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Japan's new lifelong learning policy: exploring lessons from the European knowledge economy

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The concept of 'lifelong learning' or shōgai gakushu has rapidly become one of the topmost priorities in Japan's education policy agenda. This was considerably evident in December 2006 when the term 'lifelong learning' was added to Japan's educational charter, the Fundamental Law of Education. This paper explores, as a means to develop Japan's new lifelong learning policy, the lessons that can be learnt through an examination of the European countries' efforts to build a knowledge economy, where lifelong learning is regarded as the key solution in overcoming several important social and economic concerns. In this paper, I first examine the current situation of lifelong learning in Japan, employing the ethnographic data that I have collected since 2001. Second, I provide a brief review of the European lifelong learning policy, which is one of the priority guidelines in the European Union. Under the Lisbon Strategy, for example, the argument on European lifelong learning theoretically centres on developing human capital in order to survive in the global knowledge economy. Lastly, referring to the European experience over the past decade, I propose to directly connect Japan's latest policy development regarding lifelong learning with the trend of building human capital through lifelong learning in order to enhance its competitiveness in the era of globalisation.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Stockholm University, Sweden

Publication date: September 1, 2009

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