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Yasuyo Nakajima

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From a Knowledge-Based Economy/Society

Yasuyo Nakajima
Professor of Modern Political Theory, Modern French Politics & Comparative Politics, Faculty of Law, Chuo University

Correspondence education schooling in the midst of blistering heat

The 3-week correspondence education schooling (interview course) conducted in the blistering heat of the summer term has ended. This summer, I couldn't help but focus on the turbulent conditions both within domestic Japan and overseas. Of course, correspondence education is not unrelated to such turbulent conditions. However, there were no sudden changes in the environment surrounding university correspondence education, which enables anyone to study at anytime and in any place.

The history of correspondence education at Chuo University overlaps with the history of the Igirisu Horitsu Gakko (English Law School), an institution founded in 1885 as the predecessor to our university. The off-campus system was established when the school was founded and correspondence education began by issuing lectures. At that time, it is said that there were more correspondence students than the students studying at the actual school in Tokyo. Although the system was abolished in 1918, the Correspondence Division was newly established in 1948 following the end of World War II. The new department was created to play a role in the democratization of education. Summer schooling for correspondence courses were held during a 6 to 10-week period in the Surugadai school building. There was no air conditioning at that time, so blocks of ice were set in the classrooms. It was also possible to lodge in the school building until 1954. I have also heard that some students quit their jobs in order to participate in the schooling and then searched for new employment after it was finished. Such an episode is unique to the period of high economic growth and reconstruction following the war.

Changes in university correspondence information

In this way, university correspondence education has overcome the limitations of time and space in order to support the broad opening of educational opportunities. Today, such this form education has reached a turning point. What kinds of changes are being experienced by correspondence education? Let's examine this question using data from Chuo University.

First, the number of students enrolled at university is decreasing and new students entering university have an increasingly high educational background. These changes can be attributed to a declining birthrate and to the advent of an era in which university opening outnumber applicants. The number of students enrolled at Chuo University has decreased from a peak of 9,120 in the 1996 academic year to 6,172 in 2009. Furthermore, there has been a change in the composition of new students. In the 1997 academic year, 64.3% of new students were 1st year students who entered our university after receiving a high school degree. However, this ratio decreased to 44.6% in 2009. In contrast, the ratio of transfer students (mainly 3rd year students) has increased to 55.4%. This results in a heightened educational background among new students.

Second, the needs fulfilled by correspondence education have changed. When examining the motive for enrollment, there has been a dramatic decrease in students seeking to obtain certification required for their profession. Conversely, there has been an increase in the ratio of students seeking knowledge and skills required for their profession. Even as the number of new students continues to decline, the ratio or share composed by students studying law through correspondence education is increasing relative to the total student body at our university. Moreover, although the mass retirement of the baby boom generation has resulted in the growth of a potential market including needs related to a thirst for knowledge and enjoyment of study, there is a noticeable and slight decrease in enrollment for the purpose of refinement, lifelong learning and relearning (this response includes almost no lifelong occupational education and training). This reveals both the strength and weakness of how correspondence education at our university is concentrated on the study of law.

New limitations of time and space

Increased risk is associated with path of becoming a legal professional via studying at law school. The ratio of students in correspondence education who seek enrollment at university is decreasing. However, in order to adapt to a global legal society, there is no denying the opportunity for professionals to refine their skills by acquiring specialized legal knowledge and heightening their legal capabilities.

The advance of economic globalization has created fierce competition among corporations and resulted in the excessive pursuit of efficiency. There is no disputing the increasing cost of spending two to four years studying at university. Many adult students state that it is even difficult for them to take a 6-day vacation in the summer. There is an increasing ratio of participants in short-term schooling that is held throughout Japan using the 3-day weekend period from Friday to Sunday, as well as an increasing ratio of students enrolling in on-demand courses via the internet. In an inverse relation to this trend, the period of summer term schooling has been shortened and the ratio of attendees is decreasing. This paints the image of students who have difficulty taking long-term vacations, but have the financial resources to pay for transportation and lodging costs associated with traveling in pursuit of courses required for graduation.

Moreover, although there is an increasing concentration of students living in the Kanto region, the ratio of students living in the Chubu and Kansai regions is decreasing slight. There are conspicuous decreases for Hokkaido, Tohoku, Chugoku, Shikoku, Kyushu and Okinawa. Compared to other universities, Chuo University puts substantial effort into the development of regional short-term schooling and on-demand law courses. However, new limitations on time and space have recently been recognized. The problem of spatial and regional disparity does not lie in hard aspects such as the development and spread of information technology. Instead, the problem is associated with the soft aspect of needs for relatively specialized legal knowledge being concentrated in urban areas.

Knowledge-based economy/society

Changes in correspondence education, specialization in legal studies which is the strength and weakness of our university, new limitations on time and space-all of these phenomena can be viewed as the manifestation of a knowledge-based economy and a knowledge society.

The philosophy of university correspondence education is the ability of anyone to study anywhere at any time. This philosophy is closely linked with the idea that knowledge is something which is obtained and cultivated within society. This means that knowledge is something essentially open to all people, a group asset which must be shared, otherwise known as a public good. Conversely, there are also cases in which knowledge is a privately held asset which produces profit or compensation. Intellectual property rights are considered as a vital interest by corporations and nations. The creation of new needs in legal studies comes from support for this form of knowledge. It is true that the socialization of knowledge is promoted by intellectual property rights, as well as the strategic form and actors in legal, political, economic and social system design. However, it must be noted that these same concepts also strengthen the phenomenon of exclusivity.

Debate regarding information economics and information society has been repeated since the 1960s. However, the golden 30-year period in which advanced nations enjoyed prosperity ended, and it was finally necessary to earnestly search for a new economic model to take the place of the high economic growth model.

America languished in economic stagnation for 10 years until the 1990s. During this decade, America achieved astounding growth through the development of IT technology, the establishment of a capital market to encourage growth of such technology, the promotion of competition through relaxed regulations and the increased fluidity of labor markets. The OECD uses the term knowledge-based economy to refer to an economy in which knowledge is the driving force behind increased productivity and economic growth. Such an economy bases its foundation directly on the production, allocation and use of knowledge and information. Although a variety of complicated discourse exists regarding a knowledge-based economy, it cannot be disputed that America offers one such model.

The bitter choice of Europe and the role of universities

In 2000, the EU agreed on the Lisbon Strategy, a growth strategy for the next 10 years. The aim of this strategy was to make the EU "the most competitive and dynamic knowledge-based economy in the world capable of sustainable economic growth with more and better jobs and greater social cohesion and respect for the environment." In the 1990s, Europe was surpassed by America thanks to its IT technology revolution and R&D. In order to make up for this delay, the EU did more than simply chase after the American model. Instead, it pursued a European social model that would heighten social cohesion. There was concern regarding housing, educational opportunities and medicine. Another disputed issue was social exclusion which separated people from social ties such as colleagues, friends, family and community, and which alienated people from the right to political participation. In addition to improving educational training and work capacity with the aim of establishing a knowledge-based economy, the Lisbon Strategy also fought exclusion, subsumed people in society and substantiated European citizenship.

However, the EU made a bitter choice 5 years after the strategy was established. The extremely ambitious and overloaded objectives of the strategy resulted in little success, and Europe felt an increasing urgency in falling behind not only America, but also China and India. Therefore, the Council of Europe decided to modify the Lisbon Strategy to focus solely on "Growth and Jobs". In order for Europe to adapt to the shift towards a global knowledge economy and society, social cohesion was discussed on the same level as competition and efficiency. During the same period, policies of higher education in Europe were being reformed. The role of education as seeking social and human growth was reduced to economic growth theory. Universities were required to fulfill a central role as part of efficient investment of assets into human resources which would contribute to economic growth. The Europe of Knowledge changed its orientation towards inclusion in a Europe based on the euro, financial industry and economy. I would like to add that this decision laid the background for the problems and crisis which trouble Europe today.

The Japanese MEXT (Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology) is also formulating educational policies which including higher education, research and development. Nevertheless, it has in no way been proven that a global knowledge-based economy/society is the correction form. Still, in the case of legal education, it is certain that education based on one-sided instruction of knowledge related to existing rules is a thing of the past. It is necessary to cultivate the ability to take initiative in identifying problems and themes, presenting solutions, exchanging opinions with others in order to realize solutions, and taking specific action. However, the cost of such education is high. We are being confronted with the difficult issue of bearing the cost for the regular study course which is entrusted with new educational responsibility.

Currently, correspondence education is attempting to respond to two imperatives. The first is supporting the need to cultivate professionals with high adaptability to a knowledge-based economy. The second is contributing to the shift towards a knowledge-based society and a knowledge-based society in the broad sense. My fellow faculty has given up their weekend and summer vacations in order to focus on correspondence education. It cannot be denied that this is a significant load on faculty. There is a limitation to resources. Should we select the path of selective investment of resources? Although it is not possible to place the choices of the EU and a single private university in the same category for discussion, we must design systems while seriously facing the tragedy brought by exclusive ownership of specialized knowledge.

Yasuyo Nakajima
Professor of Modern Political Theory, Modern French Politics & Comparative Politics, Faculty of Law, Chuo University
Born in Tokyo in 1959. In 1983, graduated from the Department of Law at the Faculty of Law, Chuo University. In 1986, completed the Master's Program of the Department of Political Science, Graduate School of Law, Chuo University. In 1989, finished (acquired required credits) the Doctoral Program of the Department of Political Science, Graduate School of Law, Chuo University. Before assuming her current position in 2000, she served as a Research Assistant and Assistant Professor at the Faculty of Law, Chuo University.
Her current research theme is clarification of French politics through discourse analysis of changes in institutions and policies, as well as exploration of comparative politics methods which can be used in that clarification.
Her major books and theses include Preliminary Observations for Discourse Political Analysis Regarding the Restructuring of a Welfare State (Chuo Law Review Vol. 155, Issues 9-10, 2009), Japanese Political Science (written and edited by Katsura Otsuka, Houritsu Bunka-Sha, 2006), and New Politics in the Restructuring of the Welfare State in France (featured in Worlds Systems and Europe (edited by Toshiaki Furuki), Chuo University Publishing Office, 2005).