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Early Spring Issue (Apr.)


Life-long learning at Waseda responds to the desire to learn

In recent years, creating an open educational atmosphere at universities has become important due to heightened needs for learning among the general public.
Ever since shortly after our founding, Waseda University has worked to return academics to society by actively promoting university extension (opening the university to the general public) through publication of lectures and holding lectures in various regions of Japan. These activities were led by Shigenobu Okuma and were known as extracurricular education. This article reflects on our university's history of life-long learning to respond to needs of the general public, and also introduces the rich environment for life-long learning that currently exists.

It expands by the click.

The role of life-long learning

What kind of contributions can universities make to people and society through life-long learning?
We discussed such issues with Professor Tetsuo Kato, Director of the Extension Center.

Seeking to expand the possibilities of social contribution through the dimension of life-long learning

Tetsuo Kato
Director of the Extension Center (Professor at the Faculty of Law)

Sharing the university asset of knowledge with society

-Please discuss the purpose and meaning of Waseda University providing the opportunity for life-long learning.

At Waseda University, numerous institutions such as the Extension Center have fulfilled the role of widely dispersing throughout society the asset of knowledge gained by our university. In recent years, it has come to be expected that universities conduct social contribution activities in addition to research and education. Since the era of our founder Shigenobu Okuma, Waseda University has a history of activities that positioned the sharing of knowledge as a form of social contribution.

Actually, more than 500 thousand people have studied at the Extension Center since its founding in 1981. I believe that there is great meaning in how so many people have shared our university's asset of knowledge. Our goal is for the research results achieved by Waseda University to be directly useful in the daily lives of each citizen. This will encourage positive growth in society.

We must value the perspective in life-long learning that anyone can study anywhere at any time. The Extension Center continues to work to create an even better environment. For example, in 2009, we established on-demand class through online learning.

-There are many other places for life-long learning such as community culture centers. In such a situation, what must our university focus on?

If we were only to provide opportunities for life-long learning, there would be no distinction between such culture centers and little meaning in our university's involvement. An important point is that Waseda-related faculty members from both inside and outside of our university are involved in the provision of opportunities for life-long learning. I believe that this is the true meaning of sharing our university's knowledge. At the Extension Center, classes are taught by approximately 250 Waseda-related faculty members. This includes professors who are busy with their research activities and regular lessons, as well as professor emeriti who have retired. I think that the involvement of such faculty members is of great importance.

Another feature of our center is that we have established unique credits and created a completion system. A study program is formulated to meets the needs of each member and a certificate of completion is issued. This certificate is certified by the educational institution that is Waseda University. In addition to responding to our member's passion and interests, this system encourages the desire for continued study.

Expanding age range & support for regular students

-What kind of objectives are held by people who study at the Extension Center? Also, could you please discuss any points which should be considered when constructing a study program?

One characteristic of the center is that members come from an extremely wide range of ages. Normally, there have always been a large number of senior citizens. There are some seniors who didn't have an adequate opportunity to study during their youth due to WWII and other factors. Others have made the decision to join the center in order to brush up on their studies now that they have the time and economic resources. Recently, there has also been an increase in members from the baby-boom generation and from among current working adults. Each one of these groups has a clear objective for studying. In the case of the former, they seek to deepen their knowledge in a field of interest as part of their second life. In the case of the latter, they are seeking to advance their careers.

As social values continue to diversify, people have come to hold interests in a wide variety of areas. Our center has supported such interests by offering a broad range of classes. In addition to actual instructors, staff members have also been a major driving force behind these classes. Our staff is constantly on the lookout for information related to planning themes and is meticulous in the gathering of information. Sometimes there is even heated debate during meetings for planning classes.

-Recently, the center is also focusing on classes for regular students. Would you please discuss the background and objective behind such initiatives?

For example, beginning from this April we now offer a Fundamental Class for Aspiring Legal Professionals. This class is intended for students who seek to become legal professionals in the future and allows them to thoroughly study basic legal courses beginning from fundamentals. In recent years, there has been an increase in what is known as "double students." One reason for this increase is that students feel uneasy about their future. Increasingly complex and high-level elements are demanded of students when selecting a future career path or searching for employment. Therefore, in addition to conventional university classes, we believe in the necessity of learning opportunities that support the future lives of students. We also recognize the importance of responding to such needs.

In the fundamental law class, Waseda graduates who now work as lawyers participate as instructors. This results in merits that are unique to the life-long learning institution of a university. For example, such instructors can convey the realities of legal work students and are able to support the learning of students from a close perspective. In the future, I hope to release more information to raise awareness about such courses and increase the number of participating students.

A variety of possibilities expanding from life-long learning

-Universities are now expected to fulfill the function of life-long learning. What form do you believe such universities must aim for in the future?

As I have discussed up until now, the area of life-long learning has caused universities to become involved in the life stages of people. In the future, it is increasingly important to expand and deepen connections with sectors such as communities, municipal governments, corporations and other groups.

In America, which is an advanced country in terms of life-long learning, there is a widespread belief that universities should be institutions positioned at the front of society while acting as a place for the obtainment and practical exercise of knowledge. At American universities, there are many programs which seek to solve social problems through cooperation with sectors outside of universities. University education is only complete when the academic knowledge gained at a university is put to practical use through society. The term "capstone program" is used to refer to a university's continued involvement in all stages of a person's life. This naming is derived from how pyramids are completed when they are topped with a four-sided capstone. I believe that even more enhanced social contribution will be possible if you incorporate this way of thinking into the life-long learning which is the goal of our university.

Our center already has a record of offering courses through partnerships with embassies and municipal governments. Such partnership classes are a unique feature of universities and help to encourage cross-cultural exchange. In the future, we will continue to explore a variety of possibilities through the dimension of life-long learning.

President Ohama explains the meaning of lecture notes

In 1955, Nobumoto Ohama, the 7th President of our university, wrote an essay entitled "Regret for Overemphasizing Academic Background" after visiting an oversea university. Within this essay, President Ohama describes the social roles fulfilled by distance education at Waseda University.

"(omitted).this means that education is not the sole possession of a university. Conversely, in modern times with the development of published materials, a person with the proper motivation can study even without attending a school.(omitted).through reading, it is sufficiently possible to reach the goal of expanding knowledge and heightening perception. However, if a person randomly reads whatever books are available, they will get little results when compared to their great effort. It is best to study systematically at least until high school. Distance education is simply the provision of such a system. Focusing on this point, Waseda University has worked for social education through lecture notes since long ago. The spreading of higher education is part of our social mission.(omitted). (excerpt from the "Overview of Waseda University Distance Education," 1956)

Tetsuo Kato
Director of the Extension Center (Professor at the Faculty of Law)

After graduating from the Waseda University School of Law, entered the Waseda University Graduate School of Law. Holds a PhD in law from Waseda University. His fields of expertise include civil procedure and bankruptcy law. In 2002, assumed the position of Dean at the School of Law. From 2004 to 2006, served as Senior Dean at the Faculty of Law (also holding the concurrent position of Dean). Served as director of the Waseda University Library from 2006 to 2009. Assumed his current position in September 2010.
Held positions such as member of the Expert Panel for the Council on Science and Technology (Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology) and Visiting Professor at the National Institute of Informatics (NII). Currently holds positions such as Chairperson of the Japan Association of the Law of Civil Procedure and member of the Advisory Committee for Appointment of Judges for Supreme Court/Lower Courts (Tokyo).