ICT Education in Japan: Too Little, Too Late

I squeezed my pen hard and took a deep breath. (I can do this…) I gripped my pen once more and started writing. Writing, writing, writing. What is your major? What is your reason for application? What do you want to gain out of this internship?

These are typical questions when it comes to filling an application form for internships in Japan. I was prepared. I brainstormed well enough to be able to answer those questions. The tip of my pen tapped against the paper vigorously and soon enough the form was filled with confident-sounding words.

Now the last question….what are your PC skills?

That caught me off guard. …what ARE my PC skills? Do I HAVE such skills? I received junior high and high school education here in Japan and there was PC or IT education in the curriculum. Yes, I know how to make documents on Word and yes, I learned how to make simple charts and graphs on Excel. Yes, I have miraculously self educated myself to make slides on PowerPoint. Most of what I call my PC skills though, I learned by myself by sitting in front of my MAC, tapping on my keyboard and clicking the mouse. Not in school. Although, it was on the curriculum, it wasn’t sufficient enough to actually teach me about the Internet.

Japan is now pushing forward its education reform; English classes are going to be held in Elementary schools and Yutori Education (pressure-free education curriculum that aimed to provide a relaxed class environment for children) is now being reexamined. However, IT education hasn’t been considered as an important topic on the GOJ’s education agenda; it hasn’t received that much of an attention. We cannot avoid the fact that Japan is lagging behind other developed nations in IT education. We need to implement specific IT education policies to revamp the dwindling progress in that field. As a starting point, the GOJ has announced in its IT Strategy Work Plan that it plans to promote the development of human resources (人材育成) specialized in the realm of IT. Also, it is going to implement IT exams and promote e learning programs that are going to be taught by experts.

However, promoting IT education at an earlier stage, for example junior high or high school level, is necessary. It is important to provide young people with the option of choosing an IT career. Young people in Japan are not familiar enough with IT at the current stage; by spreading IT education, young people will be more interested in pursuing an IT career. On June 4, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced in the Council for Industrial Competitiveness(産業競争力会議)that it is going to establish a new type of technical college(高等専門学校)that will specialize in IT. These schools will be run by private companies and will be centered on internships and hands on training that will help students gain the skills to work in programming companies. Abe says that he plans to open these schools by 2019.

These efforts, though it may seem like an achievement, is “too little too late.” 2019 is merely a goal and there is a high possibility that it will be delayed. Even if the schools open in 2019, the students will graduate eight years from now. That means we will have to wait for more than ten years for the results of the Abe Cabinet’s effort in developing IT human resources to burgeon forth; this plan will only start to show results when the graduates become full-fledged members of the Japanese society to contribute to strengthening IT environment.

At first glance, the Abe Administration seems to be revitalizing the IT environment in Japan by promoting IT education. However, it is “too little too late”. I will not have the opportunity to receive the IT education that Abe calls for in his IT Strategy Work Plan.

Japan should have launched this plan “much more, much earlier”. I sighed under my breath as I clutched my pen once more and answered, “Word, Excel, and PowerPoint”.

Mayumi Shiomi

Mayumi Shiomi

Faculty of Law
Keio University
Mayumi is a member of Faculty of Law at Keio University.
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