High school students nowadays are divided into two courses in their second year: humanities and natural sciences. The former group specializes in English, Japanese and social studies and the latter in English, mathematics and sciences.

In 1991, the education ministry — known for launching one "reform" after another — set new standards for establishing universities that drastically liberalized the education curriculum and, for all intents and purposes, eliminated the need for students to receive a basic general education. While these steps may have elevated the standards of specialized knowledge that students gain, there appears to have been a conspicuous decline in college graduates' ability to think, make judgments and express themselves.

In a report titled "Proposals related to hiring of new graduates and university education" released in December 2018, Keidanren (Japan Business Federation) stated that the human resources needed in "Society 5.0," where diverse sets of values merge together, will be required to "possess a broad educational background in ethics, philosophy, literature and history — collectively called liberal arts — and to have the ability to read and comprehend text and other information accurately, and to express precisely and explain logically their thoughts and intentions."