Online ISSN : 2187-5278
Print ISSN : 0387-3161
ISSN-L : 0387-3161
Special Issue: Re-examining Education Reform
Reconsideration of Liberal Education for the 21st Century in Japan : Culture, Industry Needs, and Educational Practices: A Comparison with the US(<Special Issue>Re-examining Education Reform)
Author information

2009 Volume 76 Issue 4 Pages 438-451


"Gakushi-ryoku" is a common learning outcome, that every student is expected to achieve through the bachelor's degree program in Japanese Universities across all majors in the future (the 21st century). It also can be called being "cultured" (a well-educated outcome, "Kyouyou") for the 21^<st> century. To enhance further discussion about the learning outcomes or culture, the following questions should be considered: How can "a well-educated person" and culture "in the 21st century" be defined? How should universities educate them? Are the expected characteristics or abilities of an educated person and the purpose of higher education in the 21st century different from those of the past? This paper analyzes the common nature of "a well-educated person," the difference between its expected character in the 21st century and in the 20th century, and the under-standings of the direction of the 21st century. It also analyzes the relationship between the needs of employers and liberal education at university and suggests new educational practices in Japanese liberal education with reference to the existing and preceding educational practices. The key concept that will influence university education in the 21st century is the pressure of globalization. In the US and Japan, higher education has started to challenge these pressures. The definition of liberal education has been drastically changed by the AAC & U (Association of American College and Universities) in the 21st century. The new definition states that liberal education is not only for the elite or through liberal arts fields but "a necessity for all students and essential for success in a global economy and for informed citizenship," and will be offered "through studies across the entire educational continuum: school through college" of "all fields of study." The interpretation by the Japanese Central Council for Education about the pressure of globalization is rather narrow or ambiguous, compared with the comprehensive interpretation by the AAC & U and the OECD DeSeCo project. Further discussion is needed about the issues in Japan regarding education for a well-educated person in the 21st century. Employers in the US and Japan now realize the importance of the abilities of critical thinking and problem finding/solving, and also the ability to tie those skills to creativity and action. Abilities such as critical thinking and problem finding/solving have been and are an important part of liberal education. It means that there is a match between industry needs and liberal education. The 21st century's liberal education which focuses on critical thinking from the broader aspects is meaningful and significant from the context of an individual's career and its responsibility as a global citizen. Within university educational practices, each university and every faculty should focus more on the education of those abilities mentioned above, using the university's property i.e., academic knowledge, academic methods of thinking, academic aspects in every discipline, and the faculties of the professionals for dealing with those academic matters. Trial and error will be useful in the following fields: the organized curriculum, the capstone project or thesis, extracurricular self-motivated experiences, and more autonomous learning or active thinking in both small seminar-style and larger lecture classes.

Information related to the author
© 2009 Japanese Educational Research Association
Previous article Next article