Business & Economy Science & Technology Education & Society Sports & Fashion Arts & Entertainment
Top Picks Back Numbers Search

A Creative Effort Led by Citizens

June 29, 1999

The enthusiastic response to classes at the school proves you're never too old to learn.

No tuition charged, no payment made to lecturers, and no fees needed for borrowing the venue: At one unique citizens' college in the Tama area of western Tokyo, expenses are almost nil for both students and administrators. In its fourth year, the college is run entirely by volunteers. Some 500 students are enrolled, most of whom are in their sixties, and the number of lecturers totals about 200. The quality of the lectures, moreover, stands on a par with those given at regular universities.

Responding to People's Will to Learn
The college was opened in August 1995 by a resident of Hoya City in Tokyo in response to calls for a center for lifelong learning. At that time the Tama area (comprising the cities located in the western part of Tokyo Prefecture, including Hoya) already had a large number of retired citizens, many of whom possessed a rich intellectual appetite and wanted to begin studying something anew. These citizens' desire to learn meshed extremely well with the aim of universities, faced with a declining number of students, of promoting more interchange with the community, so the college was inaugurated.

Classes are held every Sunday, with renowned scholars and other persons of culture as lecturers, and the venue switches among several places that local universities, post offices, and companies lend for free. Contrary to what one might imagine from the name Nishi Tokyo Zatsugaku Daigaku (West Tokyo College of Miscellaneous Studies), the quality of its class contents is just as high as that of ordinary universities. The curriculum consists of 13 subjects: politics, economics, Tama studies, natural science, high-tech industry, environment, literature, fine arts, education, history, religion, family life, and daily life.

Checks on Public Administration
There is no age limit for enrollment. The college's reputation has spread by word of mouth, and nowadays there are students who come from neighboring Kanagawa Prefecture and even more distant Chiba Prefecture. About 100 students attend each class.

The lecturers evaluate the school highly, too. One professor, for example, was deeply impressed after giving a lecture. "Young students at regular colleges often chat during class," he said. "Here, everyone listens earnestly, and their questions go right to the point." Since its inception, the college has had no lack of people volunteering to be lecturers.

Many of the students are former corporate and government employees who left work at retirement age. Taking advantage of the broad personal connections brought on by such students and lecturers, the college organizers are planning to create a think tank in the future to keep a check on administrative functions and tax money. From lifelong learning to the surveillance of wide-area administration, the dream keeps on growing.

Trends in JapanEdited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.