Lifelong learning in Japan – a lifeline for a 'maturing' society?
Lifelong learning is realized in different ways in different countries. Socio-economic and cultural factors are important determinants of implementation. Japan is a self-styled 'maturing' society with an ageing population. It is wealthy, but undergoing rapid social, economic and technological change that poses a threat to its sense of community. Its economy is faltering for the first time since reconstruction after World War II. In the author's view, based on desk study and a visit to relevant agencies in Nagoya and Tokyo in June 1999, lifelong learning is seen to be a key means for addressing these three central issues – ageing, community and economic change. National bodies have deliberated on the problems and informed themselves of needs and options for development. They have articulated policies to promote and celebrate learning of all kinds at any point of life through adult, vocational and community education. Initial education is perceived to have a key role in inculcating aptitude for, and positive attitudes towards, learning over the lifespan. This paper argues that, in Japan, lifelong learning is viewed as a 'lifeline' i.e. a vital means of communication on these issues between the national 'think tanks', bureaucrats and the Japanese public. The Bureau of Lifelong Learning of the Ministry of Education, Science, Sports and Culture (Monbusho) seeks to develop and implement policies to achieve these goals.