WASEDA ONLINE

RSS

The Japan News by The Yomiuri Shimbun

Home > Opinion > Society

Opinion

Society

The Promotion of Lifelong Learning and Open Knowledge at Waseda University

Tetsuo Kato
Professor in the Faculty of Law and Director of the Extension Center, Waseda University

These days, the topic of lifelong learning arises frequently. It is usually discussed in relation to the issue of how baby-boomers who are reaching the age for mandatory retirement from their companies can spend the next stage of their lives, etc. This is, of course, a relevant and pertinent issue, but the essence of lifelong learning is certainly not limited to this. Therefore, I would like here to discuss, from my position as Director of the Extension Center at Waseda University now, the Extension Center from the perspective of lifelong learning.

University Extension Activities

The form of lifelong learning that is being promoted by Waseda University is referred to as "University Extension". It is generally understood to comprise activities and efforts to open up to society the results of research and education at universities. This sort of effort has been socially acknowledged in Japan since the 1970s, and has been actively promoted in America and Europe since before then.

At Waseda University, it has been advocated from the first by our founder, Shigenobu Okuma, and later by our post-war Provost, Nobumoto Ohama. Since then, the Extension project was launched in its current fully-fledged form in 1981. The Extension Center now provides approximately 1500 courses per year, by a team of lecturers who have appeal both within and outside Waseda University, at the Waseda and Hatchobori campuses. In particular, the Center is performing an important role in terms of publicizing the research results of Waseda University, by the active involvement of as many as approximately 250 researchers and teaching staff related to this University in these courses, including emeritus professors.

The Promotion of Lifelong Learning

The Extension Center was established with the aim of broadly opening up to and sharing the research results accumulated by this University with citizens and it is designed to provide a wide range of citizens with the opportunity to study, based principally on non-Degree courses. It adopts a membership system which is renewed every 4 years and, according to this system, members are able to take courses regardless of their age or educational background. As of March 2012, the number of members was 25,630, with the proportion of men to women being 40% men to 60% women. In terms of the age of members, senior citizens comprise the majority of students for courses running in the daytime on weekdays, while young business people make up the bulk of students for evening and Saturday courses.

Moreover, in order that members can have a clear goal for their continuous study, the Center's own credit system was introduced in 1988 and a system of "Completion" upon gaining 76 credits (Completion Student System) was created. Based upon this system, a total of 1753 people have completed the program. Last year, the "Open College Azure Award" was newly established for completion students who wish to continue their studies even after completion, to be awarded to those obtaining 150 credits, and 237 people received this prize.

In this way, a large number of members who are at various stages in their lives are benefitting from the opportunity to study at Waseda. The value of people of such a large variety of ages being able to share their time together through the opportunity of study is fundamentally linked to and representative of the opening up and sharing of research and education that can only be achieved by a university.

Future Developments in Extension

As can be seen from the above, the Open College of the Extension Center has developed to the extent that it can boast one of the largest scale establishments of its kind in the world, in terms of both the number of courses offered and the number of members. Next, I would like to present some of the possible future developments, in the light of the rapidly changing social situation and, in addition, the transformation to an information society.

First, there is the development of e-learning. This represents the development of on-demand style courses, which were launched from 2009, based on the keywords of "anytime, anywhere". In the launch year, we began with 6 courses and 276 students, and in 2011, we had 23 courses and 702 students. We intend to strive to further enhance this program to the next level in the future.

There are many remaining challenges for the further development of e-learning, including the issues of how it is difficult area in which to provide a fee-paying web-based course, given the thinking behind open courseware and the existence of other low fee web-based courses etc., and how it is necessary to continuously reconsider the most appropriate system in accordance with the constantly evolving internet environment, etc. However, e-learning is a useful and effective tool from the perspective of broadly opening up and sharing the knowledge of this University with the outside world, and there are still a wide range of possible uses to be explored to use it to provide Waseda's knowledge to those who thirst for it, not only within Japan but also globally.

Secondly, there is the perspective of students' career support. These days, the academic grounding and level of personal cultivation that is demanded of students in their selection of a career path and hunting for a job is of an even higher level and has become even more complicated, and in accordance with this, learning opportunities that can support students' future lives have become necessary. The Extension Center is exploring the possibility of playing a role to supplement the career formation of students at this University, in collaboration with the dedicated department of this University, the Career Center, as well as to provide broad career assistance to young people, including those outside this University.

One example of this is the launch from this April of a course for undergraduate students who are aiming to become legal professionals in the future, entitled "Basic Course for those aiming to become Legal Professionals." This course will be taught by lawyers who graduated from this University and it is hoped that it will function as a supplement to student's learning by offering a perspective on their undergraduate studies close to that of the students, while bringing them into contact with real-life stories and information from the actual workplace of legal professionals.

We are currently considering how we can further enhance the courses we provide in the future, by establishing courses to foster the basic skills of young business people as members of society and to support the career development of mid-career business people. In this way, by relating to all the possible different life stages of citizens, we are aiming for a higher level of extension activities of this University which are constantly aware of the needs and ways of life of citizens.

Our Responsibility to Contribute to Society

Finally, I would like to consider the future prospects for lifelong learning institutions.

The lifelong learning provided by universities is often spoken of in combination with regional cooperation and cooperation with bodies outside the university. This Center has a rich history of courses being offered in collaboration with the Embassies of various countries and various local authorities, and many such courses are currently on offer. On the other hand, we have a Development of University-Social Relations Liaison Office and the Hirayama Ikuo Volunteer Center etc. located within the University, and close regional cooperation and cooperation with institutions outside the University are being promoted. As a university, to promote even stronger regional cooperation and cooperation with institutions outside the University, one of the future challenges that we must consider now is how to construct a mechanism within the university to link these more organically. Further, it is also necessary to create further opportunities to facilitate the exchange of useful information by mutual linkage between the lifelong learning institutions of various universities.

The role of a university as a lifelong learning institution is already acknowledged by society today. This means that lifelong learning institutions have certainly already reached the point where they are responsible for the role of contributing to society as the "face" of universities. The responsibility and role that a university has to play in this regard is large indeed. This is because I believe that the role that a university can play in terms of research and education is only complete when it corresponds to and can be used in every possible stage in the life of every people. This is something that it would serve us well to bear in mind at all times.

Link:

Extension Center

Tetsuo Kato
Professor in the Faculty of Law and Director of the Extension Center, Waseda University

Academic Background:
Graduated from the Waseda University School of Law.
Withdrew from the Doctoral Program at the Graduate School of Law, Waseda University, at the full term, after completing the required course work.
Obtained his PhD. in Law (Waseda University).

Positions Held:
Dean of the School of Law from 2002 to 2004.
Dean of the Faculty of Law and the School of Law from 2004 to 2006.
Director of the Library 2006 to 2010.
Current position, from 2010.

Membership of Government (and other) Committees, etc.:
Committee member (Deputy Chairman) of the Supreme Court and Lower Courts Bench Nomination Advisory Committee (Tokyo); Specialist member (Special member of the Board of Review for Graduate Schools of Law) of the Ministry of Education, Science, Sports and Culture's Council for University Establishment and School Corporation (Sub-council on University Establishment); Specialist member of the Ministry of Education, Science, Sports and Culture's Central Council for Education (Sub-council on Universities); President of the Japan Association of the Law of Civil Procedure; President of Soci辿t辿 japonaise de droit notarial (Japan Association of Notaries Law), etc.

Area of Specialization:
Civil process law (Civil procedure law, civil execution law and insolvency law).