e-Japan Priority Policy Program Index

III.Promotion of Education/learning and Human Resources Development


1) With the aim of far exceeding the forecast rate of 60% in CY2005 for the Internet penetration by individuals, information literacy of all the Japanese shall be promoted.

2) The IT education system in elementary, lower- and upper-secondary schools and universities will be strengthened in addition to lifelong information education for general public being enhanced.

3)By increasing the number of people with master's degrees and doctorates in IT-related fields, advanced IT technical experts and researchers shall be ensured in the private, academic and public sectors. In addition, some 30,000 distinguished foreign human resources will be accepted. In total, our nation will exceed the US standard of human resources regarding those IT technical experts and researchers.

1. Current Status and Tasks

The recent significant progress in IT is bringing about great changes to people's daily lives as a whole. In order to realize a society where all the people can enjoy its benefits, it is necessary for them to acquire ability to make use of an advanced information and telecommunications network such as the Internet.

Meanwhile, IT has not been sufficiently utilized in our nation, as shown in the Japan's Internet penetration rate that lags far behind the U.S. and other nations, especially in middle and old-aged people. Besides, the IT diffusion status in elementary and lower/upper-secondary schools falls behind the U.S. For instance, the number of students per PC in Japan is 13 (in the U.S., 6) and the Internet access rate from schools is 57% (in the U.S., 95%).

Since IT field is rapidly developing driven by technological advancement, advanced IT technical experts and researchers are indispensable in maintaining and strengthening international competitiveness of existing industries as well as IT industry by utilizing IT. Nevertheless, the supply of such human resources with advanced technologies does not necessarily match the further demanding and diversifying needs from the society, especially industries.

Based on such understandings, it is urgently necessary to promote IT-related education and learning for all nationals, and also ensure human resources who can instruct IT and who possess advanced and specialized knowledge and technology with creativity.

[Major indicators concerning the promotion of education/learning and human resources development]

- Public schools with access to the Internet: 57.4% out of a total of 39,096 schools (as of March 2000)

- Public institutions with access to the Internet: 1,793 public halls, etc. (as of October 1999)

- Those who have finished master's courses in IT-related fields: 12,650; Those who have finished doctoral courses in IT-related fields: 1,568 (FY1999)

- Registered foreign nationals with the residential status "technology": 15,668 (as of December 1999)

2. Significance of Policy Measures

As a basis of realizing an active IT society, it is indispensable to improve the information literacy of all the people and to foster advanced specialists such as technical experts and researchers who develop the IT frontier. Therefore, the government shall rapidly and intensively take actions to achieve these objectives.

Regarding the improvement of information literacy, the required environment will be created and related systems will be reviewed to promote education and learning, so that all the people, including students of elementary, lower/upper secondary schools and universities, working adults, the elderly and people with disabilities, can acquire IT knowledge and skills, and enjoy benefits thereof. Also, an environment that is necessary for more active use of IT in all areas of daily lives and industries will be created.

Regarding the development of IT-related advanced technical experts and researchers, an environment for fostering human resources matching social demands will be created by means of actively promoting university reforms as well as enhancing IT-related courses at specialized training colleges. Concurrently, the acceptance of distinguished foreign human resources necessary for ensuring international competitiveness will be promoted through review of related frameworks.

In addition, an R&D environment for creating digital content will be established for strengthening Japan's information transmission capacity utilizing IT in the international community.

3. Priority Policies

1) Digitization of School Education, etc.

In order to proceed with the digitization of school education, necessary hardware, software and digital content will be enhanced, and other relevant measures will be taken, so that all pupils and students will improve information literacy and be able to actively utilize IT.

i) Improvement of an IT environment at school

Through installing necessary PCs in schools and providing them with access to the Internet, an IT environment will be prepared to improve the information literacy of all pupils and students. The network capacity will also be expanded.

a) Within FY2001, all public elementary, lower/upper secondary schools and schools for the blind, deaf and other disabled will be provided with access to the Internet. By FY2005, an environment will be created, so that PCs can be made use of at all lessons in all public elementary and lower/upper secondary schools, etc. At the same time, active use of networks at class for communicating with homes, local communities and other schools will be supported. In such cases, sufficient consideration will be paid, so that children with disabilities can use IT devices. (MEXT)

b) By around FY2002, public elementary and lower/upper secondary schools, etc. will be enabled to construct school LANs. (MEXT)

c) Within FY2001, for the purpose of conducting R&D into education methods and educational networks using high-speed networks enabling use of large-volume data, such as moving pictures, approximately 1,500 elementary and lower/upper secondary schools will be connected to the Internet at high speed. Together with existing schools with access to the Internet, approximately 3,200 schools will be provided high-speed access to the Internet. (MEXT, MPHPT)

d) By FY2004, private elementary and lower/upper secondary schools, etc. will be enabled to install PCs and provided access to the Internet at the same level as public schools. (MEXT)

e) Within FY2001, the Braille network system of schools for the blind will be made accessible to the Internet. (MEXT)

f) By FY2006, Japanese educational institutions located outside Japan will be enabled to install educational computers. (MEXT)

ii) Enhancement of IT education, etc.

a) Enhancement of IT education (MEXT)

Through the enhancement of IT education, pupils and students will be encouraged not only to learn skills to use computers and the Internet, but also to foster logical thinking power, self-expression ability, reasonable thinking ability, proper expression ability, and voluntary and creative attitude toward activities of problem-solving and knowledge-pursuing. At the same time, pupils and students will be educated to understand the roles and effects of IT in the society and nourish the ability to voluntarily keep up with the progress of IT.

(i) From FY2002, an information and telecommunications network will be utilized at each existing subject and at newly established subject of the "Period of Integrated Study"1 in elementary school, for helping pupils have familiarity and skills to use PCs, etc.

(ii) At lower secondary schools, from FY2002, an information and telecommunications network will be utilized at each existing subject and at the newly established subject of the "Period of Integrated Study," and "Information and Computers" in the industrial arts and homemaking subject will be made compulsory, so that students will be able to handle basic information processing using software, and to express and communicate using computers.

(iii) At upper secondary schools, from FY2003, an information and telecommunications network will be utilized at each existing subject and at the newly established subject of "Period of Integrated Study" and "Information" as an ordinary subject will be newly established as a compulsory subject, so that students will be able to express their views using computers, etc.

(iv) As regards schools for the blind, deaf and other disabled, the same measures with the above will apply to enhance IT education.

(v) As for foreign languages, becoming more important along with the progress of IT, practical communication skills will be fostered in classes, and lessons for foreign languages will be further enriched with the use of PCs and the Internet, from FY2002 at lower secondary schools and from FY2003 at upper secondary schools. At elementary schools, a foreign language course will be introduced from FY2002 at the "Period of Integrated Study" in the context of education for international understanding. At schools for the blind, deaf and other disabled, the same measures with the above will apply regarding education of foreign languages.

(vi) When promoting IT education, due consideration should be paid to the following problems. Education concerning copyrights will be enhanced, and ethics/moral over networks will be also considered. Furthermore, in order to properly cope with such issues as isolation of individuals, attenuation of human relations, insufficient experience in nature and society, and the flood of so-called harmful information, the government will continuously enrich ethical education and experience-based education in nature and social life, both inside and outside schools, in FY2001.

b) Promoting communication with other regions and different cultures utilizing IT

Through provision of opportunities for communicating with other regions and touching different cultures using IT, pupils and students will be inspired to gain interests in new things and be motivated to learn them.

(i) Within FY2001, collaborative programs with schools in and outside Japan will be promoted through provision of cyber communities over the networks for pupils, students, teachers, businesses and volunteers to freely join, contribute to and cooperate each other. (MEXT, METI)

(ii) By FY2005, a comprehensive network system for promoting Japanese language education using the Internet will be constructed. Thus, effective and efficient Japanese language education will be promoted through such provision of information related to Japanese language education widely in and outside Japan. (MEXT)

iii) Improvement of IT instruction capabilities (MEXT)

All public school teachers, approximately 900,000, shall be able to acquire ability to utilize PCs, and additional teachers holding necessary licenses, approximately 9,000, shall be fostered, along with the establishment of the compulsory subject of "Information" at upper secondary schools. Thus, IT-related instruction capabilities of teachers who are in the position to lead pupils and students will be improved.

Also, by utilizing human resources of business and local communities with IT-related special knowledge and skills, information literacy of pupils and students will be improved, and the use of the Internet will be further enhanced at classes. Furthermore, the government will cooperate with other nations for fostering teachers, etc. in the Asia-Pacific region.

a) Within FY2001, through fostering some 1,000 teachers who will be prefectural leaders, all teachers at public elementary, lower/upper secondary schools and schools for the blind, deaf and other disabled will be enabled to use PCs, and half of them will be enabled to teach students by using PCs.

b) Within FY2001, local governments of prefectures, government-designated cities and core cities will be supported to appoint some 1,000 human resources with superior knowledge and skills in IT-related fields as specially arranged part-time teachers.2

c) By FY2002, in-service training courses will be conducted for granting teaching licenses of "Information" subject to some of existing teachers, etc. who need them to teach it.

d) Within FY2001, UNESCO3 IT Education Trust Fund will be established for conducting IT training toward elementary/secondary school teachers, etc. in developing countries in the Asia-Pacific region, and some 300 teachers per annum will be trained.

iv) Enhancement of educational content

Through development and widespread use of various digital content for education, information that has been difficult for pupils and students to receive at class will be provided. Thus, pupils and students will be motivated to learn and enabled to understand lessons deeply.

a) By FY2001, R&D will be conducted to create educational resources for subjects at school, that are conforming to the new educational curriculum, and digital archive4 of learning materials at museums, libraries, etc. By FY2005, in consideration of the above R&D results, R&D will be further conducted to create educational resources based on the most advanced research results of research institutions. At the same time, such results will be disseminated nationwide by FY2005. In addition, by FY2005, school sports/health education content, the culture digital library which recorded traditional entertainment and modern performing arts, and the digital archive of educational materials of the National Science Museum will be created and distributed nationwide via the Internet, etc. (MEXT)

b) By FY2005, in order to promote the use of educational content via the Internet, necessary technologies will be developed and introduced into school education. Those technologies include; i) technology for information security at schools, ii) technology for constructing "simplified Internet access networks," iii) technology for enabling automatic identification and high-speed easy retrieval of educational content on the network, iv) technology concerning the next-generation help-desk support system which improves response to troubles and inquiries by making the response faster and more efficient, and v) technology enabling browsing of large-volume data such as 3D content over the Internet. (MPHPT, MEXT)

c) By FY2004, an educational information system needed in an advanced educational infrastructure such as distance learning utilizing networks and rating/filtering software5 against harmful information, etc. for schools will be developed. At the same time, an educational image management/distribution system that stores and manages image data available free from copyrights only for educational purposes will be developed and introduced into school education. (METI, MEXT)

v) Creation of portal sites6 for education

The portal site for the nation-wide retrieval of valuable information concerning school education and lifelong learning will be created and enriched for the promotion of education and learning via the Internet, etc.

a) By FY2005, functions as an educational information national center, for instance, an educational information portal site for retrieving and downloading various educational content, will be created and operated by the National Institute for Educational Policy Research. (MEXT, MPHPT, METI)

b) By FY2005, the installation of satellite broadcasting receiving facilities necessary for the promotion of lifelong learning will be supported, so that everyone throughout the nation can receive information/training programs and educational programs concerning school/social education via satellite communications. (MEXT)

1 Period of Integrated Study: One of the newly established educational curriculum under the new Courses of Study that will be applied to elementary and lower secondary schools from FY2002, and to upper secondary schools from FY2003. In this curriculum, each school is to develop unique educational activities on trans-sectional and integrated tasks such as international understanding, IT, environmental issues and welfare/health.

2 Special arrangement of part-time teachers: An arrangement to utilize professional people without teaching license as a special case of the principle under which teachers are required to possess a teaching license provided under the "Law for Licensing Educational Personnel." The system aims at coping with diversification of school education and activation thereof through utilizing people with superior knowledge and skills in school education.

3 UNESCO: United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. A specialized agency of the United Nations with purposes of promoting international peace and human welfare through cooperation among nations and exchange of education, science and culture.

4 Digital archive: An archive literally means accumulated documents or records. A digital archive refers to record/accumulation of various resources in text, images and sounds by digital technology, which can be distributed, retrieved or re-used over the Internet, etc.

5 Rating/filtering software: Rating/filtering software evaluates webpages on the Internet at certain criteria for enabling receivers to select webpages according to levels set by themselves. For instance, it is used in the case for preventing minors from accessing inappropriate webpages.

6 Portal site: A portal site refers to a webpage one accesses firstly at accessing to the Internet. A portal site sorts information by fields and shows relevant links.

2) Provision of IT Learning Opportunities

An environment necessary for improving the information literacy will be created to realize an IT society, where all the people can actively utilize IT.

i) Promotion of the People's Movement for the Spread of IT

Through providing the people with IT learning opportunities according to individual needs, in cooperation with groups such as nonprofit organizations (NPOs)7, information literacy of all will be improved.

a) By FY2001, following measures including the People's Movement for the Spread of IT will be promoted. (MPHPT, Cabinet Office, METI, MAFF)

Initiatives Number of attendants
Basic IT skill training for learning basics of operating PCs, making documents, accessing the Internet, and sending/receiving e-mail Approx. 5.5 million
IT training, etc. for managers of SMEs to understand effects of IT on management Approx. 290,000
IT training, etc. for consumers to learn skills to freely obtain and utilize information concerning everyday life Approx. 180,000
IT training, etc. at prefectural women's center, etc. Approx. 20,000
IT training, etc. for supporting corporate officers' planning of strategic information investment Approx. 15,000
IT training, etc. toward workers of agriculture, forestry and fisheries industries Approx. 10,000

b) Along with basic IT skill training conducted from CY2001, PCs and devices necessary for access to the Internet will be installed at approx. 7,000 libraries, public halls, etc. across nation. (MEXT)

ii) Support for vocational manpower development in the IT field

As part of the People's Movement for the Spread of IT, a variety of vocational training will be intensively conducted for the purposes of preventing the digital divide among workers due to the rapid progress of IT, employment mismatches, employment uncertainty, and improving workers' IT literacy. In addition, knowledge and skills of workers engaging in specialized and technical occupations including the IT field, etc. will be further enhanced.

a) By FY2001, IT-related vocational training will be supported for some 1.4 million people with and without job, including drastic creation and enhancement of the following IT-related vocational training courses at various levels: (MHLW)

- Course for developing advanced professional skills related to IT, such as those tailored to technical experts for constructing computer networks

- Course for developing applied vocational skills necessary when using IT, such as creation/management of websites or database

- Course for developing practical skills necessary when using IT, such as the usage of spreadsheets or the Internet

b) By FY2005, training courses will be conducted toward some 1,000 people engaging in special technical services such as telecommunications system design, production of broadcast programming, etc. for the purposes of improving knowledge and skills of said specialized services. (MPHPT)

c) By FY2003, support for developing software will be conducted toward some 3,000 engineers engaging in the development activities of application software, for the purpose of improving their skills. (METI)

iii) Introduction of a human resources registration/dispatch system (MEXT, METI)

In order that providers of IT learning opportunities can easily find IT specialists as instructors, a system for registering/dispatching IT specialists will be established for creating an environment for improving information literacy of the people.

For that purpose, within FY2001, by utilizing resources accumulated through the dispatch projects of information processing engineers and the basic IT skill training, the government will compile databases concerning information processing engineers and volunteers with IT knowledge, provide such information, and then dispatch instructors for various IT training courses.

7 NPO: Apart from the administration and private corporations, a not-for-profit private organization which carries out social activities

3) Development of Creative Human Resources with Specialized Knowledge and Skills

In order to strengthen Japan's IT infrastructure, the government will reform systems and prepare facilities of related R&D and educational institutions to develop and secure creative human resources who can internationally conduct leading-edge R&D, management and digital content creation. Besides, from the perspective of ensuring international competitiveness, acceptance of foreign human resources will be promoted.

i) Active promotion of university reforms (MEXT)

In order to create an environment that enables universities' further autonomous and rapid management for effectively conducting IT-related education and research activities, the government will empower universities to autonomously organize their courses, and examine universities' flexible establishment, alteration and abolition of departments and faculties, as measures for flexible formation of universities' organization.

In parallel, for contributing to fostering of IT technical experts and researchers, the number of IT-related majors in graduate schools will be increased.

a) Within FY2001, regarding national university courses, etc. that have been individually established by ministerial ordinances, necessary rules will be amended so that each university can flexibly organize courses without restrictions posed by ministerial ordinances.

b) Regarding the approval authority of establishing faculties in departments, deliberations will be made and reach a conclusion, in parallel with the deliberation on transition of national universities to independent administrative corporations which is to be concluded by CY2003.

c) Within FY2001, the number of students at IT-related master's and doctoral courses of national universities' graduate schools will be increased.

ii) Enhancement of IT-related courses at specialized training colleges (MEXT)

IT-related programs will be enhanced at specialized training colleges for human resources development in the IT field.

To this end, by FY2005, IT specialist training programs for businessmen at the forefront of companies and entrepreneurship development programs for those who create new businesses will be formulated, and the results thereof will be implemented at each vocational school.

iii) Human resources development at upper secondary schools for specialized vocation8 (MEXT)

At upper secondary schools for specialized vocation, education on basic knowledge and skills on each field of IT will be conducted for developing human resources engaging in IT-related fields.

For that purpose, a specialized subject "information" will be established at upper secondary schools for specialized vocation, for the purpose of conducting education to acquire knowledge and skills concerning each field of IT such as system design/management and multimedia from enrollments of FY2003.

iv) Promotion of accepting foreign human resources

a) International standardization of qualification systems (METI)

Through international harmonization of skill standards of IT workforce as objective evaluation criteria, advanced IT human resources around the world can be employed at low cost, and the market of IT human resources will be mobilized. Thus, the framework on which industries can utilize superior IT workforce will be created.

To this end, within FY2001, toward three to five Asian nations, know-how necessary to establish such a qualification system will be transferred, or, toward those nations which have already possessed a similar qualification test system, mutual recognition of the qualification test will be promoted.

Within FY2002, equivalent support will be made toward one or two additional Asian nations other than the nations above, and an "Asian Common Skill Standard" will be developed and provided to Asian nations.

Within FY2003, equivalent support will be further made toward one or two additional Asian nations other than the nations above.

b) Review on systems relevant to acceptance of foreigners (MOJ)

Through further active acceptance of foreign nationals engaging in business in specialized and technical fields such as IT technical experts, human resources with advanced knowledge and skills will be ensured in Japan.

To do this, deliberations will be made for reviewing systems related with acceptance of foreign nationals, such as landing permission criteria concerning IT technical experts, etc. and based upon the conclusion thereof within FY2001, necessary measures will be taken.

v) Fostering digital content creators

In order to realize an advanced information and telecommunications network society, it is indispensable to enhance not only infrastructures, hardware and software, but also digital content provided via the Internet. Therefore, in order to foster creators of the world's most advanced level digital content and to strengthen Japan's content transmission capacity, the government will develop production tools and provide support for creative work, in order to help excellent digital content creators grow and play active roles. Moreover, the government will enhance the support for venture business start-up to help digital content creators start their businesses.

a) Within FY2001, for the purposes of promoting advancement of a content creation environment, a collaborative remote creation system for digital content using broadband networks will be developed. (MPHPT)

b) By FY2005, for the purposes of doubling the digital content market compared to FY1999 size, such measures as development of basic tools for digital content creation, support for digital content creation and the fostering of digital content creators through industry-university cooperation will be comprehensively promoted. (METI)

c) In order to support venture entrepreneurship related to IT such as digital content creators, the government will support approximately one hundred venture businesses by FY2003, and establish business incubators9 at fifty locations all over Japan by FY2005. (MPHPT, METI)

vi) Development of human resources supporting the management (METI)

By FY2005, some ten thousand "IT coordinators," who have knowledge in both management and IT, and who can support the management thoroughly from the planning of a business strategy to the creation and introduction of systems for realizing the strategy, will be developed and attested.

8 Upper secondary schools for specialized vocation: A term refers to a high school in which courses related with agriculture, manufacturing, commerce, fisheries, homemaking, nursing care, IT, etc. are set for conducting specialized education in each vocational field.

9 Business incubator: A term referring to facilities for supporting venture businesses to start up. Aimed at creating new industries and fostering entrepreneurs, public organizations provide venture businesses with comprehensive support to supplement resources needed upon starting up businesses, such as low-cost office/equipment, business supporting services such as management know-how or obtaining patents, and grants.

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