Business Education and Human Resources Development in Japan: Issues and Challenges


Reflecting the growing social interest in a professional orientation to business, business schools intended for adults (or non-traditional students) have emerged in rapid succession in Japan from the latter half of the 1990s to the present.

In terms of adult MBA (Master of Business Administration) education in Japan, most courses have been modeled on the U.S. business schools and in fact a vast number of adult graduate students have completed their MBAs, gone back to their respective companies and are “playing prominent roles” in their respective fields. However, at a number of Japanese companies, recruiting officers have complained that, “many quit their jobs too soon after acquiring their MBAs,” and some have even voiced the pessimistic opinion that, ” MBAs are useless in Japanese companies.”

Such dissatisfaction with the MBA programs in Japan can be understood if seen in the context of the traditional method of human resources development in Japan, where on-the-job training (OJT) has been the main method of education and also from the fact that MBA education in this country is still in its infancy, and an MBA education program that is truly in tune with the needs of Japanese companies has yet to appear. It is undeniable that we are still at the stage where MBA education programs are being imported directly from the U.S. and merely being run on a trial basis. As a matter of fact, several companies seem to have given up on this type of university-oriented MBA education altogether, which they see as something of a dead end, and are beginning to explore the possibility of forming their own corporate universities (universities within enterprises) to train their professionals.

In this paper, I intend to investigate both theoretically and empirically such issues as, whether the MBA education programs of the business schools offered by the universities of this nation, which have emerged against the backdrop of such heightened interest in a professional orientation to business, are truly useful from the point of human resources development at Japanese companies; their differences when compared with corporate universities; if business schools are found to be useful, then what role they should play in human resources development at Japanese companies; and the ideal form of MBA education for Japan and how it matches the context of Japanese companies and how it differs from MBA education in the U.S., through comparative studies of the business education systems of the U.S., Europe and Asia. The ultimate goal of this book will be to theoretically explore what role business education, as offered by Japanese universities, should play as an alternative form of human resources development to traditional OJT and additionally to offer specific recommendations based on these insights that will eventually lead to practical suggestions.

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