development of TVE
View the documentEssential Concepts for VET Regional Development
View the documentEmerging Directions in the Training of TVET Teachers and Trainers: The Situation in Fiji
View the documentDelivering Training to Industry Through the National Consortia Model: A Case Study
View the documentPolicy Development and Implementation of Technical and Vocational Education for Economic Development in Asia and the Pacific: Opening Address
View the documentStrengthening the Linkage of Industries and TVE Institutions
View the documentQuality Management of the Training System (Lotus Notes Groupware Versus the Paper Rat Race)
View the documentThailand: Development of Policies for the Provision of Quality TVE Programs
View the documentMaori in Education: Partnership to Overcome Disadvantage
View the documentTechnical and Vocational Education: Toward Economic and Policy Development in Japan
View the documentThe Current Status of Offering Vocational Elective Subjects in Malaysian Secondary Academic Schools
View the documentPolicy Development to Promote Linkages Between Labour Market Planning and Vocational and Technical Education Research in Vietnam
View the documentUNEVOC's Focus and Approaches to Address Current Trends and Issues in TVE in Asia and the Pacific
View the documentRestructuring of Secondary Education in Bangladesh
View the documentVocational Education: The Indonesian Experience
View the documentSession: Acceptance of TVE Qualifications and Mutual Recognition on a Regional Basis
View the documentTechnical and Vocational Education and Training: Towards the 21st Century
View the documentEmerging Directions in the Training of Technical and Vocational Teachers and Trainers in Singapore
View the documentA Plan to Improve and Coordinate Skills Training in Indonesia
View the documentImpact of Telikom Training Centre on Economic Development of Papua New Guinea.
Open this folder and view contentsEmerging Directions in the Training of Technical and Vocational Teachers and Trainers - Indonesia
View the documentThe History of the Preparation of Teachers for Vocational Education and Training at Griffith University
View the documentTechnical Education for the Hi-Tech Era

Technical and Vocational Education: Toward Economic and Policy Development in Japan

UNESCO UNEVOC Regional Meeting
November 11-15, 1996
at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology

Chieko MIZOUE
Associate Professor
Nagaoka University of Technology, Japan

Japan's Education System

General Background

In 1990, Japan's population was approximately 123.6 million. Japan's low birth rate has caused the country to be known as a “fewer children society” (see Chart 1). This is a huge social issue in Japan. The present total fertility rate is decreasing, with just a 1.46 rate in 1995.

Chart 2 shows that, in 1992, about 7 percent of the employed population of Japan was engaged in primary industries, 33 percent in secondary industries, and 59 percent in tertiary industries. The percentage of people employed in the latter is growing rapidly.

Framework

In 1872, a modern education system was inaugurated in Japan. Then in 1947, in the aftermath of WWII, Japan's education system was radically revised. The present 6-3-3-4 system is modeled after the US system (see Chart 3). Children between 6 and 15 years old must receive elementary and lower secondary education. At present, school attendance is almost 100 percent at both elementary and lower secondary schools. In principal, students are required to pass an entrance examination to enter any school beyond the compulsory schools.

Upper secondary schools and courses (USS) are comprised of senior secondary educational institutions that offer three types of courses: full-time day, day/evening, and correspondence (which last three years or more). In 1988, schools based on a kind of credit system, in which students can obtain a graduation certificate by accumulating a prescribed number of credits, there being no grade-by-grade curricula or grade promotion system, were newly inaugurated as a new type of day/evening and correspondence course, followed by full-day courses in 1993.

Content at USS is classified into two categories: general and specialized courses (see Chart 4). About 74 percent of all students were enrolled in general courses in 1995. Specialized courses are mainly intended to provide vocational or other specialized education for those students who choose a particular vocational area as their future career. The specialized courses are further classified into agriculture, industry, commerce, fishery, home economics, nursing, physical education, music, art, and a few other disciplines.

MAIN FEATURES OF THE NATURE, SOCIETY AND ECONOMY OF JAPAN


Location of Japan


Chart 1: Age Pyramid for Japan (1992) (estimated)


Chart 2: Distribution of Employed Persons by Industry, 1990


Chart 3: Organization of the Present School System


Chart 4: Proportion of upper secondary school students by course

(1993 Basic School Survey by the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture)

In addition an integrated course was inaugurated in 1994 in which both general and specialized education are comprehensively conducted by providing a variety of elective subjects.

Graduate schools, universities (four- or six-year programs for medicine, dentistry and veterinary medicine), junior colleges (two- or three-year courses), colleges of technology, and special training colleges act as tertiary educational institutions. About 40 percent of USS graduates go on to attend these institutions.

Colleges of technology, unlike universities or junior colleges, require the completion of lower secondary schooling for admission, and offer five-year programs (five years and six months for mercantile marine) aimed at training practical engineers. They offer courses in mechanical engineering, electric engineering, information engineering, industry, chemistry, and many other areas. Students can apply for transfer to the upper division of universities (usually junior level at universities).

Kindergartens, special schools for the handicapped, and a variety of miscellaneous schools abound. Some schools offer courses in nursing, dressmaking, cooking, accounting and bookkeeping, typing, foreign language conversation, etc.

Vocational Education: A Short History

Vocational education in Japan continues to be strongly related to the development of secondary industries. The central government and the Ministry of Education, Science, Sports and Culture (MOE), has historically pushed for vocational education. This is especially true for engineering education, which naturally leads to the development of industry and the economy. In this paper we would thus like to focus on and discuss engineering education.

Some 130 years ago, the central government started a modern school system. The solvency of the government at the time was, however, too bleak to start differing school systems simultaneously. In addition, since the dominant industries were fairly primitive, people did not need a specialized vocational education in schools. Partially in response, the government soon began to institute a general education system. The MOE's concerns on vocational education were limited.

However, there was a large and clear difference in technology between the traditional industries and the modern industries introduced by Western countries. The urgent need of the industrial world was to educate workers with new skills.

The government gradually realized the importance of vocational education, especially of engineering education. Three developments did much to convince government officials. First, the enrollment rate of compulsory education shot to more than 90 percent at the beginning of the century, meaning that just 30 years had passed since the inauguration of the modern education system in Japan. Second, the government realized that the development of technical industries influenced the total power of the nation. This was brought home especially poignantly through Japan's experience with wars fought with modern weapons. Third, Chinese reparations from the Sino-Japanese War did much to foster the development of heavy industry in Japan.

As a result of vocational education reforms, vocational schools (jitsugyou gakkou) dramatically increased after the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905. The central aim of vocational schools (established in 1899) was to teach students those who worked at the fields of agriculture, industry, and commerce. In essence, the purpose was to educate the leading workers.

Moreover, the number of vocational supplementary schools (jitsugyou hoshuu gakkou) began to rise. Modeled after the German “volksschule” system, these schools were established for those who had completed elementary school. They provided supplementary general education and vocational skills. After World War I (1914-1918), heavy chemical industries in Japan began to develop in earnest, prodding more and more students to go to vocational supplementary schools, with the aim of getting “good” jobs in industry. It was a turn away from stopping education after elementary school. In 1925 these schools numbered 15,316, and the number of these students was about 105 millions.

Higher education was also pushed by the MOE. The government promoted education with the same zeal and resources as they did for military preparedness, promotion of industry, and improvement of transportation. In 1918, the MOE planned a sizeable extension of higher education schools in their report entitled “Establishment and Extension of Higher Education: A Plan.” For the next twenty years, until the end of World War II, higher education schools increased by 2.5 times, while students increased 3.7 times. A similar movement was seen again in the 1960s. Both were periods of rapid development of industry and of the economy in general. Industrial leaders had lamented the serious shortages of engineers and skilled workers, and demanded change. In the 1960s, the MOE promoted a plan of the increase of science and engineering courses at universities.

In both the 1910s and 1960s, the MOE had implemented plans before the lack of engineers and skilled workers actually became manifest. Since Japan has no natural resources, improving the quality of workers - its human capital - has been the most important issue since the Meiji Restoration. As industries worked and struggled on their way down the development path, the government could not help but steer aspects of education toward these industries. In one sense it suggests that the MOE and universities responded to a misperceived shortage of workers: they supplied too many students before the actual demands of workers appeared. On the other hand, this same development may have played a chief role in Japan's economic “miracle.”

Improving Vocational Education

Traditionally, the center of vocational education in Japan has been the USS. However, it is important to remember that that vocational education should not be conducted in vocational USS alone: it should be much broader in scope, and it is needed throughout Japan. The sweeping social changes taking place indicate a greater need for specialists (workers with advanced, specialized knowledge and skills), and for the increasing sophistication and diversity of the skills and knowledge required of specialists.

The MOE has concluded that all workers must try to improve their abilities in the course of their entire lives, by building on the basics they learned in vocational USS and continuing to learn after graduation. This continuing education can take place in the workplace, the universities, or many other educational institutions. It is thus crucial that we take a deeper look at the traditional USS and introduce a few innovations and improvements.

Outlook of USS

With the passage of the 1900 Revised Law of Elementary Schooling, compulsory education in Japan became free unified at the national level. In other words, as a national policy, it had been built to breed elite and skilled workers from all nations given same education without regard to sex, class, birthplace, position, and personal wealth. By 1905, more than 90 percent of all children attended elementary schools. However, the enrollment rate of USS, non-compulsory education, had not increased immediately (see Table 1).

Table 1

The following table presents the historical trend in the percentage of the relevant age groups enrolled in each school level.


1875

1895

1905

1915

1925

1935

1947

1955

1965

1970

1975

1980

1985

1990

1992


%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Elementary Education

35.2

61.2

95.6

98.5

99.4

99.6

99.8

99.8

99.8

99.8

99.9

99.9

99.9

99.9

99.9

Secondary Education

0.7

1.1

4.3

19.9

32.3

39.7

61.7

78.0

82.7

89.0

95.3

96.5

96.3

96.1

96.4

Higher Education

0.4

0.3

0.9

1.0

2.5

3.0

5.8

8.8

14.6

18.7

30.3

33.5

32.1

32.2

33.2

After World War II, the enrollment rate of USS increased rapidly, from 42.5 percent in 1950 to 62.3 percent in 1961, and to 82.1 percent in 1970. In 1995, this figure reached 95.8 percent. This rapid increase brought problems, one of the main being the declining quality of students. Generally, general USS attract students who wish to attend universities and those who have little interest in specialized vocational education. The most common subjects are Japanese mathematics, history, and other core fields. On the other hand, vocational USS attract students who want to learn specialized vocational education. Students learn vocational knowledge and techniques in agriculture, industry, and other sectors. The relationship between general USS and vocational schools is not vertical, but parallel.

However, as the enrollment rate increased, many students wound up going to general USS, since most people believe that graduation from university is equated with good jobs, and that the first step to get a good job is to enter a general USS (see Table 2). The quality of the students suffered as a result.

This led to another problem: the wide range of reasons behind studying. Many students enter vocational USS without the need of or interest in vocational education.

Based on these changes, the MOE started to implement reforms within the USS. These reforms include the establishment of a integrated courses, and the changing of the name “vocational USS” to “specialist USS”.

Integrated Courses

The establishment of “integrated courses” in 1994 allowed students to learn much more freely and flexibly compared with both general and vocational USS (see Table 3). Integrated courses actively accept students with diverse personalities and adopt a wide variety of ideas to develop the personality of each student in an appropriate manner. For example, the scope and time frame of study is neither prescribed nor limited. From the first year to the third, students can study the subjects that interest them; they establish their own study programs (the credit system). For the other two courses, 1) certain subjects are required for all upper secondary school students; 2) certain subjects are required based on the policies of individual schools; and 3) subjects can be selected by the students themselves.

Moreover, students of integrated courses can learn subjects offered at other schools, since there limits exist for each school even though integrated courses offer a variety electives. Educational achievements at special training colleges and results from technical examinations (including the English proficiency tests) are accepted as credits. Students who have developed their interests in specific areas and want to further their study while learning specialized subjects through integrated courses can easily take other specialized courses.

Table 2 Trends in Student Composition by Type of Course. (%)


general

vocational

other

1955

59.8

40.1

0.1

1965

59.5

40.3

0.2

1975

63.0

36.3

0.7

1985

72.1

27.1

0.8

1994

74.2

24.1

1.7

Table 3

General course (general upper secondary school) / Specialized course (specialized high school)

· Upper secondary school requirements

Subjects every upper secondary school student must take.
Japanese I, Mathematics I, etc.

· School requirements

Subjects which must be taken based on each school's own assessment and policies. English, etc.

· Optional subject

Subjects which can be selected by the students themselves

Integrated course

· Upper secondary school requirements

· Principle requirements

Subjects which every integrated course student takes in principle in order for them to acquire basic knowledge and techniques for their future vocational life as well as to become aware of their future courses and options.

Industrial Society and Humanbeings, Basic Subject Concerning Information, and Project Study.

· Optional subjects

These subjects are offered as subject series of subjects which are related to one another systematically or professionally. These subject series serve as a reference for students allowing selection from a variety of subjects offered at an integrated course.

Traditional Techniques series, Regional Promotion series, International Cooperation series, etc.

· Others

Other elective subjects. For example, basic subjects which are different from advanced subjects or optional subjects belong in this category.

* Out of 80 credits which are required for graduation, about half of them can be selected from either optional subjects or others.

From “Vocational” to “Specialist”: Upper Secondary Schools

To keep up with rapid pace of social changes, Japanese workers must continually improve their vocational skills throughout their careers; it doesn't end after completing one's formal education. In the coming decades, this continuing education will be more important than even the acquisition of specialized knowledge or skills. It is thus necessary to make this orientation clear by giving current vocational USS a new name: “specialist USS.”

As a first step in nurturing creative specialists, USS must ensure that their students make steady progress in acquiring a basic education and skills; they must also educate students flexibly, according to their individual personalities, through study emphasizing practical experience and problem-solving skills. To provide the kind of education that can respond to rapid technological change, it is important that specialist USS have up-to-date equipment. In particular, advanced information-processing equipment and state-of-the-art technologies - something that few USS can afford - could be made available as joint-use facilities for industrial education (so-called upper secondary school centers of technology).

Below we would like to introduce some practical reforms concerning curricula and teacher education in Japan. Because advanced information and telecommunications are now so relevant and crucial to society, we would like to focus on information and computer education.

Technical Vocational Education Curricula

Japan is rapidly becoming an advanced information and telecommunications society. Computers, audiovisual equipment, and fiber optic networks have penetrated the entire country, and it is essential for vocational education to respond appropriately. The MOE, in 1969, had already declared the promotion of information education at USS. However, the spread of information education in Japan, with the exception of new departments of information, has been very slow in spite of the rapid and general informationization of the society as a whole. Today all students in all specialized fields at specialist USS are required to take basic subjects in information science. Needless to say, more extensive education in this field will be needed as society becomes even more information-oriented.

Teacher Education

To promote information education, one of the most important issues is teacher training. As mentioned above, because Japan is one world leader in advanced information and telecommunications, industrial leaders insists that a shortage of workers who acquire knowledge and computer skills - and not just in computer science proper but in other non-related fields as well.

It is quite difficult to get good teachers with basic skills in information science. The MOE has encouraged leaders in information education since 1970, and has conducts training courses for leaders in every prefecture to promote information education. Today there several courses offered each year: a 40-day, 12-day or 10-day-training course for teachers of USS, a 10-day-training course for teachers of lower secondary schools (see Table 4).

In addition to these courses, basic “mid-career” computer training is offered for teachers who have had 10 and 20 years experience. These courses are held at all 47 prefectures and 12 cities.

Toward an Affluent and Happy Career

At present, about 26 percent of all USS students in Japan are learning specialized knowledge and skills in vocational courses. They are playing an active role in society as specialists who are helping to build the future. On the other hand, more than 10,000 students-about 10 percent of all vocational USS graduates-go on to university or junior college, and their numbers are increasing. The personalities of young adults are diverse. It is important for them to select their courses by making the most of their interests and abilities in an advanced information society. This will result in an affluent and happy vocational life not only for students, but also for our society.

Teacher Education

Table 4: Training course in information science

Schools

course periods days

No of courses

No of participants each course

Elementary *1

12

4

47

LSS




LSS (1) *2

12

2

47

LSS (2) *3

10

6

40

USS




Agriculture

10

1

40

Industry (1)

40

1

25

Industry (2)

20

1

40

Industry (3)

10

1

30

Business (1)

40

1

25

Business (2)

20

1

40

Business (3)

10

1

40

Fishery

10

1

25

Homeeconomics

10

1

40

Nursing

10

1

25

*1, *2: the purpose of this course is to breed the leaders of information science education at each prefecture

*3: the purpose of this course is training teachers who teaches “industrial arts” in LSS