G8 education ministers open meeting

Education ministers from the Group of Eight major countries began their two-day gathering Saturday in Tokyo, with the aim of promoting life-long learning and greater international exchange of students and researchers.

Amid strong spring gusts on a crisp morning at Tokyo National Museum in Ueno, ministers from Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, Britain and the United States began the day with a photo session in front of Heiseikan, the building where an exhibition on Japan’s national treasures is being held.

In opening the meeting, Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi said the aim of education is to nurture “highly creative people” in a rapidly changing society that faces globalization, aging, and an information technology revolution.

“Educational reform is a common policy agenda of all countries here,” Obuchi said, adding that education is indispensable for economic growth.

Obuchi said the G8 summit meeting to be held in Okinawa in July will also take up education, including ways to reduce the information gap and the importance of maintaining cultural diversity.

“I hope that (G8 ministers) will hold valuable discussions whose outcome will be useful not only to the G8 countries but also to other countries in the world,” he said.

Education Minister Hirofumi Nakasone, who chairs the meeting, said he expects ministers to discuss their country’s educational challenges and future policies to convey a message to the Okinawa summit meeting.

Participants, including representatives from the European Union, UNESCO and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, are expected to call for enhancing international networks of universities by introducing a credit transfer system.

They are also expected to discuss how information technology can help promote distance learning and life-long learning.

The first-ever gathering of G8 ministers’ meeting is being held as a followup to proposals on education made at last year’s G8 summit in Cologne, Germany.

The Cologne communique and charter stipulated that education and life-long learning are the “passport to mobility” that people would need to adjust to the change from the traditional industrialized society to the emerging knowledge society.

The G8 ministers will issue a joint statement today, before going to Okinawa on Monday to participate in an education forum.