« October 2006 | MAIN | December 2006 »

November 27, 2006



Date: November 16 (Th), 2006
Place: Keio Plaza Hotel, Shinjuku, Tokyo
Participants: Approximately 100 School Teachers from the U.S.
Sponsor: Fulbright Memorial Fund

Professor Takahiro Miyao, Economic Education Network member, gave a lecture on Japan’s Economy to about 100 school teachers visiting from various parts of the U.S. on a Fulbright Memorial Fund program at Keio Plaza Hotel in Tokyo on November 16. The following is a summary of Professor Miyao’s lecture, which may be of some use for Economic Education Network members.
"Prime Minister Abe's Economic Agenda: Innovation and Challenge"
by Takahiro Miyao (Professor, International University of Japan)

Prime Minister Abe's Economic Policy Agenda may be summarized as "the economy grow again and individuals try again," that is, to achieve higher economic growth and to give a better chance for individual success, where innovation and education/training are emphasized for those purposes.
First of all, why economic growth? In reality, the Japanese economy is now growing again after the "lost decade" and a half (15 years) of stagnation. At the same time, higher growth is necessary for the sake of dealing with a number of serious economic problems such as (1) the government's huge budget deficit, (2) increasing social security burden and (3) future tax hikes in the aging, low-birthrate economy.
The question is how to achieve higher growth. Abe seems to be a supply-sider, emphasizing supply-side factors such as innovation, technology, investment, etc., but not mentioning any demand-side factor at all. A related question is how to accelerate innovation. It is well known that innovation is up to the private sector and is something the government cannot manipulate. Most likely Mr. Abe himself does not know how to do it and how to spur new venture-type business in Japan.
As for better chance for individual success, the issue is a widening gap between the rich and the poor in Japan. This is partly due to severe market competition on the global scale, but partly due to the lack of challenge spirit on the part of some young people: there are now so many NEET (people Not in Education, Employment or Training) and Freeters (living on short-term temporary jobs) in Japan.
Why is this a problem? The widening rich/poor gap might be used as a pretext for opposition to reform. Also an increasing number of non-working youth may well become an obstacle to growth due to the lack of skilled work force as well as the fiscal burden to provide social security to them, especially to those who might be called "elderly NEET." Here Mr. Abe's policy priority seems to be placed on the NEET/Freeter issue.
Then how to reduce NEET/Freeters? There is no easy solution, but the government will try to offer job counseling/training for them to find regular jobs, while business itself is to create more regular jobs and give on-the-job training to young people. And they themselves should learn more basic skills, especially math and science. But the question will remain as to whether young people would "try again" once they fail in education, employment or training.
In this connection, a more fundamental socio-economic issue is how to foster "challenge spirit," especially among young people to take risk for a better life in Japan. Such attitude will certainly affect the outcome of innovation and new business, and thus the speed of job creation. Willingness to take risk will lead to more investment and more consumption, contributing to higher growth. Hopefully, Prime Minister Abe can realize this and do something about it.
For a Japanese summary and some pictures, see:

November 14, 2006



Date: November 11 (Sat) and 12 (Sun)
Place: Chiyoda-ku, Kohji-machi, Kumin-Kaikan
Participants: Approximately 30 School Teachers and Specialists
Sponsors: Yomiuri Shimbun, Chiyoda-ku Kyoiku-iinkai

Day 1 (November 11)
9:45-10:00 Keynote Speech
10:00-12:00 Economics Course Content
13:00-15:30 Model Lecture: Simulation
15:45-17:00 School Education and Economics
Workshop (Day 1) Summary:
On the first day of the two-day workshop, Mr. Shoichi Shinohara (Doshisha Univ.) gave an introductory address by saying that "we will try to organize various efforts on economic education for supporting all teachers in this field, and would like to proceed by listening to your opinions and suggestions."
In the morning session "Economics Course Content," Mr. Akira Arai (Tokyo Nishi High) pointed out the importance of teaching economic viewpoints and approaches, and emphasized the usefulness of practical games as those in the textbook "How to Turn Lemons into Money" by actually conducting a prisoners' dilemma-type game involving the workshop participants. Mr. Takenori Inose (Hirosaki Univ.) commented on Mr. Arai's presentation by offering a comprehensive framework for discussions on economic education in general, and argued that "objectives, contents and methods" for economic education should be considered in a systematic way.
In the next session "Model Lecture: Simulation," Mr. Toshita Saegusa (Meguro Chuo Middle School) explained how to make use of the well-known "Beef Rice Bowl Shop Simulation" in class, where the workshop participants actually formed a small group to simulate the opening of a beef rice bowl shop. Mr. Hiroki Fujii (Doshisha Kori Middle/High) pointed out the limitation of such simulation and the difficulty of evaluation for economic education, leading to a lively discussion among the participants.
In the final session of the first day, "School Education and Economics," Mr. Akihide Ohsugi (Education Ministry) explained the official stance regarding economic education in the Ministry's "Course of Study," and maintained that economic education should be interpreted broadly so as to be considered in the context of overall school education.
Throughout today's sessions, the sense of crisis among those teachers who are struggling to teach economic subjects could be felt, and it was pointed out that various gaps and overlaps in economic education should be eliminated to have consistent curricula for elementary/middle/high schools. It was also suggested that the Network for Economic Education should help develop good teaching materials to support those teachers who lack necessary training for economic education. As far as the first day is concerned, the workshop seemed quite meaningful and helpful for the participants.
For pictures, see the following:

Day 2 (November 12)
9:30-11:00 Ideas by Academics and Business
11:15-12:00 Key Words in Economic News
13:00-15:00 Class Practice Reports
15:00-16:45 Open Discussion and Conclusionb
Workshop (Day 2) Summary:
In the first session of the second day, there were some teaching ideas presented from academia and business. Mr. Fumio Otake (Osaka Univ.) pointed out that "methods to avoid waste" and "systems to make people work diligently" should be taught in economic education for middle/high school students, and to study jobs and salaries might be quite effective in attracting students' attention. And Mr. Masaki Asano (Nomura Research Institute) emphasized "communication skills" as a key element for human resource development in business as well as "visions" and "missions" as motivating factors for future prospects.
In the next session "Key Words in Economic News," Mr. Naoji Kumagai (Nomura Research Institute) explained the word "CSR" (Corporate Social Responsibility) with multiple meanings in various dimensions in Japan. Afterwards, some questions were raised as to whether the definition of CSR in Japan is too wide and what "School Social Responsibility" would mean.
In the afternoon session "Class Practice Reports," three teachers presented their practice in class: (1) Mr. Miyoshi Tanmatsu (Ikeda-shi Hosokawa Middle School) reported on students' activities to help revitalize their neighborhood business district as part of a "Business Practice Course." (2) Mr. Masayuki Kawase (Sapporo-shi Asahigaoka High School) explained a "Consumer Education Course" with team teaching to develop appropriate teaching materials for middle and high school students based on their experience and/or their interest. (3) Mr. Kazuyuki Kawahara (Higashi Osaka-shi Education Center) took up a number of topics that interest students as daily affairs in their real life, and explained how to motivate students to learn in class by showing a video on his actual classes.
In the final session "Open Discussion," Mr. Takenori Inose (Hirosaki Univ.) summarized various issues discussed regarding economic eductaion, and many participants expressed their appreciation for information exchange and human interaction at the two-day workshop. Then, Mr. Fumio Otake (Osaka Univ.) gave the closing address, in which he emphasized the role of the Network for Economic Education for problem sharing, practical knowledge sharing, teaching material development, online and offline information exchange, etc., leading to future prospects for the Network.
For pictures, see the following: