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Japanese Education in the 21st Century

Author: MikiY. Ishikida

Title: Japanese Education in the 21st Century
Publisher: iUniverse, Inc. (June 2005)
ISBN: 0595350496

Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Educational System
Chapter 2: Preschool and Primary Education
Chapter 3: Secondary Education
Chapter 4: School-Related Problems
Chapter 5: Higher Education and Lifelong Learning
Chapter 6: Teachers
Chapter 7: Internationalization of Education
Chapter 8: Special Education
Chapter 9: Education for Ainu and Buraku Children
Chapter 10: Education for Foreign Children

The system and pedagogy of Japanese education have been changing in accord with
on-going large-scale educational reforms, initiated by the 1987 National Council on
Educational Reform (NCER) (Rinkyshin) recommendation of the deregulation,
diversification and individualization of education. For example, the 1998 Course of
Study, initiated in 2002 created a new subject, integrated study (sgtekina gakush
no jikan), and reduced the educational content by 30 percent, allotting 20 percent of
class time for review sessions, and providing many elective courses for middle and
high school students. However, many teachers, parents and educational specialists
believe that the reduction of educational content might lower students academic
Responding to critics, in 2001 the Ministry of Education (MOE) began to hire 22,500
full-time elementary and middle school teachers in the next five years and 50,000
temporary teachers and teachers aides in the next three years for team-teaching
classes designed especially for the newly-established learning groups of 20 students
for academic subjects. In smaller classes, compared with the mandated class size of
40 students, teachers can pay closer attention to the needs and progress of individual
This book will discuss the current state of the Japanese educational system, its
comprehensive reform agenda, and the issues of minority education, special
education, lifelong education, and international education. By drawing comparisons
and contrasts with education in the United States, it will be possible to see the
Japanese system in a wider context.
The research is based on the analysis of administrative documents, school journals,
and secondary literature, classroom observations and interviews with teachers and
administrators. I conducted fieldwork in Marugame City for two months in 1998 and
for two weeks in 2001. Marugame City on Shikoku Island then was a provincial town
in the southwestern part of Japan with a population of approximately 80,000.
Marugame City merged with neighboring Ayauta Town and Hanzan Town on March
22, 2005 and is a city of 110,000. I visited one preschool, one nursery school, three
elementary schools, two middle schools, two high schools, and one special school to
observe classes and interview teachers, principals, vice-principals, and students. I

also visited three community centers, and discussed cooperation between schools and
the community with administrators and leaders. Part of my fieldwork is presented as
case studies.
Chapters 1 through 6 offer a background of Japanese preschool, elementary,
secondary and postsecondary education. Chapter 1 introduces the history and role of
the school system and current educational reforms based on the 1987
recommendations of the National Council on Educational Reform (NCER)
(Rinkyshin). This chapter concludes with a comparative study of education in the
United States.
Chapter 2 presents preschool and primary education in ychien (preschools and
kindergarten), hoikuen (nursery school), and elementary schools through several case
studies. The decline in the birthrate and the rising number of working mothers have
changed the way preschools operate. Preschools now resemble nursery schools.
Elementary school education has emphasized the creative and individual development
of students, especially through the new subject called integrated study. Reforms are
aimed at enhancing the quality rather the quantity of educational materials,
incorporating review sessions, adding more teachers, and providing each school with
more control over classes and their content.
Chapter 3 presents secondary education, in addition to the education of female
students. A large number of middle school students enjoy after-school clubs and/or
study in juku (cram school). Ninth graders study hard for their high school entrance
examinations, based on which they are sorted into hierarchically ranked high schools,
including academic high schools, vocational high schools, and newly established
comprehensive high schools. High school students enjoy participation in
extracurricular clubs, and other forms of recreation, and do not study much (the
majority study for an hour or less a day). Only the top 20 to 30 percent of students
who hope to enroll in a prestigious college might study hard to pass the competitive
entrance examinations. Educators have recently attempted to eliminate gender
stereotypes by making female-only home economics open to both sexes and
advocating gender-free attendance sheets.
Chapter 4 focuses on problems, such as school refusal syndrome, bullying, and
juvenile delinquency in primary and secondary schools. Homeroom teachers,

guidance committees, nurse teachers, and school counselors are in charge of assisting
students with school-related problems.
Chapter 5 introduces college and lifelong education. Almost two-thirds of all 18-yearolds attend colleges or specialized training colleges. Lifelong education is available
for non-traditional college students in colleges as well as for local residents, especially
homemakers and the elderly in community-based classes for residents.
Chapter 6 explores the profiles, professions, and cultures of teachers, and the role of
teachers unions, and compares Japanese teachers with American teachers. In Japan,
teaching is a competitive field, because teachers have job security and are highly
respected by their communities.
Chapter 7 investigates the governments attempt to internationalize education,
according to the 1987 Rinkyshin recommendation, and discusses education for
Japanese students living overseas and for those who have returned to Japan. The
students are expected to acquire an international perspective and understanding of
foreign countries through classes on international understanding, foreign languages,
and international exchange programs.
Chapter 8 discusses special education for children with disabilities, analyzing special
schools, special classes in regular schools, and integration education. Because of
human-rights educational programs and the promotion of integrated education,
children with disabilities are more visible than ever in exchange programs and in
mainstream classrooms.
Chapters 9 and 10 describe the education of minority children: Buraku (former
outcaste) children, Ainu children, Korean children, children of Nikkeijin (Japanese
migrants/Japanese descendents with foreign nationalities), Chinese returnee children,
and refugee children. Minority children are eligible for special scholarships, and
remedial education in order to bring their academic level into line with that of their
peers. In addition, foreign children may participate in ethnic education that is
designed to improve self-esteem. Moreover, human rights education teaches Japanese
children the cultures and histories of minority people in order to reduce prejudice and



Contents of This Chapter

1. 1-1


1. 1-1-1


1. Educational Reforms in the 1980s and 1990s

2. Education for the Twenty-first Century

2. 1-2

3. 1-3

2. 1-1-2


3. 1-1-3



1. 1-2-1


2. 1-2-2


3. 1-2-3



1. 1-3-1


2. 1-3-2


3. 1-3-3


1. Desegregation Policies
2. Compensatory Education and Affirmative Action Programs
3. Multicultural Education


Based on the 1987 recommendation by the National Council on Educational Reform
(NCER) (Rinji kyiku shingikai, Rinkyshin for short), the Ministry of Education
(MOE) has been implementing large-scale educational reforms for deregulation,
diversification, and individualization. This chapter will serve as a general
introduction to the Japanese school education and its historical development. It will
conclude with comparisons of the educational systems in Japan and in the United




Japanese education is centralized under the direction of the Ministry of Education

(MOE). For most of the postwar period, the MOE has controlled school
administration, curriculum, pedagogy, and educational content in textbooks. The
MOE oversees the administration of the appointed prefectural and municipal boards
of education and superintendents. The MOE determines the educational budget, and
subsidizes the prefectural board of education in order to provide equal quality
education to all children throughout the nation.1
After the 1947 educational reform, the Japanese educational system was redesigned
around a uniform 6-3-3-4 system (six years of elementary school, three years of
middle school, three years of high school and four years of college).2 The academic
year runs from April 1 to March 31.3 Beginning in April 2002, the school week is
five days long and the academic year is 210 days long.4 However, 56 percent of
private middle schools and 41 percent of private high schools planned to adhere to a
six-day-a-week schedule for the 2002-3 school year (Asahi Shinbun (AS) March 5,
2002). Furthermore, according to a 2002 survey, 59 percent of the general public
opposed the idea of a five-day school week. Respondents were also concerned about
diminished educational achievement because the educational content had been
reduced by 30 percent (AS July 23, 2002). In the 2004-5 school year, five public high
schools in Tokyo had regular classes on Saturday, and for the 2005-6 school year, 17
public high schools in Tokyo plan to do so (AS December 18, 2004). In the 2004-5

school year, twenty prefectural administrations allowed public high schools to open
supplementary classes on Saturday (AS January 12, 2005).
Primary and secondary schools follow a trimester system, with forty-day summer
vacations and two-week winter and spring vacations. The MOE has recommended
that the boards of education should allow more flexible summer vacations. After
deregulation permitted some schools to replace the trimester system with a semester
system, they introduced an autumn recess between semesters. In the 2004-5 school
year, 9 percent of public elementary schools, 10 percent of public middle schools and
26 percent of public high schools had the semester system (AS January 31, 2005).
Almost all children from ages 6-15 receive uniform and compulsory public
education. There was no grouping of elementary and middle school students
according to their ability, because the public and teachers believe such grouping
damages low-achieving children. However, in the 2002-3 school year, the MOE
implemented a program of special education classes in English, mathematics, and
science for advanced elementary and middle school students. This is to be done by
adding one more teacher per school for advanced classes. In 2003, 74.2 percent of
elementary schools and 66.9 percent of middle schools practiced grouping students
based on their educational achievements (AS August 18, 2001; AS February 24,
Almost all 15-year-olds are admitted to academically stratified high schools on the
basis of their performance on written examinations. In 2003, 97.3 percent of 15-yearolds were enrolled in high school and are expected to graduate with only a 2.3 percent
rate of dropouts. Higher education has become universal education, as 63.5 percent of
high school graduates went on to postsecondary schools (44.6% to colleges and 18.9%
to specialized training colleges) (Monbukagakush 2004a).
Furthermore, every ten years the MOE issues the Course of Study, a guide for
curriculum and pedagogy. The Course of Study stipulates the purpose of education,
the content, pedagogy, and the number of course hours for each subject. Since 1958,
the MOE has required that all public schools and teachers follow the Course of Study.
Moreover, the MOE screens the content of textbooks through the textbook
authorization system in order to correct technical and factual errors, as well as
biased opinions.

School districts are drawn on the basis of municipal and prefectural jurisdictional
lines. Each prefectures board of education hires public teachers, supervises high
school education, and oversees the municipal boards of education. The municipal
boards of education are in charge of elementary and middle schools. In 1956, the
MOE had replaced elected boards of education with appointed boards of education
and prefectural superintendents that it had approved. This happened because the
MOE wanted to oust the board members who were more sympathetic to the Japan
Teachers Union (JTU). Since then, governors and mayors have appointed the five
members of the prefectural and municipal boards of education for four-year tenure
with the agreement of the prefectural and municipal assemblies, and the approval of
the appointments by the MOE. The appointed board members choose both the
superintendent and the chairperson. The approval of superintendents by the MOE was
abolished in 1999.
Local public educational expenditures in the 2002-3 school year amounted to 18.1
trillion yen, including 81.2 percent for school education, 12.9 percent for social
education, and 5.9 percent for educational administration. The budgets were derived
from the prefectural administration (44.4%), the local administration (33.2%), the
national administration (18.1%), local bonds (4.1%) and donations (0.2%). The
expense per student in the 2002-3 school year was 738,624 yen per preschooler,
923,566 yen per elementary school student, 1,027,678 yen per middle school student,
9,107,237 yen per special school student, and 1,157,366 yen per high school student.
The government spent nine times more money for students in special schools, with
nine million yen per student than those in regular schools (Monbukagakush 2004f).
In 1970, the Japanese government started subsidizing private schools and colleges.
Subsidies to private colleges were about 30 percent of revenues in the early 1980s, but
decreased to 12.2 percent in 2000 (Monbukagakush 2004b:66).
The educational expenses for primary and secondary education are very affordable
unless the parents choose to send their child to private schools or pay for private
tutoring. Public elementary and middle schools are free, and the tuition for public
high schools is relatively inexpensive. However, because of the economic recession,
1,150,000, one out of ten elementary and middle school students received financial
aids from the municipal administration to cover expenses for school supplies, lunches
and field trips in the 2002-3 school year (AS September 4, 2003). According to a
2000 survey on educational expenses, the average family spends 5,061,788 yen to pay

for one childs education from public preschool through public high school; these
expenses include the costs of tuition, school lunches, cram schools, tutoring, books,
supplies, and other things related to education. It costs 7,187,556 yen for a child who
attends private preschool, public elementary and middle schools, and private high
school (Monbukagakush 2002c).
In contrast, college education is quite expensive. Although there are some
scholarships and student loans, most parents bear the full costs of their childrens
college expenses. In the 2002-3 school year, college students spent an average of 2.02
million yen a year for their educational and living expenses. Those who attended
public colleges and commuted from home spent an average of 1.13 million yen a year,
while those who attended private colleges and rented an apartment spent an average of
2.61 million yen (Monbukagakush 2004d). Those who rented an apartment received
an average of 132,500 yen a month, consisting of money from their family (85,700
yen), part-time jobs (22,500 yen) and scholarships (20,100 yen) in 2004 (AS January
24, 2005). In 2004, 34 percent of college students who rented an apartment received
scholarships, 50,000 yen to 70,000 (53%), 70,000 to 100,000 (11%), and 100,000 yen
or more (11%) (AS January 24, 2005).
Educational Reforms in the 1980s and 1990s

Based on the 1987 report by the National Council on Educational Reform (NCER)
(Rinkyshin), large-scale educational reforms for deregulation, diversification, and
individualization were implemented. In 1984, Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone
formed a provisional advisory body, the Rinkyshin, consisting of industrialists and
conservative scholars, in order to instill more moral and patriotic values into
Japanese students. In 1987, in a final report,5 the Rinkyshin recommended the
deregulation of the school system; the diversification of curriculum; changes in the
examination system; the promotion of higher education; the development of lifelong
education; the promotion of scientific research, information technology and sports;
and the internationalization of education (Monbush 1989). In 1987, the MOE
created the Headquarters for the Implementation of Educational Reform in order to
enforce policies based on the recommendation of the Rinkyshin.
Leftist and liberal scholars, in conjunction with the Japan Teachers Union (JTU), who
were not members of the Rinkyshin, opposed the neo-conservative proposals of the
Rinkyshin. They predicted that the emphasis on moral education and national

identity would trigger a revival of Japanese nationalism and militarism. They further
argued that the purpose of deregulation and privatization was to produce human
capital for the nations economic growth, not to develop democracy and the rights of
the child (Horio 1988:365; Lincicome 1993:128; Schoppa 1991b:61-62). However,
the JTU failed to rally teachers against the recommendations of the Rinkyshin.
Since 1993, the MOE has promoted the establishment of credit-based comprehensive
high schools (sg kk), which are similar to public high schools in the United
States. The students can choose elective classes to develop their skills and abilities,
can transfer credits from other schools, and even graduate ahead of schedule. In
addition, the MOE recommended in 1997 that high schools admit students on the
basis of: 1) motivation; 2) sports and cultural club activities; 3) volunteer service; 4)
recommendations from community leaders; 5) teachers recommendations; 6)
interviews; and 7) essays, compositions and other practical skills (Smuch 1998:320321). Since 1998, the MOE has established six-year secondary schools in order to
ease high school examination hell through a six-year program.
For more than a decade, the teacher recruitment process has been deregulated, so that
prefectural boards of education can hire special instructors who do not have teaching
certificates. New teachers are expected to bring fresh ideas and perspectives to school
culture. In 1993, the MOE established the team-teaching system in order to pay closer
attention to the needs of individual students, and to reduce teachers heavy workloads.
Beginning in 1995, school counselors have also been deployed to schools in order to
handle increasing school-related problems, such as bullying and school refusal
Since 1993, the MOE has promoted cooperation between schools and communities,
and has made school facilities available for community activities. School-initiated
volunteer activities include visiting nursing homes or institutions for disabled people,
and cleaning public places. Volunteer activities are also part of integrated study
courses. In recent years, the government has also supported human rights education
(jinken kyiku) to teach students about minority cultures and history.
In its 1991 report, the College Council recommended curricular reforms, the
introduction of an independent evaluation system, and the expansion of graduate
schools. Many colleges started to create syllabi, evaluation forms, and more teaching

and research assistants, and to admit more nontraditional and transfer students, similar
to colleges in the United States. Since 1997, students who excel at mathematics and
physics can skip a grade, and enter college one year earlier. As of 2003, one national
university and one private university admit 17-year-olds. Furthermore, since April
2004, all 89 national universities and junior colleges became an independent
administrative corporation (gysei hjin) to be independent from the government.
Education for the Twenty-first Century

The National Commission on Educational Reform (Kyiku kaikaku kokumin kaigi),

commissioned by Prime Minister Keiz Obuchi, submitted its final report in
December 2000. The report underscored the need for further deregulation, diversity,
and individuality. It emphasized home education, moral education, volunteer
activities, college education, and cooperation between the community and parents. It
proposed grouping primary and secondary school students according to the learning
level, the use of learning achievement tests in high schools, the promotion of six-year
secondary schools, the requirement of volunteer activities, an evaluation system for
teachers, and the revision of the Fundamental Law of Education (Kyiku Kaikaku
2000). The MOE developed the Educational Reform Plan for the 21st Century (also
known as The Rainbow Plan) based on the final report of the National Commission on
Educational Reform.
Critics of the proposed reform argue that school choice, six-year secondary schools,
ability grouping, and the abolition of age restrictions for college admission are elitist
ideas, and that they reinforce educational competition and social stratification among
students (Fujita 2001; Yoneyama 2002).
Concerned with the drastic reduction of academic content, many educators are
worried about the lowering educational achievement of children, especially in
mathematics and science. Responding to critics, the MOE stated that the 1998 Course
of Study is based on a minimum standard so that teachers may teach higher-level
materials. The MOE plans to recognize about 10 percent of materials, at a higher
level than the contents of the 1998 Course of Study in the 2005-6 textbooks (AS
January 3, 2004). The MOE also published reference materials along with additional
materials for teachers teaching elementary and middle school mathematics and
science in order to demonstrate methods of teaching advanced materials. The Central
Education Committee suggested that the MOE revise the 1998 Course of Study to

encourage teachers to go beyond the Course of Study if students understood the

materials. In hopes of keeping academic expectations high, public schools have
compensated for the reduction of class hours by shortening school events and
providing a summer session. Parents and community leaders hold Saturday classes in
order to maintain high academic standards.
The idea of integrated study (sgtekina gakush no jikan) was the brainchild of the
reform. Integrated study has been allotted three to four unit hours a week for third to
sixth graders, two to three unit hours for middle school students, and three to four unit
hours for high school students. Each school has the right to determine what and how
to teach integrated study, whose topics include international issues, information
science, environmental issues, social welfare, and health. As pedagogy for integrated
study, the MOE has recommended debates, volunteer activities, surveys and
Furthermore, many more elective courses are now available for middle and high
school students. Each school can set the length of each class, such as 75 minutes for
laboratory experiments, and 25 minutes for English classes rather than the customary
45 minutes hour-units for elementary school and 50 minute hour-units for middle
schools. For the 2001-2 school year, the MOE planned to hire 22,500 elementary and
middle school teachers in the next five years to reduce the mandated class size of 40
students, and create smaller groups of 20 students for academic subjects
(Monbukagakush 2003b:126-127).
In 2000, the Council on Curriculum proposed a National Scholastic Aptitude Test
(gakute) for elementary, middle, and high school students, to begin in 2003. As of
April 2004, more than 80 percent of the prefectural Boards of Education enforce a
National Scholastic Aptitude Test (AS June 13, 2004).
Since April 2000, school committees can be established at the request of the principal,
with recognition from the Board of Education. For the first time, parents and
community residents have a say in the management of schools. It is interesting to
note that in 2000, one school was able to reduce the percentage of students who
believed that classes are difficult from 30 percent to less than 10 percent within six
months of introducing teacher evaluations and open classes for members of the
community (Nihon Keizai 2001:56). In addition, the MOE plans to deploy 50,000

teachers aides and school support volunteers in the three years beginning with the
2001-2 school year (Monbukagakush 2003b:62-63). Furthermore, the MOE plans to
deregulate the 6-3 elementary and middle school system so that the municipal
administration can change it to a 4-3-2 system or a 5-4 system after the 2006-7 school
year (AS August 11, 2004).
On June 8, 2001, 37-year-old Mamoru Takuma stormed into Ikeda elementary school,
stabbed eight schoolchildren to death with a kitchen-knife and injured 15 others,
including two teachers. In May 2003, the trial started in the Osaka District Court, and
prosecutors demanded the death penalty. The death sentence was upheld after the
defendant withdrew his appeal to the Osaka High Court in September 2003.
On June 8, 2003, the MOE apologized for not implementing the appropriate
preventive measures, promised to compile a manual on crisis management, and agreed
to pay the families of the eight murdered children a total of 400 million yen in
damages. In addition, 24 school officials, including the principal of the Ikeda
elementary school were punished for failing to prevent the disaster.
After the incident, the boards of education and schools sought to make educational
institutions safer. Although Japanese schools had been considered quite safe before
the June 2001 killings, schools started to check school visitors, installed surveillance
cameras, and taught faculty and staff about emergency measure. The city of
Toyonaka, near the Ikeda elementary school dispatched a security guard to all
elementary schools in the city. The guards watch school gates and patrol the schools
from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Schools close their gates and screen visitors before
allowing them to step onto school property (AS June 7, 2003). By the end of 2003, 45
percent of schools had a security system such as surveillance cameras, 33 percent had
given students buzzers for the prevention of crimes, and 8 percent had security guards
(AS January 15, 2005). On February 14, 2005, a 17-year-old boy entered his former
elementary school and killed a teacher and wounded another teacher and one dietician
with a knife. Responding to the incident, the Board of Education of the Kt District
of Tokyo arranged regular police patrols at all preschools, elementary schools and
middle schools in the district (AS February 17, 2005).



The government administers the educational system in order to produce educated and
responsible citizens. First, schools transmit knowledge, and develop the cognitive,
physical, emotional, and social skills of students. Secondly, schools train students to
become responsible citizens. The Japanese government regards the human capital of
the Japanese people as the nations most valuable natural resource.
Stratification theory argues that the social backgrounds of parents are the main
determinant of their childrens educational success. Therefore, schools seem to select,
certify, and allocate students to the social class of their origin. Thus, schools
reproduce social stratification rather than promote educational equity (Rubinson and
Browne 1994:585). The differences in academic achievement appear in as early as
the third and fourth grades, when some children start to fall behind their peers.
Quantitative analyses support stratification/reproduction theory, and confirm that
the educational level, occupation, and household income of the parents significantly
affect their childrens educational attainment. However, the extent to which family
backgrounds affect childrens educational attainment remains to open to question
(e.g., Ishida 1993; Treiman and Yamaguchi 1993; Aramaki 2000; Nakanishi 2000).
According to a 1995 Social Stratification and Social Mobility (SSM) survey, the
fathers educational attainment and occupational status significantly correlate with the
educational attainment of his children. Students at elite high schools are more likely
to have fathers who are/were in professional or managerial positions6 (Nakanishi
2000). For more than a century, the fathers of college students have been more likely
to be found in professional and managerial positions than any other occupation. Since
1945, fathers in professional and managerial positions have sent their sons to
prestigious universities more than three times as often as those in other occupations
(Kariya 1995:67). According to the 1995 survey, among those who were born in
1965-1975, more than 70 percent of college students had fathers who were
professionals and in managerial positions (Aramaki 2000:23). In 1990, 47 percent of
the students in national universities came from the top 20 percent household income
bracket, 27 percent from the second highest, 12 percent from the third highest, 8
percent from the fourth, and 6 percent from the fifth (LeTendre et al. 1998:291). As a
result, higher education has contributed to the reproduction of social stratification.

Highly educated parents with high occupational status and high incomes tend to
provide their children with more cultural capital or habitus, which is transmitted
from parents to children through family investment in childrens education and
socialization (Bourdieu 1986). Leading studies confirm that the educational
attainment of the parents has a greater effect than income when it comes to the
academic success of their children (Kariya 1995:83). Highly educated parents are
more likely to have high expectations and aspirations for childrens education, teach
their children the importance of education, spend more time helping them with their
schoolwork, arrange for private lessons, and provide a supportive learning
A 1995 survey of parents of fourth to ninth graders showed that 62 percent of children
whose fathers were college graduates wanted to attend college, while only 26 percent
of children whose fathers were middle school graduates had the same intention
(Smuch 1996:169). In 1990, families in the lowest income quintile spent 4,225 yen
a year for their childrens education, while families in the highest income quintile
spent 26,027 yen (LeTendre et al. 1998:292). According to the 1995 SSM survey,
almost 70 percent of people in their 20s whose fathers were professionals and in
managerial positions took private lessons (juku, tutors, and/or correspondence
studies), while less than 30 percent of those in their 20s whose fathers were engaged
in agriculture took them (Aramaki 2000:27).
Besides the social backgrounds of students, ethnographic studies prove that the
teaching skills and attitudes of instructors also affect childrens educational
achievement (Takeuchi 1995:31-39; Heyns 1986:317-319). Teachers can be mentors
for children who lack cultural capital by teaching them to value education, inspiring
them to study hard, and helping their schoolwork. Remedial education, such as afterschool lessons for those who fall behind helps the lower-achieving children to
improve. Such affirmative action programs are necessary to offer disadvantaged
children a better future.


The term, educational credential society (gakureki shakai) became popular in the
1960s. During this period of high economic growth (1953-1973), a large number of
farmers sons obtained the high school and college degrees, and enjoyed upward
mobility into white-collar jobs through their educational credentials. Educational

credentials became an indicator of a social birth, a lifetime achievement (Kariya

1995:109). By the mid-1960s, the majority of parents wanted their children to attend
college in order to obtain a better educational credential for their future occupation
(Kond 2000:6).
All high schools and colleges are academically stratified, and therefore graduation
from a particular school is a measure of academic achievement. Organizations and
companies use educational credentials to evaluate the knowledge and potential of job
seekers. Educational credentials on job applications of new graduates signal to
employers how smart they are at school without generating further informational costs
during the recruitment (Rosenbaum et al. 1990:270-280). Furthermore, people may
use educational credentials to evaluate the cognitive quality in informal occasions.
The Japanese believes that any child can achieve upward social mobility, if he or she
succeeds in earning high educational credentials. Therefore, teachers and parents urge
children to attend better high schools and better colleges in order to obtain better jobs
in the future. The competition to obtain better educational credentials through
admission into better high schools and colleges is so fierce that it is known as
examination hell. The entrance examination for high school admission is the first
formal sorting system for better future lives (better pay and higher occupational
status) for almost all 15-year-olds. Entering a good academic high school provides
students with a fast track to entering a good college. Students are encouraged at
school and home to study hard and gain high scores on the examinations. The return
match for those who failed the first tournament (Rosenbaum 1976) is provided at
college entrance examinations. However, in most cases, those who attend lowerranked high schools find it harder to gain admission to high-ranked colleges and
The regression analysis of educational attainment and labor wages confirms the
human capital theory that investment of time and money in education can increase the
probability of earning higher salaries and enjoying higher occupational status because
employers use educational credentials to evaluate applicants potential and
productivity. According to the 1995 SSM survey, each additional year of education
increases a persons income by 8.5 percent. Those who work in larger corporations
for longer years earn more raises than those who do not. Also, people in managerial
positions, sales, and manufacturing gain more income increases based on the number

of years spent on education than those in professional and clerical jobs (Yano and
Shima 2000:117-120).
However, the critics of the human capital theory argue that the job market is affected
not only by educational credentials but also by social and institutional networks, and
that job-related knowledge and technology can be learned on the job (Center 1998).
Collins argues in Credential Society, that schooling is very inefficient as a means of
training for work skills (Collins 1979:21).
Educational credentials have less effect on promotions in the later stages of a persons
career than they do on recruitment and entry-level training. The analysis of the 1993
employment records of college graduates in a large financial and insurance company
demonstrates that college credentials only have a small correlation with promotions to
positions such as the department chief (buch) twenty years after college graduation.
At that stage, the promotion is more likely to be determined through job performance
and productivity (Ishida, Spilerman and Su 1997:874, 879). It is important to note
that the correlation of education and income is inconsistent among women because,
according to the 1995 SSM survey, only 20 percent of married women work full-time
(Seiyama 2000:13-14).


Japanese society, largely illiterate at the beginning of the Edo period (1603-1867) had
become one of the most literate societies in the world by the end of the Edo period.7
Local feudal lords established fief schools for samurai, Japanese warriors and thus
every samurai was literate. Ordinary farmers, craftsmen, and merchants sent their
children to the terakoya, temple schools for basic knowledge, writing, reading, and
counting. By the end of the Edo period, the attendance was high in urban areas such
as in Edo (86%), though it was much lower in isolated rural areas. The percentages of
male and female attendance in terakoya were 79 percent and 21 percent, respectively
(Passin 1965:44-47).
The Meiji government (1868-1912) established a bilateral system of education:
compulsory primary education for the masses, and secondary and higher education for
the elite. The 1872 School Ordinance mandated a compulsory four-year elementary

school system (expanded to six years in 1907) for all children from the ages of 6-14 in
order to produce a rich county with a strong army that would equal the Western
countries. By 1875, 25,000 elementary schools were open nationwide, and 35 percent
of children between the ages of 6-14 (41% of boys and 18% of girls) were enrolled, at
the attendance rate of 74 percent (Tokyo Shoseki 2000:197; Hamashima Shoten
2000:128).8 The enrollment rate of elementary students rose to 49.5 percent in 1885,
61.2 percent in 1895, and by 1910 it was 98.1 percent (Kdansha 1999:434). Poverty
and gender affected the enrollment rates in elementary schools. By 1918, universal
enrollment in elementary schools finally reached girls and the children from the urban
lower classes (Okado 2000:234).
Only a small portion of elementary school graduates from the upper and middle class
continued on to five-year academic secondary schools for boys or five-year secondary
schools for girls; the majority entered the labor force or to two-year higher elementary
schools. When the enrollment of elementary schools approached 100 percent in 1915,
11 percent of male students and 5 percent of female students entered secondary school
(Aramaki 2000:16).
In 1925 in Fukui prefecture, 6.4 percent of male students and 10 percent of female
students went on to five-year secondary schools, and 0.4 percent of male students and
0.7 percent of female students went to normal schools. More than half of all male
students (52.4%) and one-third of all female students (33.6%) went on to a two-year
higher elementary school, 3.6 percent of male students went on to part-time vocational
schools, and 2.2 percent of male students and 4.8 percent of female students went to
miscellaneous schools.
On the other hand, 22.5 percent of male students entered the family businesses,
including agriculture and forestry (15.0%) and 11.8 percent went to work in
manufacturing (2.1%), sales (5.9%) and apprenticeships (2.1%). One-third of female
students (33.2%) worked in family businesses, such as agriculture and forestry
(21.5%), while 16.5 percent went to work manufacturing (9.3%), sales (0.1%),
apprenticeships (1.1%), domestic service (1.8%), and nursing or midwifery (0.6%)
(Okado 2000:37).
After 1886, some elementary schools added six months to one year of supplementary
night classes. In 1893-1894, supplementary vocational schools were established for

graduates of elementary schools who did not go on to higher elementary schools or

secondary schools. Supplementary vocational schools provided courses in reading,
writing, accounting, and practical courses in agriculture, industry, and commerce.
These schools had programs that ran for three years or less, and apprenticeships
lasting six months to four years. By 1923, 1,024,774 students (72.9% boys) took
courses from 8,299 teachers in 14,975 schools (Takano 1992:18, 38).
By the 1930s, approximately 20 percent of male students continued on to five-year
secondary boys schools while 17 percent of female students continued on to five-year
secondary girls schools to learn to become good wives and wise mothers (Aramaki
2000:16). The discrepancy between urban and rural educational norms is remarkable.
As early as 1925, in Nagoya City, 57 percent of male students and 50 percent of
female students went on to five-year secondary schools. Even among the graduates of
one elementary school in Tokyo in 1936, students from the middle class were more
likely to have better grades and go on to five-year secondary schools than students
from the families of manufacturers, farmers, and small retailers, who were more likely
to have lower grades and enroll in higher elementary schools or join the work force.
Poverty forced many of these graduates to seek employment rather than further
education (Okado 2000:42, 126-148).
Higher education in Japan during the prewar period was available only to the elite. In
1877, Tokyo University, the first Imperial University, was founded in order to catch up
with European and American scholarship. By 1915, two percent of male students and
0.1 percent of female students went on to post-secondary education (Aramaki
2000:16). Then, under the College Ordinance of 1918, the status of university was
granted to many other national, prefectural, municipal, and private professional
schools. These schools were able to gain university status if they added preparatory
courses for high school education (Osaki 1999:36-37). Options for higher education
expanded and became available to more students. After graduating from five-year
secondary schools, some students attended private three-year professional schools;
others attended private three-year preparatory high schools and three-year colleges;
and still others attended three-year preparatory high schools and three- to four-year
imperial universities. By the 1930s, the enrollment rate in higher education had risen
to about six percent for men and about one percent for women (Aramaki 2000:17).

Since the late 1880s, public education had been based on patriotism and
Confucianism. The first Minister of Education, Mori Arinori, replaced comparatively
liberal western-style education with nationalistic and Confucian education in the late
1880s. The 1890 Imperial Rescript on Education, the core of prewar education in
Japan, emphasized Confucian principles, such as loyalty to the emperor, filial piety,
and affection and trust among family and friends. In addition, three compulsory hours
of ethics were taught to children each week in the 1890s (Gluck 1985:150).
In the early 1890s, the Imperial Photograph, the photograph of the emperor and
empress, as well as the Imperial Rescript on Education were distributed and enshrined
in each schools Altar of the Imperial Family. On national holidays, the principal read
the Rescript in front of the Imperial Photograph during the school ceremonies, and the
entire school would salute the Photograph of Emperor and Empress. They would then
sing the kimigayo, the national anthem, and other holiday songs for the emperor. The
children learned to be in awe of the emperor through school ceremonies and regular
visits to the schools Altar of the Imperial Family. Beginning in 1904, the Ministry of
Education emphasized the imperial view of history through nationalized textbooks in
all primary schools. Many of the teachers who taught the militaristic and ultranationalistic wartime curriculum to students during World War II had been students in
this imperialistic educational system from the 1890s (Ienaga 1978).
Beginning in the 1910s, victories in the Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895) and the
Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905) reinforced the imperial and nationalistic ideology.
During the Taish Democracy of the 1920s, progressive educators advocated childcentered education for middle class children in urban areas (Okado 2000:144-5).
However, starting with the severe economic recession in the late 1920s, ultranationalists and military officers controlled the government. In the 1930s, militarist
and ultra-nationalist ideologies pervaded the Japanese educational system.


In 1941, public elementary schools became National Peoples Schools and took a
central role in militaristic wartime education. All children were taught to be dedicated
subjects of the emperor and to fight the war for the emperor. Nationalized textbooks,
especially those on history and ethics, deified the emperor and glorified the Imperial
Army and Navy. The 1940 National History for elementary school children referred
to the Emperor Hirohito as a Living God. The 1934 History Textbook described the

legend of the creation of the Japanese nation by the Sun Goddess, and the first
Emperor Jinmu (Harada and Tokuyama 1988:111). This imperial worship
continued until the end of World War II.
The 1943 Nations History for Elementary School included the first chapter, Country
of Gods and concluded, We have to study hard to become good subjects, and to
do our best for the sake of the Emperor (Ishikawa 2000:104). The ethics textbook
for second graders stated, Japan, the Good Country, the Beautiful Country. The only
Country in the World, the Country of God (Tokutake 1995:33-34). By 1944, boys in
higher elementary schools had two hours of compulsory military training a week, and
students in third through sixth grades took special classes for training. Ueda
National School launched must-win education in 1944, and children memorized the
Declaration of War, and The Rescript on Imperial Soldiers, took military training,
and cooperated with community organizations to support the war. Children recited,
Do not take the humiliation of being prisoners of war. You should rather die to avoid
the humiliation of being prisoners of war in the Instruction on War (Toda
1997:163-168, 170-173). From 1941 to 1945 these Little Nationalists were taught
to believe that the Emperor was a Living God, and to die for the Emperor and the
Schools and local communities cooperated in training children and youths to dedicate
their lives to the Emperor and to the war effort. All male students in the third grade or
above, except for secondary school students, and all working youths belonged to the
Great Japan Youth Organization under the MOE from 1941 to 1945, when it was
absorbed into the Great Japan Youth Units. In June 1942, 54,604 organizations had
14,215,000 children and youths (Yamanaka 1989:304, 420; Toda 1997:104-106).
Students wrote letters and sent packages to soldiers, cleaned shrines and temples,
worshipped, and saved money for war effort through school events.
Military training courses had been assigned to male students in five-year secondary
schools since 1926, and in youth training centers since 1927. In 1926, youth training
centers were established for working men between the ages of 16-20. The youth
training centers provided 800 course hours for four years, including 400 hours of
military training, 100 hours of ethics and civics, 200 hours of academic subjects, and
100 hours of vocational subjects. Public military training centers were annexed into
elementary schools or supplementary vocational schools, and instructors for military

training were elementary school teachers, supplementary vocational teachers, and

military reservists. Those who completed the course in youth military training
centers, like those who received military training in secondary male schools, were
exempted from six months of military service. In 1926, 15,588 of these centers
trained 891,555 students, and this number did not change substantially until 1934
(Takano 1992:76-77, 81, 83).
In 1935, youth military training centers and supplementary vocational schools were
integrated into youth schools. After 1938, all young working men were required to
enter youth schools. Youth schools had two-year general courses for those who did
not attend higher elementary schools, and four- to five-year courses for those who
graduated from higher elementary schools. The five-year courses for men included
350 hours of military training, 100 hours for ethics and civics, and 510 hours for
general and vocational subjects. For female students, two-year general courses were
offered to those who did not go to higher elementary schools, and two- or three-year
courses were offered to those who graduated from higher elementary schools (Takano
1992:135, 138, 140, 162).
Most of the students in youth schools had been born in the Taish era (1912-1926),
and were drafted for the Asia-Pacific War. In 1938, 17,743 public and private youth
schools taught approximately 2,210,000 students. In 1942, 2,910,000 students were
taught in 21,272 youth schools (Takano 1992:188, 215).
As the war entered its devastating finale in 1945 and the country experienced labor
shortages, all students from higher elementary schools through universities were
required to work in factories and farms, under the 1944 Student Workers Ordinance.
Many elementary school children in urban areas were relocated to rural areas with
their teachers, far away from their families in bombed-out urban areas.


Immediately after World War II, the General Headquarters (GHQ) of the Supreme
Commander for the Allied Forces (SCAP) abolished the militaristic wartime education
that had been based on the Imperial Rescript on Education. In 1945, the GHQ purged
militaristic teachers, blackened out militaristic descriptions in textbooks, and
suspended courses on ethics, history, and geography, which had taught ultranationalism and imperial-centered doctrine. The GHQ initiated a new democratic

educational system, modeled on the American school system. The U.S. Education
Mission, consisting of 27 progressive American educators, stayed in Japan for less
than a month, and submitted a report, which became the blueprint for postwar
educational reform in 1947 (Kawase 1999:193).
The Civil Information and Education Section (CI&E) of the GHQ implemented a
decentralized and democratic education system based on the report, in cooperation
with the MOE. The GHQ entrusted the administration of education to local
governments, as in the United States, and introduced elected boards of education in
each prefecture in 1948 (Marshall 1994:149).
In 1947 the government enacted two laws: the Fundamental Law of Education and the
School Education Law, both of which emphasized egalitarianism and educational
autonomy. The single 6-3-3-4 system of education replaced the prewar dual (elite and
popular) educational system, and required all children to attend middle school.
Wartime National Peoples Schools became six-year elementary schools. Two-year
higher elementary schools and youth schools became three-year middle schools, while
five-year secondary schools became high schools. Two- and three-year professional
schools, preparatory high schools, normal schools, and all other schools became fouryear colleges.
The six years of compulsory education were extended to nine years of elementary and
middle school education. Almost all gender-segregated schools became
coeducational. High schools in small districts, modeled on public high schools in the
United States, were introduced by the GHQ. About half of all prefectures adopted the
model of small school districts with one high school, and 42 percent of high schools
were high schools of small school districts. In addition, 63 percent of high schools
became coeducational (Aramaki 2000:24). The rate of high school enrollment was
42.5 percent in 1950, and rose to 51.5 percent in 1955 (Monbukagakush 2001a:27).
Prewar universities (49 universities including 28 private universities) were open to
less than five percent of college-aged youths, and produced the elites of the nation. In
1949, the GHQ revolutionized the system of higher education by introducing a
uniform four-year college system. All two- and three-year professional schools,
preparatory high schools, and normal schools were upgraded into four-year

universities under the order of the Bureau of Civil Information and Education of the
At least one national university was established in each prefecture, modeled on state
universities in the United States. More than two hundred universities were established
throughout Japan. Professional schools, which did not meet the requirements to
become universities, became junior colleges, whose system was formally recognized
in 1964. By 1951, the 49 colleges and 452 professional, high, and normal schools of
the prewar educational system were transformed into 203 colleges and 180 junior
colleges. The government had strong authority over the approval of the establishment
of private colleges. General courses, unit credits, professional graduate schools, and
accreditation, all modeled on higher education in the United States, were introduced
into Japanese higher education (Amano 1996:13, 83; Kawai 1960:203; Osaki 1999:2,
According to the 1947 and 1951 Courses of Study, the MOE emphasized progressive
child-centered education. The principles of American progressive education
emphasized naturalism and pragmatism. Teachers help children learn from their own
experiences, without a fixed program. Social studies replaced geography, history, and
ethics, and emphasized social experiences from daily life and problem-solving
methods. Progressive scholars and educators, as well as the Japan Teachers Union
(JTU) praised this pedagogy. However, critics argued that child-centered education
aggravated the juvenile delinquency of the aprs la guerre generation (Kawai
After Japan regained its independence in 1952, the country enjoyed a period of rapid
economic growth that lasted until the first oil shock of 1973. Average economic
growth during the 1960s was 8.0 percent per annum, sometimes reaching as high as
10.6 percent (Kdansha 1999:300). As the number of laborers in the manufacturing
and service industries increased at the expense of farming, fishery and forestry,
farmers sons streamed into urban areas after graduating from middle or high schools,
and became salaried employees. The government designed an educational plan to
produce more educated and qualified laborers, responding to requests from industry,
and the increasing number of school-age baby boomers.

Education proved a vehicle for upward social mobility for most young people. In
1950, almost half of all Japanese people were engaged in primary industries (Aramaki
2000:17), and almost 80 percent of the workforce was made up of elementary school
graduates (Kond 2000:4). In 1950, among 1.59 million middle school graduates,
720,000 proceeded to high school, while 720,000 joined the workforce (Kariya
2000:1). However, by the mid-1970s, more than 90 percent of 15-year-olds attended
high school, and more than one-third of 18-year-olds attended four-year colleges or
junior colleges.
The comprehensive high schools introduced by the GHQ never became popular in
Japan. By 1957, only eight prefectures had the small school district system for high
schools. By 1967, only Kyoto prefecture implemented this system, which was
abolished in 1983. By 1963, the MOE acknowledged the use of entrance
examinations for high school admission (Aramaki 2000:25). All high schools were
academically stratified, and the admission into the elite high schools became highly
competitive. Many children were pushed to study hard to enter high-ranked high
schools and colleges. Examination hell was a popular reference to the competitive
entrance examinations and education mama were women who had high hopes for
the academic prospects of their children.
The high school enrollment rate nearly doubled from 51.5 percent in 1955 to 91.9
percent in 1975 (Monbukagakush 2001a:27). By the mid-1970s, the high school
enrollment rate of children whose fathers were manual laborers or farmers had almost
caught up with that of children whose fathers were professionals or in managerial
positions (Aramaki 2000:19). In 1965, the number of high school graduates who
joined the workforce exceeded that of middle school graduates who joined the
workforce (Ishida 2000:114). It was only after the 1960s that the majority of 15-yearolds stayed in schools.
College enrollment rates also rose from 10.1 percent in 1955 to 38.4 percent in 1975
(Monbukagakush 2001a:28). From 1960 to 1968, the number of college entrants
increased eight-fold, because of growing number of private colleges. In just eight
years, 127 private colleges and 188 private junior colleges were built, though only
three national universities were founded (Osaki 1999:220). Since 1970, the MOE has
subsidized private colleges. By 1975, 80 percent of colleges were private (Amano
1998:15). College education accounted for upward social mobility, and helped many

college graduates form a new middle-class of white-collar salaried workers in the

1960s and 1970s. In 1957, the government launched a manpower plan to develop
8,000 more science and engineering students by 1960, and 20,000 more students
overall by 1964 (Osaki 1999:212-214). In 1976, specialized training colleges (sensh
gakk) were reclassified as accredited formal schools from miscellaneous schools.
When many baby boomers (born between 1947-1949) became 18 years old in the
mid-1960s, many universities and colleges accepted more students than their
allowable quotas, and the ratio of students to teachers became too large. That caused
dissatisfaction among the students, and student riots occurred nationwide in the late
1960s. The student movements, starting from demands for lower tuition, better
instruction, and more student participation in college management eventually became
increasingly political, and anti-establishment forces and were led by radical Trotskyite
students (Steinhoff 1984; Motohashi 1985). After campus disturbances subsided in
the 1970s, some universities reduced class sizes and reformed the curriculum.
However, little has changed in the basic structure of college education.
The enrollment rate of high schools and colleges has been stabilized during the slow
economic growth following the mid-1970s. High school enrollment increased five
percent from 91.9 percent in 1975 to 97.0 percent in 2000, while college enrollment
increased from 38.4 percent in 1975 to 49.1 percent in 2000 (Monbukagakush
2001a:27-28).9 Since the 1990s, many universities and colleges have admitted nontraditional students, partly because of the difficulty recruiting high school graduates
due to the ever-decreasing number of children in Japan.
The United States, whose students perform less well than their counterparts in many
other developed countries, has lately returned to an insistence upon the basics, and
the accountability of teachers and schools for academic performance of the students.
In contrast, Japan has lowered the academic requirements since April 2002, and
reinforces the creativity and individuality of students by offering more elective
courses, after reconsidering the drawbacks of memorization and rote learning.10


Each state of the United States administers its public schools. Elected municipal
school boards set policies and budgets, and approve the hiring and promotion of

teachers and administrators. In contrast, in Japan, the Ministry of Education (MOE)

oversees school administration, curriculum, pedagogy, and educational content in
textbooks. Recently, the MOE has begun to delegate more decision-making powers to
prefectural and municipal boards of education and schools in the name of education
The American educational system is based on uniform primary and secondary
education, though each state decides the age limit for compulsory education. Public
education generally requires five years of elementary school education (grades 1-5),
three years of middle school education (grades 6-8), and four years of high school
education (grades 9-12). Since the late 1960s, middle schools11 have gained
popularity, and replaced junior high schools.
About 11 percent of students attended private schools, such as parochial schools and
preparatory schools in 2002. In 2001-02, 72.5 percent of 17-year-olds graduated from
high school. The high school dropout rate among 16- to 24-year-olds for 2001 was 11
percent (NCES 2003a).
In 2001, among 16- to 24-year olds who graduated from high school or completed a
General Educational Development (GED) during the preceding 12 months, 61.7
percent enrolled higher education, either in a two-year or a four-year college.
Between 21 and 24 percent of college students attended private colleges and
universities between 1992 and 2002 (NCES 2003a). Among students who were in
eighth grade in 1988, by 2000, 30 percent had completed at least a bachelors degree,
while 47 percent finished some college credits not enough for a bachelors degree.
Also, among the students enrolled in four-year colleges in 1995-1996, 63 percent had
received a bachelors degree by June 2001, and five percent received an associates
degree from two-year colleges, or other certificate below the bachelors degree.
Twelve percent were still studying for their degree, two percent were studying at lessthan-4-year institution, and 18 percent dropped out (NCES 2003b). In 2001, 84
percent of people 25 years old and over had completed high school and 26 percent had
completed at least four years of college. Furthermore, six percent held a masters
degree, more than one percent held a law or medical degree, and one percent held a
doctoral degree. In 1999, 33.2 of 100 persons of graduation age received bachelors
degrees in the United States, while 29.0 of 100 persons received bachelors degree in
Japan (NCES 2003a).

Though not mandatory, preschool education is almost universal in both countries. In

the United States, in 2001, 38.6 percent of three-year-olds, 66.4 percent of four-yearolds, and 86.7 percent of five-year-olds were enrolled in preschool, nursery school,
Head Start and kindergarten (NCES 2003a). In Japan, more than 70 percent of threeyear-olds, more than 80 percent of four-year-olds, and more than 90 percent of fiveyear-olds attended either preschools/kindergartens (ychien) or nursery schools
(hoikuen) (Monbush 1999b:270).
Japan has had much longer school days than the United States, though the difference
has been shortened. In the United States, most public schools are required to be in
session 180 days a year, generally from September to June, with a three-month
summer vacation. In 1997-1998, 51 percent of elementary schools and 66 percent of
secondary schools provided summer programs (DOE 2000b). Recently, many schools
have switched to year-round programs that have three-week vacations after each
quarter, in order to promote higher educational achievement. In Japan, the school year
had been gradually reduced to 210 days, in accordance with the five-day school week
from April 2002.
The U.S. government spent 5.2 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) on
education in 1999; the Japanese government spent 3.6 percent (NCES 2003a). In the
United States, public schools are free, and in 2001-02 the educational expenditure per
student amounted to $7,524 (NCES 2003a). In 1999-2000, the state (49.5%) and the
local school district (43.2%) paid for most educational expenditures with small federal
subsidies (7.3%) (NCES 2003a). In the United States, the public education
expenditures per student in 1999 were $6,582 in primary education, $8,157 in
secondary education, and $19,220 in higher education, while in Japan, comparable
figures were $5,240, $6,039 and $10,278 (NCES 2003a).
Many school districts are funded by property or other local taxes. Therefore, the
amount that a city or town spends on its students depends on the local tax base.
Poorer school districts spent less money per student than those in affluent suburbs.
However, to compensate for this inequity, metropolitan school districts receive more
state and federal subsidies. In Japan, the government subsidizes public elementary,
middle and high schools, and high school tuition is inexpensive.

In the United States, 11 percent of students attended private schools in 2002 (NCES
2003a). In addition, more than one million students are home-schooled (TIME
September 11, 2000). The issue of school choice has entered the political agenda. In
1999, 24 percent of students in grades 3-12 attended either public or private schools
chosen by their parents, not their assigned neighborhood schools (NCES 2001b).
Through school choice, parents can influence the quality of education for their
children, and tend to be more satisfied with and interested in their childrens
schooling. School choice has led to schools competing for students by improving
their programs (Fuller et al. 1996:11-12). In 1996, 69 percent of the public supported
school choice, and 44 percent even favored choosing a private school over public
schools (NCES 2001b).
School choice, including the creation of magnet schools and charter schools is popular
among parents of all income levels. Many middle-class parents can choose their city,
town, or suburb of residency based on the quality of the local public schools.
However, many low-income residents in inner cities or rural areas have restricted
educational choices.
Magnet schools and programs can take students beyond their assigned school
districts. In 2001, 1.5 million students were enrolled in over 5,200 magnet schools
(DOE 2002). The principles of magnet schools include parental choice, competition,
and institutional autonomy. Students have a variety of programs that both parents and
students have interest in, such as biotechnology, and fine arts. These schools offer
innovative pedagogies such as open classrooms, individualized education, and
accelerated learning (Blank et al. 1996:161). Magnet schools have grown in
popularity because they typically have larger budgets with more experienced teachers,
and can help students make greater academic progress. More than 90 percent of
magnet schools in 173 districts have waiting lists (Los Angeles Times September 8,
1999). Most magnet schools choose students by lottery, and one-third of these
schools use some criteria for student selection (Blank et al. 1996:154-155).
One of main purposes of magnet schools is to promote desegregation. The first
magnet schools appeared in 1973 when the Supreme Court ruled that northern cities,
like many southern schools, had to desegregate (Fuller et al. 1996:5). In 1975, the
court recognized the magnet school system as a voluntary desegregation strategy, and
since 1976 the federal government has financially supported them. The number of

magnet schools has increased rapidly in large urban school districts, which primarily
serve minority and low-income students. Magnet schools serve as incentive for
parents to keep their children in the public school system (Blank et al. 1996:155-159).
The ethnic composition of magnet schools is usually representative of their
Since 1992, charter schools have been public schools created through a contract with a
state agency or a local school board. Charter schools administer themselves, and
create their own curricula, but must achieve the goals set out in the charter, such as the
improvement of student performance, within a specific time. Seventy percent of
charter schools are newly created schools, and eleven states out of the 36 with charter
school laws allow private schools to convert to charter schools. Since the first charter
school opened in 1992, nearly four percent have closed (DOE 2000a).
In 1999, there were 1,605 charter schools with more than 250,000 students. In 19981999, charter schools taught 0.8 percent of all public school students in the 27 states
with charter schools. Most charter schools are small schools with an average of 137
students. The median ratio of students to teachers is 16:1, compared with 17.2:1 in all
public schools. In 1997-1998, the ratio of white students in charter schools (48%) was
lower than that in public schools (59%). Most charter schools mention limited
resource as a major problem. Charter schools are so popular that 70 percent have
waiting lists (DOE 2000a). However, according to a 2000 poll, half of the
respondents had never heard or read about charter schools. When they were informed
about charter schools, 47 percent opposed the idea while 42 percent approved (Rose
and Gallup 2000).
In Japan, the government subsidizes private schools whose tuitions at the high school
level are about three times as expensive as that of public schools. About one-quarter
of high school students are enrolled in private high schools of varying levels of
academic quality. Private middle schools emphasize academic achievement and
preparation for students to enter prestigious colleges, and have gained popularity,
particularly in metropolitan areas. Almost one-fourth of elementary school graduates
attend private middle schools in Tokyo, though 95 percent of middle school students
in the nation attend public schools. Furthermore, since September 2004, the local
governments can establish community schools, recommended by the National
Commission on Educational Reform. Principals appoint a management team and

teachers, and the school conference established by the local government monitor
school management and results (Kokumin Kyiku 2000; AS February 28, 2005).


Japanese primary and secondary schools have produced a workforce with solid
knowledge and a strong work ethic. There are many reasons for this success: longer
school days, a uniformly high standard of curriculum, excellent teachers, active
parental involvement in education, and respect for education. During the 1980s and
the early 1990s, foreign scholars and journalists praised Japanese education for
producing an educated and industrious workforce for economic and technological
The Japanese primary and secondary school education has been successful in
producing a generation with one of the highest level of academic achievement in
mathematics and science in the world. In 1964, the first international study of
achievement in mathematics for 13 year-olds and 18 year-olds discovered that
Japanese students scored the highest. International studies of science achievement
among 10 and 14 year-olds in 1970-1971, and those of mathematics achievements for
13-year-olds in the early 1980s show that Japanese students again scored highest
(Lynn 1988:4, 15-16).
The 2003 survey by the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study
(TIMSS 2003) found that Japanese eighth graders ranked fifth of 46 countries in
mathematics and sixth in science, while American eighth graders ranked fifteenth in
mathematics and ninth in science. Also, Japanese fourth graders came in third of 25
countries in mathematics and third in science while American fourth graders ranked
twelfth in mathematics and sixth in science (AS December 15, 2004). In addition,
Japan enjoys one of the highest literacy rates in the world. Almost 100 percent of
children are enrolled in elementary school, and the illiteracy rate among children is
almost zero.
However, Japanese people have a reputation for being less creative and individualistic
because of the emphasis on memorization and rote learning in education. The current
reform focuses on developing students creativity and individuality. Local control,
elective courses, comprehensive high schools, volunteerism, and community
involvement are key elements of American education. On the other hand, American

schools concentrate on basic knowledge, demanding the curricula and testing that
have been the foundation of Japanese education.
Concerned with the deterioration of academic performance, conservative educators
gained prominence in the 1980s. The 1983 reform report, A Nation at Risk by the
National Commission on Excellence in Education recommended a program of New
Basics, a required core curriculum. The Commission criticized the extensive
cafeteria-style curriculum in high schools as the main cause of declining academic
achievement and SAT scores (NCEE 1983; Angus and Mirel 1999:2-3). More and
more students have been taking academic courses since the reform. In 2000, 31
percent of students completed recommended core requirements: 4 units of English, 3
units of social science, 3 units of science, 3 units of mathematics, 2 units of foreign
language, and 0.5 unit of computer science (NCES 2003a).
Standardized test scores have generally been used to measure academic achievement.
Under the 1994 law, states are required to test students once during elementary school,
middle school, and high school. In January 2002, President George W. Bush signed
the No Child Left Behind Bill which requires annual state tests in reading and
mathematics for every child in grades three through eight, starting in no later than the
2005-6 school year. Recently, some states and school districts have developed
specific curricula which teachers are expected to follow in order to raise test scores,
though critics point out teaching to the test undermines students creativity (TIME
March 6, 2000). Teachers are being held responsible for their students performance.
The teachers, principals, and administrators in Californias lower 50 percent of
schools, who helped students raise their standardized test scores were eligible for large
cash bonuses from the states testing-and-accountability programs (Los Angeles Times
October 10, 2001).
In the United States, ability grouping starts in elementary school. Elementary schools
have within-class ability grouping, advanced classes for gifted and talented children,
and special education classes for children with learning disabilities. Middle and high
schools usually use a tracking system, which distribute students among ability- or
interest-based classes. Since the early 1970s, programs for gifted students have
become popular in public schools, and 12 percent of students receive some kind of
advanced instruction. In public schools, gifted students are invited to participate in
special math, science, or arts classes. Some districts provide summer camps or after-

school classes for gifted students. In California, 6.12 percent of students participate in
these programs. Students who enroll in these programs often need to have an IQ of
120 or higher, but many programs accept students on the basis of teacher
recommendations, academic records, interviews, or other tests (Los Angeles Times
April 1, 2001).
In Japan, ability grouping and tracking in elementary and middle schools has been a
taboo subject because of the egalitarian philosophy of education following World War
II. However, during the 2002-3 school year, the MOE launched limited ability
grouping for advanced students in elementary and middle schools. Upon entering
high school, almost all Japanese 15-year-olds take entrance examinations that
determine their placement in hierarchically ranked academic, vocational, or
comprehensive high schools.
In the United States, the number of public school students diagnosed with learning
disabilities (LD) had increased to six percent by 1998. The majority of LD children
stay in special education throughout their school years, and may encounter
discrimination in postsecondary education and employment. However, a survey
showed that only 15 percent of LD students met the clinical definition of LD, and that
most students diagnosed with LD lived in poverty, and scored low in cognitive
development (Meyer, Harry and Sapon-Shevin 1997:337). The overrepresentation of
minority and disadvantaged children indicates that the low scores on reading
performance are caused not by learning disabilities, but by poverty, disadvantaged
educational environments, and the lack of early education (Los Angeles Times
December 12, 1999; Agbenyega and Jiggetts 1999). Early compensatory education
for disadvantaged children, such as Head Start, helps these children avoid being
labeled as LD. In Japan, the MOE plans to start similar special education for children
diagnosed with learning disabilities.
In the United States, elementary schools do not have tracking systems, but many
teachers frequently use differentiated instruction to meet the needs of all students in a
classroom. It is believed that the students learn more successfully if they are taught
according to their levels of readiness, interests, and learning profiles (Tomlinson
2000). In middle schools, ability grouping and tracking in reading, English, and
mathematics classes is very common. According to a 1993 survey, 82 percent of
middle schools used ability grouping to some extent, though 36 percent of schools

reported that they might abandon ability grouping (Mills 1998). Black, Hispanic and
Native American students and low-income students are overrepresented in the lower
tracks. It is generally believed that tracking gives high-achieving students the
challenge and stimulation that they need, while it stigmatizes low-achievers as slow
learners, and relegates them to second-class status, with inferior instruction, less
experienced or committed teachers, and lower expectations.
Tracking in middle schools has declined nationwide. Middle school educators have
argued that the enriched curriculum, high-level thinking, and problem-solving
techniques used in gifted classes would benefit all students (Tomlinson 1995a,
1995b). Public high schools usually have three tracks: academic, general, and
vocational. In addition to their distribution requirements for graduation, students take
classes according to their interests and academic goals. College-bound students may
take more honor classes, or Advanced Placement classes; vocational students may
take courses in typing and business.


By 2020, it is estimated that the number of minority students will reach half the
student body of the United States. About 14 percent of students speak a language
other than English (Banks 1999). In the spring of 1996, public teachers consisted of
whites (90.7%), blacks (7.3%), Asian/Pacific Islanders (1.0%) and American
Indian/Alaska Natives (1.0%), including Hispanics in terms of origin (4%). In the fall
of 2000, non-white students comprised 38.8 percent of all elementary and secondary
school students (including 17.2% blacks, 16.3% Hispanics, 4.1% Asian/Pacific
Islanders, and 1.2% American Indians/Alaskan Natives). The distribution of students
in degree-granting institutions in the fall of 2000 consisted of 28.2% minority students
(11.3% blacks, 9.5% Hispanics, 6.4% Asians or Pacific Islanders, and 1.0% American
Indians/Alaskan Natives) (NCES 2003a).
Starting in elementary school, black and Hispanic students perform less well than
white students. The academic performance of nine-year old black children in the
1996 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) achievement tests was
lower than that of white children, and the gap in the academic performance persisted
at ages 13 and 17, although the gaps in reading, mathematics, and science have
narrowed. Hispanic students (Mexican Americans, Puerto Ricans, and Cubans) also
had lower scores than white students in the 1996 NAEP achievement tests, although

their scores in English and mathematics have improved. The reading level of 17-yearold Hispanic students was similar to that of 13-year-old whites (NCES 1998).
The educational attainment of blacks and Hispanics is also lower than that of whites.
Among 25- to 29-year-olds in 1997, 87 percent of blacks and 62 percent of Hispanics
had a high school diploma or equivalent, compared with 93 percent of whites. Also,
among 25- to 29-year-old high school graduates, 54 percent of blacks and 54 percent
of Hispanics finished some college or more in 1997, compared with 68 percent of
whites. However, the rate of blacks and Hispanics who have completed four-year
colleges or more still lags far behind that of whites. In 1997, 16 percent of blacks and
18 percent of Hispanics received a bachelors degree or higher, compared with 35
percent of whites (NCES 1998).
Blacks and Hispanics are generally less likely to be employed, and when employed,
they earn less than whites with the same level of education. Among 25- to 34-yearold men who have a bachelors degree, 97 percent of whites and 87 percent of blacks
were employed full-time in 1997, and 7.4 percent of blacks and 1.6 percent of whites
were unemployed that same year. In 1994-1996, 25- to 34-year-old white men with a
bachelors degree earned $7,900 more than their black counterparts, and $4,400 more
than their Hispanic counterparts (NCES 1998).
Childrens home environment significantly affects their performance in the
classroom. Parents with higher socioeconomic status and educational attainment are
generally more involved with their childrens education, and spend more time and
money on their childrens education. Black and Hispanic children are more likely to
live in single-parent households, and have parents with lower socioeconomic status, as
well as lower educational attainment than white children. Forty-nine percent of all
black children and 31 percent of all Hispanic children live with only one parent.
Single parents, mainly mothers, usually have less time to read to their children,
supervise homework, or meet with teachers (Fuller et al. 1996:7). Also, 42 percent of
black children (1995) and 40 percent pf Hispanic children (1996) lived in poverty,
compared with 10 percent of white children (1996). In 1997, 79 percent of fathers
and 78 percent of mothers of black children (ages 15-18), and 46 percent of fathers
and 45 percent of mothers of Hispanic children had at least a high school diploma or
equivalent, compared with 90 percent of fathers and 92 percent of mothers of white
children (NCES 1998).

The number of immigrant children reached 5 million in 1994. By 2010, this number
will almost double, accounting for about one-fourth of all school-aged children (Fix
and Passel 1994). They are concentrated in California, New York, Texas, and Florida.
It is estimated that more than 50 percent of all Hispanic children and 90 percent of all
Asian children have at least one foreign-born parent (Fuligni 1998:127).
According to a 1980-1986 survey of high school students, immigrant children were at
least as academically successful as those who had American-born parents. Immigrant
children and their parents have a more positive view of education, and place a higher
priority on college education than American-born students and their parents. The rate
of high school graduation among immigrant children is highest among Asian students,
compared with whites, blacks and Hispanics (Vernez and Abrahamse 1996).
Immigrant high school graduates continued on to college more than their Americanborn counterparts. Four out of five Asian high school graduates went on to college,
while one out of two Hispanic high school graduates did (Vernez and Abrahamse
1996). The National Education Longitudinal Study of 1988 through 1992 confirmed
that Asian students with a foreign-born parent earned higher grades and math scores,
and that Hispanic, black, and white students with immigrant parents performed as well
as their native born counterparts with American-born parents (Kao and Tienda 1995).
Desegregation Policies

In 1954, the Supreme Court mandated the desegregation of schools with all
deliberate speed, rejecting the separate but equal doctrine in Brown v. The Board
of Education of Topeka, Kansas. From the mid-1960s to the late 1970s, the courts
aggressively enforced desegregation. In 1971, the Supreme Court granted mandatory
busing in order for black children in inner cities to attend suburban white schools. In
the wake of World War II, blacks have been concentrated in poor urban areas,
separated from suburban middle-class whites. However, since the 1970s, the
residential segregation of blacks has somewhat diminished, as more middle-class
blacks have moved to suburbs in the West and South (Farley and Frey 1994; Los
Angeles Times June 24, 2001).
The percentage of black students who attended predominantly white schools increased
from 13 percent in 1968 to 37 percent in 1980 (Jacob 1996:60). On the other hand,
most school boards hesitate to transfer white students to predominantly non-white

schools. White parents are much more likely to send their children to private schools
rather than enroll them in public schools that have large black or Hispanic student
populations. Mandatory transfers are more frequently found in the South while the
voluntary transfers are more common in the North and Midwest (Wells and Crain
Magnet schools have also been recognized as vehicles for voluntary desegregation.
The South, where 0.01 percent of black students were enrolled in predominately white
schools in 1954, is still the most racially integrated part of the country, although the
rate of black students in predominantly white schools decreased 43.5 percent in 1988
to 39.2 percent in 1991. Interestingly, Northeastern and Midwest states such as
Illinois, Michigan, New York, and New Jersey are the most segregated (Eaton and
Orfield 1996:119).
Since the 1980s, the courts have been less aggressive in enforcing integration. The
courts have even overturned race-based desegregation policies and busing. In 1991,
the Supreme Court ruled in Board of Education of Oklahoma v. Dowell that
mandatory court-ordered busing could be stopped once school districts had taken all
practicable measures to eliminate segregation. In 1992, the Supreme Court allowed
local school districts to decide the ratio of white to minority students and the
continuation of desegregation initiatives (Jacobs 1996:62-63). A federal judge
ordered a race-blind plan for San Francisco schools for the 2000-1 school year,
replacing a 1983 federal desegregation plan of San Francisco with mandatory racial
quotas (Los Angeles Times January 3, 2000). As a result, many urban schools are
becoming racially re-segregated, as more students attend neighborhood schools
(Orfield et al. 1996). On average the black students attended schools with 33 percent
white students in 1996, compared with 36 percent white students in 1980 (Los
Angeles Times June 12, 1999). In 1999, at least 500 school districts had federal
desegregation orders, in addition to an unknown number of districts with
desegregation orders without any federal involvement (Los Angeles Times September
11, 1999).
Desegregation seems to have improved literacy rates, post-secondary education, and
occupational prospects of black students (Schofield 1996). However, many
desegregated schools have been re-segregated within schools through tracking, ability
grouping, and special education assignments (Hall 1997:18; Lomotey and Fossey

1997:406-407). Some educators and minority leaders, disappointed with

desegregation, instead focus on improving the educational performance of minority
students in neighborhood schools (Hall 1997:18; Eaton and Orfield 1996:127).
Compensatory Education and Affirmative Action Programs

In the United States, the government subsidizes compensatory education and

affirmative action programs for children with disadvantaged home environments. In
1999, Head Start, with a $4.3 billion budget provided preschool education for more
than 831,000 children between the ages of three and four from low-income families
(GAO 2000:3-4). In 1993-1994, one-third of public elementary and secondary school
students received publicly funded free or reduced-priced lunches. Also, about 13
percent of elementary and secondary schoolchildren received Title I service (NCES
Title I, Part A funded $7.1 billion in 1997 to subsidize educational agencies and
schools for low-achieving disadvantaged children. Seventy-seven percent of the
funds were spent on instruction, and hiring additional teachers and instructional aides.
Twelve percent was used for instructional materials and computers, and another 12
percent for program administration. In 1994-1995, the highest-poverty quartile school
districts with 49 percent of the nations poor children had total revenues of $6,245 per
student, including federal subsidies of $692 per student, while the lower-poverty
districts with 7 percent of the poor children had total revenues of $6,958 per student,
including federal subsidies of $172 per student. In 1997-1998, teachers in elementary
schools in the poorest areas with at least 75 percent of students in poverty had lower
salaries ($35,115), less experience (13.3 years), and fewer masters or higher degrees
(37%) than those in lower-poverty elementary schools with less than 35 percent of
students in poverty, where teachers had had an average of $40,839 per year in salary,
15.5 years of experience, and 49 percent had at least a masters degree (DOE 2000b).
A typical Title I elementary school with 500 students in 1997-1998 added 4.4 full-time
staff, including 2.1 more teachers with an average annual salary of $36,427, 1.9
teachers aides with an average annual salary of $12,627, and 0.5 non-instructional
staff. Title I teachers spent two-thirds of their time in instructional activities,
including 49 percent of their time in resource rooms and departmentalized classes, 14
percent in the classroom, and another 3 percent on tutoring, in addition to planning,
preparation, grading, and other activities. In 1997-1998, high-poverty elementary

schools (74%) were more likely than low-poverty elementary schools (36%) to
provide extended-time instructional or tutorial programs during the school year. On
average, 7 percent of the students, including 14 percent of the students in the poorest
schools attended these programs. Extended-time instructional programs averaged 116
hours during the school year (DOE 2000b).
Many colleges consider the racial composition of students, and use affirmative action
programs to increase the number of minority students. Minority students may also
receive special consideration for admissions and/or special scholarships. The
percentage of minority college students has increased from 15.4 percent in 1976 to
28.2 percent in 1999 (NCES 2003a). Quotas, for minority students in college
admissions were declared unconstitutional by a 1978 Supreme Court case in which a
white applicant for medical school sued the University of California for reverse
discrimination. However, the verdict allows for the use of race and ethnicity as a
plus factor, but not as the decisive factor in admissions (The Regents of University
of California v. Bakke).
Title VI of the 1964 federal Civil Rights Act and the 1974 Supreme Court decision
guarantee language-minority students, or Limited English Proficient (LEP) students,
to receive additional aid at school. Generally, bilingual education is targeted to
Spanish-speaking elementary school children and/or English as a Second Language
(ESL) programs are provided for LEP students. In California, four-fifths of students,
1.4 million LEP students spoke Spanish as their native language in 1998. Fewer than
one-third of LEP students received bilingual education, and others took ESL courses
before being enrolled in regular classes. Fewer than 7 percent of LEP students
graduate from LEP classes every year (Los Angeles Times May 8, 1998; Los Angeles
Times May 18, 1998).
Bilingual education in Californias public schools was denied when voters passed
Proposition 227 on June 2, 1998. Proposition 227 stated that All children in
California public schools shall be taught English by being taught in English. More
than 400,000 LEP students were in bilingual education programs at that time (Los
Angeles Times May 6, 1998; June 4, 1998). However, parents of LEP students can
request bilingual education for their children. In the Los Angeles United School
District, many students in English immersion classes received substantial help in their
native languages from bilingual teachers, and 11,809 students (far fewer than the

107,226 students in 1997) requested bilingual classes in the fall of 1998 (Los Angeles
Times October 22, 1998).
In Japan, the government subsidizes education for minority and disadvantaged
children (socially discriminated Buraku children, indigenous Ainu children, ethnic
minority Korean children, ethnic and/or linguistic minority foreign children, such as
Nikkei children, Chinese returnee children, and refugee children) in order to improve
the educational achievements of minority children and to enhance their minority
Multicultural Education

The Civil Rights movement of the 1960s triggered a multicultural education

movement, which focused on the culture and history of blacks. Since the late 1970s,
multicultural education has expanded to include gender, class, language, ability,
religion, and sexual orientation. The purpose of multicultural education is to learn
about minority cultures from their perspectives, to reduce prejudice and
discrimination, and to improve the academic achievement of minority students with
cooperative learning and de-tracking (Banks 1999:14-17).
In practice, social studies and language arts textbooks pay far more attention to
minority cultures than ever before. Middle and high schools teach multicultural
education through regular classes in English or history/social studies. Elementary
schools may have more special events for multicultural education, for example,
teaching about Mexican culture on May 5, the Mexican national holiday. According
to a survey, 46 percent of 713 school districts with 10,000 or more students had
multicultural education programs. Of these programs, 88 percent were for all
students, almost 50 percent used ethnic studies curricula in social studies or language
arts courses, almost 30 percent had anti-racism programs, and 11 percent had specific
programs for developing inter-group harmony (Aboud and Levy 2000:278).
In Japan, Japanese children learn about minority cultures and history under human
rights education through special events and textbooks, in order to reduce prejudice
and discrimination toward minority children.

The 1872 School Ordinance mandated compulsory four-year elementary school
system (expanded to six years in 1907) for all children from the ages of 6-14, whose
enrollment rate reached almost 100 percent in 1915. The 1890 Imperial Rescript on
Education took a significant role in prewar education based on patriotism and
Confucianism, which emphasized loyalty to the emperor, filial piety, and affection and
trust among family and friends. Progressive educators advocated child-centered
education for middle class children in urban areas briefly during the Taish
Democracy in the 1920s before militaristic wartime education in the 1930s and the
early 1940s, when all children were taught to fight for the Emperor Hirohito, who was
regarded as a Living God in the 1940 National History for elementary school
After World War II, the Ministry of Education (MOE) established a new democratic
educational system and emphasized progressive child-centered education, modeled on
the American educational system during the U.S. occupation (1945-1952).
Afterwards, however, Japanese education has become highly centralized under the
direction of the MOE, which has controlled school administration, curriculum,
pedagogy, and educational content in textbooks. During the period of rapid economic
growth (1953-1973), the majority of young people enjoyed upward social mobility
through education. The high school and college enrollment rates increased rapidly
from 51.5 percent in 1955 to 91.9 percent in 1975 for high school, and from 10.1
percent in 1955 to 38.4 percent in 1975 for college. Then, the enrollment rates of high
schools and colleges stabilized during the time of slow economic growth. High
school enrollment rose from 91.9 percent in 1975 to 97.0 percent in 2000 and college
enrollment increased from 38.4 percent in 1975 to 49.1 percent in 2000.
Parents and teachers have encouraged students to aspire to entering the finest schools
and colleges, as Japan evolved into an educational credential society in the 1960s.
Educational credentials are used to gauge the knowledge and potential of job seekers
as well as the cognitive quality of persons in general. In fact, the educational
achievement of children is most affected by the amount of education that their parents
received. Highly educated parents expect their children to accomplish more, and are
willing to invest more in their childrens education.

Based on proposals by the National Council on Educational Reform (NCER)

(Rinkyshin) in 1987, the MOE has been implementing large-scale educational reform
for the deregulation of the school system, the diversification of curriculum, changes in
the examination system, the promotion of higher education, the development of
lifelong education, the promotion of scientific research, information technology and
sports, and the internationalization of education in order to improve the rigid and
uniform Japanese educational system. In 2000, the National Commission on
Educational Reform proposed the implementation of ability grouping in primary and
secondary education, the enforcement of regular achievement tests in high schools,
the promotion of six-year secondary schools, the implementation of volunteer
activities, the evaluation of teachers, and revision of the Fundamental Law of
The 1998 Course of Study for 2002 onward created the field of integrated study.
Each school determines what and how to teach international issues, information
science, environmental issues, social welfare, and/or health issues through debates,
volunteer activities, surveys and/or experiments in order to develop the creativity and
individuality of students. Moreover, each school can determine the length of classes.
Middle and high school students have many more elective courses than they did in the
Compared with Japanese education, each American school district administers its own
schools. Since the 1983 reform report: A Nation at Risk, the United States has moved
from a less structured curriculum to one that rigorously teaches the basics. The
number of students taking academic courses has increased, and teachers are held
accountable for their students performance on standardized tests. In contrast, Japan,
which had taught basics thoroughly through memorization and rote learning, reflected
on its pedagogy, and began educational reforms, based on the 1987 Rinkyshin report
to promote deregulation, diversity, and individuality.
In the United States, students are divided according to academic ability into gifted
classes, and special education classes for children with learning disabilities. Many
elementary schools have within-class ability grouping, and most middle and high
schools have a tracking system, based on the students academic abilities. In Japan,
there is no ability grouping in elementary and middle schools nationwide, though the
MOE has experimented with ability grouping for advanced elementary and middle

school students. As of May 2003, 74.2 percent of elementary schools and 66.9
percent of middle schools enforce small-scale ability grouping (AS February 24,
2004). High school students are already sorted by entrance examinations into
hierarchically ranked academic, vocational, or comprehensive high schools.
In the United States, compensatory education and affirmative action programs such as
Head Start and Title I funds are provided for disadvantaged or minority children. In
Japan, minority and disadvantaged children, such as Buraku children, Ainu children,
Korean resident children, and foreign children also receive compensatory education.
1872 The School Ordinance.
1890 The Imperial Rescript on Education.

The College Ordinance and High School Ordinance.

1947 The Fundamental Law of Education. The Basic School Law. The 6-3-3-4
school system is established. The Japan Teachers Union (JTU) is organized.
1956 The publicly elected board of education is replaced by the appointed board of
education approved by the Ministry of Education (MOE).

Legalization of junior colleges.

1969 The Special Measures Law for Dwa Projects.


Specialized training colleges are established.

1982 The Textbook Controversy over the Invasion of China.

1987 The National Council on Educational Reforms (Rinkyshin)
1989 The All Japan Teachers and Staffs Union (Zenky) is created.
1990 The Lifelong Learning Promotion Law.

1993 Comprehensive high schools and comprehensive courses in high schools are
1995 School counselors are deployed at school. Cooperation between the JTU and
the Ministry of Education.

Deregulation of the Law for the Regulation of Teachers Certificates.

2000 The National Commission on the Educational Reforms recommendation. The

Law on the Promotion of Human Rights Education and Raising Human Rights

Introduction of the five-day school week.

1. Japanese schools and education are discussed in English (e.g., Shields 1989;
Beauchamp 1991; 1998; Rholen and Bjrk 1998; DOE 1998; Okano and Tsuchiya
1999; Goodman and Phillips 2003).
2. The promotion of public six-year secondary schools was intended to ease
examination hell, and by 2003, there were 183 six-year secondary schools
(Monbukagakush 2004a). Furthermore, starting in April 2002, the Ministry of
Education (MOE) assigned two research schools to test the combination of elementary
and middle school education as a part of the deregulation of the school system for
three years (AS May 11, 2002).

Children who have turned six years old by March 31 enter elementary school.

4. Schools had four-unit hours of classes in the morning every Saturday until 1992.
Since 1993, schools had one Saturday a month off, and since 1995, two Saturdays a
month off. Starting in April 2002, there have been no Saturday classes at public
5. Schoppa argues that the drastic changes sought by Prime Minister Nakasone and
the neo-conservative internationalist group were compromised by the resistance of the
MOE, a power broker of the existing education system backed by conservative
Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) politicians in the final report (Schoppa 1991a:251).

6. According to the occupational categories in the SSM survey, managerial positions

include principal managers of companies with at least 30 employees, and sectional
managers or chief managers in the government and companies with at least 300
7. Articles and books about history of education from 1800 to the 1980s (Marshall
1994), in the Tokugawa era (Dore 1965; Rubinger 1982), the prewar period (Gluck
1985; Motoyama 1997; Lincicome 1991), the Occupation era (Kawai 1960), and
postwar period (Beauchamp 1991) have been published in English.
8. From 1872 to 1900, the Elementary School Law mandated that students of the
same academic levels be grouped in the same grade regardless of their age (Sat
9. Since 1985, the enrollment rate of high schools has included the correspondence
courses of high schools (Monbukagakush 2001a:27).
10. Comparative analyses of Japanese schools and American schools are discussed
in many English books and articles (Cummings 1986; Ichikawa 1986; Tobin 1986;
Duke 1986, 1991; Lynn 1988; Beauchamp 1991; Stevenson and Stigler 1992; Rohlen
and LeTendre 1996; Shimahara and Sakai 1995; Wray 1999; LeTendre 1999;
LeTendre 2000; Tsuneyoshi 2001; DeCoker 2002).
11. Many middle schools use interdisciplinary team teaching, exploratory education,
and cooperative learning for intellectual development, and for the development of
social skills, personal values, and understanding of adult roles (Kerka 1994).



Contents of This Chapter

1. 2-1


1. 2-1-1


2. 2-1-2


1. Sakura Preschool (Ychien)

3. 2-1-3


1. Kiku Daycare Center

2. 2-2


1. 2-2-1


2. 2-2-2


3. 2-2-3


1. After-School Activities
2. After-School Programs
3. The After-School Program at Momo Elementary School
4. Private Lessons (naraigoto) and Cram Schools (juku)
5. Students At Home
4. 2-2-4


Recently, ychien (preschool and kindergarten) have become more like hoikuen
(nursery school) by providing extended services for working mothers. Otherwise,
because of the falling birthrate, it would be too difficult for the ychien to maintain
the number of children enrolled. Elementary schools have also confronted the
problem of too many vacant classrooms by the decreasing number of students. In
April 2002, the school week was reduced to five days. All elementary schools now
have integrated study and course content has been reduced by 30 percent, in accord
with the 1998 Course of Study. This chapter discusses the current state of preschool
and primary school education in Japan.




More than 70 percent of three-year-olds, more than 80 percent of four-year-olds, and

more than 90 percent of five-year-olds attend either preschool/kindergarten (ychien)
or nursery school (hoikuen) (Monbush 1999b:270).1 Ychien is the Japanese
equivalent of American preschool and kindergarten. Under the jurisdiction of the
MOE, preschools teach three- to six-year-olds approximately four hours a day.
Nursery schools provide full-time childcare for infants and preschoolers to the age of
six whose guardians are unable to take care of them because of work, illness, or other
reasons. Nursery schools began as a social welfare program for poor working mothers
under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Health and Welfare. The local government
had examined eligibility and assigned nursery schools before the 1997 Amendment to
the Child Welfare Law allowed parents to select nursery schools. As the number of
working mothers has risen, more mothers prefer nursery schools to preschools.
Approximately 60 percent of first-graders graduated from preschools (ychien) in
2003 (Monbukagakush 2004a). The government plans to establish integrated
preschool/nursery school facilities, which will accept children up to the age of five
without the requirement of guardians work status and let part-time guardians use only
during working days, if they want, after April 2006 (AS January 15, 2005).
In recent years, the government has become interested in preschool education and
childcare. The government enacted the 1995 Child Care and Family Care Leave Law,
the Angel Plan (1994-1999), and the revised Angel Plan (2000-2004) to provide
favorable childbearing and childrearing environments for women, especially working
mothers. This change in policy came after the government was alarmed by the

drastically decreasing birthrate (in 2003, 1.29 children per woman in her lifetime).
The ever-decreasing number of newborns will reduce the number of productive
workforce-aged groups, and stall economic productivity. Moreover, a smaller pool of
workers will have to bear the burden of supporting social welfare for a population that
is both aging and living longer. Lawmakers have realized that they have to make it
easier for women to balance their careers and motherhood if they want to prevent a
further decline in population. The Child Care and Family Care Leave Law guarantees
working parents childcare leave for newborns and toddlers. Beginning in April 1999,
all companies must provide childcare leave up to one year after birth, and shorter
working hours until the child enters elementary school, at the request of any employee
(male or female).
Under the Angel Plan (1994-2004), the government subsidizes childcare facilities and
childrearing expenses. First, the government launched the Five-Year Program on
Emergency Measures for Nursery Care (Angel Plan) (1994-1999) which opened more
nursery schools for newborns, extended the hours of daycare service, provided
temporary and emergency daycare service, created infant health daycare services,
promoted after-school childrens clubs, and increased the number of multipurpose
nursery schools and child-rearing centers. The conditions for childbearing and
childrearing are improving. However, the demand for nursery schools for newborns is
still high. In practice, not many women take long-term childcare leave from work.
Local governments regulate their own Angel Plans to meet demand at the community
level. Many local governments provide incentives for women to have more children.
The Marugame municipal administration enacted the Marugame Angel Plan (20002004) to promote 1) health and medical care for pregnant women, newborns, and new
mothers; 2) extended daycare service and temporary daycare service; 3) community
support at child centers, mothers clubs and child counseling centers; and 4) reduction
of fees for nursery schools (Marugame-shi 2000). The administration waives half of
the daycare tuition for the second child, and provides total daycare tuition for the third
In 1999, there were 5,069 children under the age of six in Marugame City, which had
a population of 80,000. Fourteen public nursery schools operate for eight hours a
day. Some of them provide service for 10.5 hours a day. Three private nursery
schools operate 11 hours a day. Private nursery schools take care of infants and

provide temporary emergency daycare. In addition, there are five unlicensed nursery
schools. There are eight public preschools and two private preschools that thus far do
not provide extended childcare service. Six percent of newborns, 26.2 percent of oneyear-olds, and 37.7 percent of two-year-olds are sent to nursery schools. Mothers
and/or relatives care for the rest at home. Approximately half of all children between
the ages of 3 and 6 attend preschools while the other half go to nursery schools
(Marugame-shi 2000).


Preschools provide two or three years of education for children before they enter
elementary school. The first public preschool was affiliated with Tokyo Womens
Normal School in 1934. Since the 1960s, the number of private preschools has
rapidly grown (Monbush 1992:33). Most preschools operate four hours a day and
lunchtime, and are finished by around two oclock. Therefore, the children sent to
preschools often have stay-at-home mothers, or working mothers whose relatives,
usually a grandparent, can watch the children in the afternoon.
In 2003, 702,000 five-year-olds, 659,000 four-year-olds, and 400,000 three-year-olds
attended 14,000 preschool, including 8,400 private preschools (Monbukagakush
2004a). In 2002, the MOE allowed two-year-olds to attend preschool in special
districts since many parents wanted their children to attend preschool before the age
of three (AS September 27, 2002).
The ratio of enrollment in preschools and nursery schools has changed over the years,
as more and more working mothers use nursery schools rather than preschools. Many
preschools, especially private ones, are pressured to provide extended childcare hours
in order to stay in business. Private preschools, approximately 60 percent of all
preschools, receive less public funding than public preschools do, and have to rely
primarily on tuition fees from parents.
With extended childcare service, preschools are becoming more like nursery schools.
In 1997, about 30 percent of preschools, including almost half of all private
preschools, offered extended childcare services until the evenings (Kseish
1998:164). Extended childcare service in preschools was recognized as a part of
preschool operations in the 1998 Course of Study for Preschool, which went into
effect in 2000. For example, since 1999, Midori Preschool, which used to operate

from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., is now open from 7:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. They planned to
have a daycare room for children from children up to the age of two by May 2000,
responding to the request from the Setagaya Ward government in Tokyo.
Approximately 30 percent of preschools (4,197 preschools) have provided extended
childcare service since 1997 (YS January 10, 2000).
Preschools with longer hours do not differ greatly from nursery schools (hoikuen), and
it is expected that the current ministerial jurisdictions (the MOE and the Ministry of
Health, Labor and Welfare) of two institutions will be phased out. Some local
governments have already begun to integrate ychien and hoikuen for childcare and
preschool education. In 2003, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare deregulated
in order to transfer some daycare center facilities for the preschool, while the MOE
consider doing the same for nursery schools (AS October 22, 2003).
The average preschool has 23.9 students in a classroom, with 16.2 students per teacher
(Monbukagakush 2004a). Some classes have two teachers: a regular teacher and an
assistant. Large classes promote interaction, socialization, and group consciousness
among children. The assistant teachers help to meet a childs individual needs.
Ninety-four percent of preschool teachers are female (Monbukagakush 2004a), most
of whom received a teaching certificate from a junior college. They generally remain
in the classroom for less than five years, leaving either when they marry or when they
have their first child. Recently, however, more preschool teachers have kept teaching
because their earnings help the household income. Their salaries are decent, and the
social prestige of being a preschool teacher is relatively high among female workers.
Many female students wish to become a preschool teacher.
Japanese preschool education is child-centered and based upon the principle of
whole person education, which focuses on social and emotional development,
friendship and responsibility. The 1989 Course of Study for Preschool changed
preschool education pedagogy from planned classroom teaching into child-centered
education with minimal intervention from teachers. Children learn social skills
through playing, while teachers create optimal environments for their development,
and monitor their activities. Many preschool teachers were initially confused by this
hands-off policy.

The 1998 Course of Study for Preschool Education remains child-centered, but
provides more teacher guidance. According to the 1998 Course of Study, preschool
education should help children develop healthy bodies and minds while exposing
them to a range of experiences. The Course of Study does not mention the cognitive
and academic development of preschool children. Preschools are considered to be
places for fun and socialization, not for academic study (Monbush 1998c).
Preschool education is the first step in childrens socialization. Teachers instill an
appreciation of friendship and cooperation. Children develop their creativity and
sensitivity through crafts, drawing, playing music, dancing, caring for plants and
animals, and making friends. Children learn about cooperation and responsibility by
participating in small group (han) activities. Peer interaction sharpens their
interpersonal skills. Teachers take a low profile, seldom scolding or punishing
mischievous behavior. Teachers let children play and settle their own conflicts. The
children take turns as task monitors so that every child has an opportunity to lead the
Comparative ethnographic studies of preschools show that the Japanese preschool
focuses more on teaching social skills and fostering a collective identity, unlike the
American preschools, which place a premium upon individualism and independence.
The Japanese preschool keeps teachers at a low profile, and lets children monitor
themselves. In contrast, the American preschool establishes a dyadic relationship
between a maternal type of teacher and the children (Tobin et al. 1989:63, 70).
According to another cross-cultural survey, preschool education in the United States
focuses on cognitive and academic stimulation. About 30 percent of class time is
allocated to teaching academic materials in American preschools. On the other hand,
only 20 percent of class time is allotted to teaching academic materials in Chinese
preschools, while less than 5 percent is used in Japanese preschools (Stevenson and
Stigler 1992:78-79). Three percent of Japanese mothers and 28 percent of American
mothers expect kindergarten to provide their children with academic experience.
Almost all Japanese mothers and 55 percent of American mothers expect kindergarten
to help their childs social and emotional development (Bacon and Ichikawa
1988:380). Japanese mothers teach their children basic reading and counting through
reading books and playing with numbers at home. Most children can read the
Japanese alphabet and count to ten before they enter elementary school.

Most preschoolers are indulged by their parents and family members. According to a
cross-cultural study, Japanese mothers are much more likely than American mothers
to give in to their childs wishes. For example, 68.4 percent of American mothers
stated that they would force an unwilling child to go to kindergarten, while only 37.4
percent of Japanese mothers would (Bacon and Ichikawa 1988:381).
Sakura Preschool (Ychien)

In April 2000, Sakura Public Preschool, established in 1898, had 121 preschoolers
between the ages of 3-5 in five homeroom classes with five teachers and three
assistant teachers.2 The city assigned two of the assistant teachers to two disabled
children. Sakura Preschool operates from 8:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. on Mondays,
Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays, and from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. on Wednesdays
and Saturdays. The facility is closed on the second and fourth Saturdays. Children
bring lunch boxes on Mondays and Thursdays, and have school lunch on Tuesdays
and Fridays. Parents/guardians are required to take their children to preschool in the
morning and pick them up in the early afternoon. Approximately 70 percent of the
childrens mothers are stay-at-home mothers. Parents/guardians read the teachers
daily journals every day, and cooperate with teachers. The preschool has a 40-day
summer vacation and two weeks of winter and spring vacation, like public primary
and secondary schools. The monthly tuition amounts to 6,000 yen. By comparison, a
nearby private preschool costs 14,500 yen per month, more than twice as much as the
Sakura Public Preschool.
Sakura Preschool emphasizes child-centered education and learning through
experience (social experience education). According to the preschools brochure,
Preschool education helps raise children to be healthy and strong in their bodies and
minds, to have basic life disciplines and group norms, to be sensitive and love nature,
to be thoughtful toward friends, to be creative, and to be persistent in accomplishing
goals. The children learn interpersonal skills, group rules, and affection by playing
with friends, nurture affection for animals and plants by caring for school rabbits and
plants, and develop creativity and artistic abilities by drawing, crafting, singing and
dancing. Teachers organize students into groups of six or seven in order to build their
sense of cooperation and responsibility.
Ten years earlier, the pedagogy changed from teacher-centered to child-centered,
following the Course of Study. Five-year-olds used to learn the Japanese alphabet and

counting by studying workbooks, but now they learn the Japanese alphabet and
counting indirectly, through drawing and crafting. The new methods of pedagogy
perplexed some teachers, and initially the child-centered curriculum created discipline
problems in the classroom. The 1998 Course of Study reflects the overemphasis on
child-centered education, but adds the importance of the teachers leadership in
childrens education. Teachers need to find the best methods of guiding children in
their activities.
On a sunny day in February 2001, children came to preschool between 8:30 a.m. and
9:30 a.m., and put their bags away in their classroom. Then the children and their
teachers played on the playground until 10:30 a.m. Between 10:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.,
all children stopped playing so that they could take physical exercise. All children
engaged in fitness exercises set to music and then ran around the playground and/or
played jump rope. At 11:00 a.m., all the children returned to their classroom and
sang, listened to picture book stories, drew pictures, made crafts, or watched videos
under the supervision of their teachers.
In a class of 17 three-year-olds, the children practiced songs with a piano played by
their teacher, and danced to music together with their teacher. Then they practiced
skipping to music. The teacher asked the children what they had done with the class
of five-year-olds during a field trip to a nearby castle a few days previously. The
children said that they had played games with their five-year-old big brothers and
Around 11:30 a.m., the children prepared for lunch. They washed their hands, and
arranged several long tables and their chairs for lunch. The two children in charge of
the days task force cleaned the tables. All children put napkins over the desk, and the
children in charge distributed hotdogs and milk. Then, two children of the days task
force said, Please eat now! The rest of the children replied, Thank you. We will
eat now. Please eat, Dear Monitor Thank you. We will eat now.
After lunch, they put away the dishes and brushed their teeth. Then they played in the
playground or in their classrooms until 1:30 p.m. The teacher took charge of the class
from 1:40 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. by singing, reading stories, and informing them about
upcoming events.

In another class, four-year-olds sang a song and listened to stories told by their
teachers. The class of five-year-olds practiced dancing for the upcoming 100th-year
celebration of a nearby elementary school. Around 2:00 p.m., the mothers and
guardians of the children arrived to pick them up.


Nursery schools (hoikuen) were established under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of
Health and Welfare (now the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare) as a part of the
social welfare programs for working mothers. Nursery schools tend to newborn
babies, toddlers, and preschoolers to the age of six whose guardians are unable to take
care of them because of work, health problems, or responsibilities to sick or elderly
family members. As more mothers work outside of the home, the number of children
enrolled in nursery schools has risen. Prior to the revised 1997 Child Welfare Law,
local governments had designated certain nursery schools as a part of their social
welfare program. Since April 1998, parents/guardians have been able to choose
nursery schools. Since April 2000, businesses, private preschools, and individuals can
establish their own nursery schools. The local government sets tuition fees for
licensed nursery schools, taking into consideration the annual income of
parents/guardians and the age of the child.
In April 2003, approximately 1,990,000 children received nursery care at 22,355
licensed nursery schools (AS August 20, 2003). The prefectural and municipal
governments together share half of the expenditures for nursery schools. Nursery
schools regularly operate eight hours a day on the weekdays all year long. Parents
apply for daycare at their municipal office, which determines whether their child can
be taken care of at a daycare center, depending on their needs. The fees for nursery
schools are based upon the income of the family or guardian. National and local
governments subsidize both public and private nursery schools (about 60 percent of
nursery schools are public).
Nursery schools, which provide extended childcare service and care for newborn
babies, are in high demand. Many nursery schools accommodate working mothers
who cannot pick their children by 4:30 p.m. by offering longer service hours.
However, many caregivers are themselves mothers, and cannot work early in the
morning or late in the evening. The local government subsidizes these extended

services, especially for children under the age of two, because many newborn babies
are on nursery schools waiting lists.
In 1999, the national government established a 200-billion-yen grant to counter the
plunging birthrate. The grant money is distributed to local governments to use at their
discretion. In many cases, local governments subsidize preschools and nursery
schools. About 70 percent of the grants are used to build facilities and purchase
equipment for preschools and nursery schools (AS January 14, 2000). Since 2000,
public subsidies for childcare have been extended to children under elementary school
age. Originally these subsidies were only granted to children under three years old.
One of most serious childcare problems is the shortage of caregivers for newborn
babies, toddlers, and children before and after regular business hours. If working
mothers cannot find a daycare center, they have to bring their children to an
unlicensed daycare center or to a daycare home. In 1998 there were 9,644 unlicensed
nursery schools, including 3,561 company daycare facilities and 649 baby hotels
(Kseish 1998:160). The government must increase the number of nursery schools
that offer extended childcare service and emergency daycare service. As of April 1,
2003, there were 26,383 children, 57 percent of whom were 1- to 2-year-olds, on
waiting lists for the licensed nursery schools. The Ministry of Health, Labor and
Welfare planned to increase the number of nursery schools in order to take 150,000
children from 2002 to 2004 in order to take all children on the waiting lists (AS
August 20, 2003). About half of new nursery schools may be private, and unlicensed
but excellent nursery schools may receive public subsidies (AS May 21, 2001).
Newborn babies and toddlers can be taken care of by daycare homes, baby-sitters,
community-based support centers, and by mothers support groups, though many
parents prefer licensed nursery schools. In the mid-1950s, local governments started a
home-based daycare system (so-called daycare mama system) for babies and
toddlers younger than three years of age. In 1997 there were 137 local governmentoperated home-based daycare systems (Kseish 1998). Many homemakers or
retirees are interested in obtaining the certificate to open licensed home nursery
schools. Childcare providers can earn certification by completing correspondence
courses. Many local governments have taken the initiative in creating childcare
home-helpers by providing free workshops for baby-sitters and nannies.

Many community centers offer childcare facilities that are staffed by volunteers.
Marugame City provides a community-based childcare support club for stay-at-home
mothers of children up to three years of age. Mothers bring their children to the
childcare support clubs in nearby community centers once a month, where the public
health nurse and volunteers examine the children and offer advice to the mothers.
However, this support is available only for stay-at-home mothers or guardians, not for
working mothers.
Nursery schools emphasize childcare services rather than preschool education. The
curriculum for nursery schools follows guidelines from the Ministry of Health, Labor
and Welfare. Almost all nursery teachers are female, and most of them received their
certification from a junior college. Nursery schools have much longer operating hours
than preschools, and provide naptime and snack time. Nursery schools teach children
up to six years of age how to use the toilet, feed themselves, and put on their clothes.
In addition, nursery schools provide preschool education for four- to six-year-olds,
like preschools/kindergarten (ychien). According to a cross-cultural study of
American and Japanese nursery schools, American teachers prepare children to be
self-sufficient, while Japanese teachers indirectly train children to socialize with their
peers (Fujita and Sano 1988).
Kiku Daycare Center

In April 2000, the private Kiku Daycare Center in Marugame had 216 children up to
five years of age, 32 caregivers, one nurse, four food service workers, and three
administrators.3 The government regulates the maximum ratio of children per
caregiver. For example, one caregiver cannot take care of more than three newborn
The Center, like other private childcare centers, tailors its programs to working
mothers in order to attract more children. The Center operates from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00
p.m. on weekdays, and from 8:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Saturdays, with extended
hours from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. in the morning, and from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. in
the evening. The Center also provides temporary childcare services, where one
childcare worker and one assistant care for the children. Furthermore, the Center has
an after-school childcare program for first to third graders from 7:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
during the spring, summer and winter vacations.

The tuition for public and private nursery schools is based on the guardians
household incomes because childcare service in nursery schools is a social welfare
program under the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare.
Children are dropped off at the Center between 7:00 a.m. and 8:00 a.m., have a snack
time at 10:00 a.m. for newborns to 2-year-olds, lunchtime at 11:30 a.m., a naptime
from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m. (except for 5-year-olds), and an afternoon snack time at
3:00 p.m. The mothers and guardians return to pick up the children between 5:00 p.m.
to 7:00 p.m. All classrooms, except the 5-year-olds classroom, have a corner of
tatami-floor where children can nap. The bathrooms are connected to the classrooms
for smaller children so that caregivers can teach toilet training. Children play, sing,
dance, make handcrafts, and listen to stories read by caregivers in the playgrounds and
classrooms. Five-year-olds have more classroom learning activities in order to
prepare for elementary school. The Center provides English lessons with a native
English-speaker once a week for four- and five-year-olds. The children perform plays
in English at the school festival. Four- and five-year-olds have a dance lesson once a
week and a brass band class once a month. In addition, the Center teaches computer
skills to five-year-olds three times a week.




Ninety-nine percent of elementary schools are public schools, and each municipal
board of education supervises all public elementary schools under its jurisdiction.4
The municipal boards of education are overseen by the prefectural board of education,
which is responsible for the employment, assignments, and salaries of teachers. The
MOE subsidizes the educational expenses of the prefectural governments that have
insufficient budgets for education expenses, in order for all children in the nation to
receive the same quality of education. All school-aged children are assigned to a
school in their locality. All children study the same curriculum based on national
standards from teachers with a uniform set of qualifications.
Teachers are periodically rotated among the schools in their district in order to keep
the quality of the instruction equal. However, some regional discrepancies in
academic achievement and college enrollments are well attested. The students in
urban areas are more likely to attend colleges than those in rural areas. However, this
has less to do with the quality of the schools or the teachers than with cultural and

socioeconomic differences. The degree of educational aspiration in the urban

communities is generally higher than in rural communities.
The strict division of elementary school districts based on egalitarianism (one
elementary school per district) became looser in an era of deregulation and
decentralization. Responding to the 1997 deregulation of the school district system by
the MOE and to the growing popularity of private schools, the Shinagawa Ward in
Tokyo introduced a school choice system in public schools. In April 2000, Shinagawa
Ward created four large districts comprising forty elementary schools, any of which
parents can choose. Since April 2001, parents can also choose a middle school among
18 public middle schools in the Shinagawa Ward. On April 1, 2001, 21.1 percent of
Shinagawa Wards elementary school students and 28.1 percent of its middle school
students attended schools outside of their designated districts (MKS July 10, 2001).
The Shinawaga Ward also plans to establish a nine-year school that combines
elementary and middle schools in 2006, in order to have a more flexible curriculum
and to compete with private schools (AS January 18, 2002). Since April 2002, the
Shinawaga Ward introduced an evaluation system run by parents and local residents
who visit the school.
The number of elementary school students has been decreasing for eighteen
consecutive years, due to the lowered rate of childbirth. In 2002, there were
approximately 7,239,000 students in elementary schools, about 61 percent of
11,925,000 students (the second generation of baby boomers) recorded in 1981
(Monbukagakush 2002a). In recent years, many elementary schools have been
closed or merged with other schools because of the shortage of students. Many
elementary schools have empty classrooms, which have been converted into computer
rooms, international understanding rooms, and even into rooms open to the general
public. Since 1993, the government has promoted the use of school facilities for the
community (Monbush 1999b:10). Responding to the growing elderly population,
schools such as Yushima elementary school in Tokyo have converted parts of their
facilities into a nursing home (Kaplan et al. 1998:96). Such an arrangement promotes
intergenerational communications.
The declining number of students also caused higher competition for teaching
positions, and in 1999 only one-third of the people graduating from national
universities with degrees in education found teaching positions (AS September 19,

1999). In 2001, the average teacher was 43.8 years old (Monbukagakush 2003a).
Growing age difference between elementary students and teachers may cause
miscommunications and problems in classroom management.
The average number of students per class is 26.5, and the student-teacher ratio is
17.5:1 (Monbukagakush 2004a). The current maximum class size of 40 prevents
teachers from paying enough attention to individual students. Teachers also have
heavy workloads when they grade the homework, quizzes, and examinations of 40
students, write daily notes to each student and complete all of the administrative
paperwork. One principal told me that it is impossible to give each of the 40 students
individual attention and meet all of their needs. Making classes smaller is at the top
of the lists of demands of elementary school reformers.
Since April 2003, each prefectural board of education has had the right to reduce class
size to fewer than 40 students, but the prefecture has to pay for the extra teachers.
Following the recommendation of the Research Survey Group, the MOE started to
allow schools to experiment with smaller classes. In April 2001, five prefectures
authorized class sizes of under 40 students, especially for first graders (AS May 12
2001). A year later, sixteen prefectures planned to enforce a smaller class size policy,
including six prefectures implementing smaller class sizes for middle school students
(AS March 10 2002). Yamagata prefecture planned to implement a class size of fewer
than 21 to 33 students for first to sixth graders by adding 223 teachers over the next
few years (AS January 10, 2002). After April 2002, sixteen prefectures decided to
keep classes between 30 and 38 students, especially for the first graders. Six
prefectures have similar plans for middle schools (AS March 10, 2002).
The MOE rejected the Groups proposal for a 30-student class, arguing that it would
require about 120,000 teachers and an additional trillion yen. The Group also
recommended that the homeroom class, the core of elementary school education,
could be dissolved and regrouped into a different class for certain subjects. Then, the
MOE decided to increase the number of elementary and middle school teachers to
22,500 over five years, beginning in the 2001-2 school year, in order to assign two
teachers per class in the lower grades, and divide a class into two for mathematics and
English in elementary and middle schools (AS October 14, 2001). Classroom aides
and volunteers would assist teachers in the classroom and after school.5 The MOE
plans to hire approximately 50,000 teachers aides to work in elementary and middle

schools over the three years starting in 2001, and to promote the volunteer system
(Monbukagakush 2003b:62-63). Furthermore, the MOE plans to send college
students who are majoring in education to elementary and middle schools to tutor
students after school (AS August 17, 2002). It will reduce costs if schools become
more open to the community, and recruit classroom aides and volunteer helpers from
the large local pool of highly educated homemakers. Many such volunteers are now
active in after-school programs and integrated study. The practice of using of school
support volunteers has spread across Japan.


All public elementary schools are required to design a curriculum based on the MOEs
Course of Study. The national standard of education guarantees a high quality
education to all students. However, the rigidity of the school curriculum has impeded
the individuality and creativity of students. In 1987, the National Council on
Educational Reform (Rinkyshin), commissioned by Prime Minister Nakasone,
criticized the uniformity of education, and recommended the diversification of
primary and secondary school curricula and that the deregulation of the educational
system (Monbush 1989).
The 1989 Course of Study for 1992-2001 was issued in accordance with the
recommendation. The 1998 Course of Study for 2002 onward emphasizes further
deregulation, diversity, and individuality. The 1998 Course of Study also reduces the
content of the curriculum by 30 percent, and allots 20 percent of class hours to review
sessions, in order to emphasize basic knowledge for all students. Many teachers are
worried that such a reduction of educational content will interfere with students
academic progress. According to a 2002 survey, the test scores of elementary school
students on the 100-point mathematics test was 10.7 points lower than the scores of
those who had taken the test in 1992 (AS September 23, 2002).
Responding to public concerns about lowering academic standards, many public
schools found ways to increase the number of academic class hours by shortening
school events, providing a summer session, and having parents and community
leaders teach Saturday classes (AS May 6, 2002). Furthermore, the MOE plans to
create a special study group for advanced students, by adding one more teacher to
each of the 846 model elementary and middle schools (increasing to 1,692 schools

and 20 high schools in the 2003-2004 year) (AS August 18, 2001; AS August 17,
Since April 2002, students in third grade and higher spend at least two hours a week
on integrated study (sgtekina gakush no jikan). Each school can choose its own
topic and design a curriculum for this new subject, which might include international
issues, information science, environmental issues, social welfare, and health. The
MOE suggests social experience education such as debates, volunteer or community
activities, surveys, and experiments.
Since April 2000, elementary schools have implemented integrated study courses.
Fourth-graders at Jkon Elementary School used integrated study to investigate how a
local river had become polluted. According to a 2003 survey, 89 percent of
elementary school students and 78 percent of middle school students enjoyed
integrated study classes because it gave them an unconventional academic
experience. However, 44 percent of teachers are struggling to find methods of
teaching integrated study (AS September 18, 2003).
English conversation classes are also recommended for comprehensive learning
classes in elementary schools. Schools invite an Assistant Language Teacher (ALT), a
native English speaker, or a Japanese native who is proficient in English to teach
English conversation once every two weeks. In a surprise move, the MOE agreed to
cooperate with the juku (cram school) for the first time, and to subsidize English
conversation juku for fourth to sixth graders (AS August 30, 1999). The MOE plans
to grant 140,000,000 yen for 50,000 elementary school students for English language
education on Saturdays in 100 areas nationwide. The MOE will choose five areas in
twenty prefectures, recruit 500 fourth to sixth graders in each area, and subsidize their
participation in an English conversation juku on Saturdays or Sundays for a total of 35
lessons per year. These juku can be operated by a private individual at home,
American schools, cultural centers, English-language schools, and similar
institutions. The government pays half of the tuition and the parents pay the
remainder (AS August 30, 1999). In 1995, 18 percent of fourth to sixth graders
attended English conversational juku (Smuch 1996:66).
Moral education teaches children ethics and values such as honesty, integrity, respect
for the environment, compassion, obedience, and appreciation for their own and other

cultures. Moral education is not based on nationalistic ideology, the remnant of the
wartime education, as some progressive scholars claim, though it is based on
conservative values.6 In this respect it is similar to character and value education in
the United States (Ban and Cummings 1999). Patriotism in moral education is very
moderate in Japan, compared with the United States and other countries. It is still a
taboo to teach students in schools to pledge themselves to their country or to fight for
their country. The conservatives, the government, and the MOE have always
emphasized the importance of moral education in order to prevent juvenile
Fifth and sixth graders learn to appreciate the culture and traditions of their
hometowns and this country, in order to understand the efforts of their ancestors, and
to develop patriotism for their hometowns and country and simultaneously to
appreciate the cultures of foreign countries, and make efforts in developing
friendship with people in the world as a Japanese citizen (Monbush 1998a). In
practice, students develop interpersonal skills and the spirit of volunteerism through
reading and discussing stories in supplementary moral education textbooks and/or
watching television programs or videos about morality.
A typical public elementary school starts at 8:15 in the morning, Monday through
Friday. The students have the morning homeroom period from 8:15 to 8:30. Then,
they have four 45-minute periods in the morning, with three 10- to 15-minute breaks,
starting the first period from 8:35 to 9:20 and then a 10-minute break from 9:20 to
9:30. After finishing the fourth period at 12:15, they have school lunch together in the
homeroom. Then, they clean classrooms, corridors and playgrounds from 1:00 to
1:20, and have a long break from 1:20 to 13:45. The fifth period starts at 13:50, and
the sixth period ends at 3:45. The afternoon homeroom period lasts from 3:45 to 3:55
before a school day ends. School lunch has been provided to public elementary
schools since 1952, and to public middle schools since 1956 nationwide. As of 1997,
99.4 percent of elementary school students and 82.1 percent of middle school students
have school lunch (Ukai et al. 2000:19).
Table 2.1 Elementary School Curriculum and the Prescribed
Number of School Hours in the 2002-3 School Year

Japanese Language Arts







Social Studies

















Life Environmnet Studies7










Arts and Crafts







Home Economics



Physical Education







Moral Education







Special Activities







Comprehensive Leraning Hours -












Note: One hour-unit has 45 minutes.

(Source: Monbush 1998a)
Elementary school education is based on whole person education, the development
of the childs character in cognitive, moral, emotional, and physical areas. It
emphasizes egalitarianism and group consciousness, and rejects tracking or ability
grouping. All children are assumed to have the potential to develop their own abilities
and skills, and education is intended to help them develop their potential.
All public school students receive the same education based on almost identical
textbooks and a shared curriculum. Japanese textbooks are slim, only about 100-200
pages long, and are supplied to all elementary students and middle school students at
no charge. The MOE checks the factual accuracy of the textbooks through a formal
authorization system. Teachers design their lesson plans on the basis of the national

standards outlined in the Course of Study. Teachers deliver knowledge of academic

subjects through textbook-centered class instruction. The current educational reform
advocates criticize a uniform curriculum and textbook-centered pedagogy as
undermining childrens creativity and individuality. These criticisms were the
rationale for the creation of integrated study and social experience pedagogy.
According to a comparative study, Japanese teachers led students for 74 percent of
class time, while American teachers led their students for 46 percent. American
teachers frequently left children to work alone at their desks, and often divided the
class into small groups, according to the childrens levels of skill. Japanese teachers
systematically taught the whole class how to underline, outline, organize, and
summarize the content of a lesson (Stevenson and Stigler 1992:69, 92, 144). One
study of science and social science classes found that Japanese teachers motivate
students to learn intrinsically, and to think within their groups (han), while the
American teachers rely on reward and punishment as well as providing assistance to
individual students (Tsuchida and Lewis 1996:209-210).
Students are frequently divided into small fixed groups (han) of a certain number of
students with mixed-abilities for the social activities of a homeroom class. This group
serves as a study group, a laboratory group, and a task team for cleaning, serving
school lunch, and performing daily tasks. Students have lunch with their fellow han
members in the homeroom classroom. The han members are changed when seating
arrangements are changed. The han has one boy and/or one girl leader(s) and group
members build solidarity through group activities.
All students are responsible for specific tasks, such as being in a committee and/or
being the daily monitor for their homeroom class. Peer monitoring is common, and
teachers remain largely uninvolved. All students become daily monitors by rotation,
and take responsibility for erasing the blackboard, writing a daily journal, and/or
being a daily monitor in the morning and afternoon homeroom periods. Moreover,
some students are assigned to a committee for one trimester. These committees
perform routine tasks such as watering classroom plants, keeping track of items in the
lost and found, and distributing handouts. In the afternoon homeroom period, the last
period of the school day, the students reflect on what they have accomplished. A daily
monitor or a monitor group presides over afternoon homeroom time. The monitor

leads a discussion of how everyone had behaved that day, and whether all of the
assigned tasks had been completed.
Tracking and ability grouping in elementary schools has been a taboo topic in Japan
because of the prevailing strong egalitarian principle, though the MOE has created a
special study group for advanced students (AS August 18, 2001; AS August 17,
2002). All children are believed to have the potential to develop both their cognitive
and non-cognitive abilities through effort and hard work. Tracking stigmatizes slow
learners, and ruins their potential by lowered expectations and inferior instruction.
The five-point curve grade system was changed into a three-point grade system:
excellent, good, and fair. Teachers make efforts to find and encourage the
strength of each child. IQ is rarely used as criterion for measuring childrens
In the near future, the MOE plans to implement special education for learning
disabled children, modeled on special education for LD children in the United States.
Currently, special classes for children with mild disabilities (shgaiji gakky) are held
in regular elementary schools. Severely disabled children attend separate special
schools for children with visual impairments (mgakk), children with hearing
impairments (rgakk), and children with orthopedic disabilities, mental retardation,
and sickly children (yg gakk).
Responding to the problems of an aging society, school-initiated volunteer activities
have become a popular type of social experience education and human rights
education, with the goal of showing children the importance of compassion for the
elderly and the disabled. Many schools carry out visitations to the elderly in nursing
homes and to the disabled in special schools or homes for the disabled through
integrated study classes and human rights education programs. Schools arrange for
their students to do volunteer work, in cooperation with local social welfare agencies
and the volunteer centers, and design volunteer programs for the elderly and the
disabled, as well as for cleaning, recycling, and raising donations for the United
Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the United
Nations International Childrens Emergency Fund (UNICEF).
Students visit the elderly living alone and in nursing homes, and participate in social
activities with senior citizens clubs. The students learn to care for and be considerate

to the elderly, to appreciate their lives, and to see things from their perspective. In
order to have teachers volunteer with the elderly and disabled, since 1998, a week of
practical training in special schools, or care in social welfare facilities has been a
requirement for teaching certificates for elementary and middle school teachers.
However, voluntarism has not yet become as popular in Japan, as it is in United
States. Despite the recent school sponsorship in volunteer activities, only 23 percent
of children join participate in volunteer activities, according to a 1999 survey of fifthand eighth-graders in Tokyo (Kodomo no 2000).


After-School Activities

Elementary school students go home around 4:00 p.m., though the first- and secondgraders go home earlier. For first- to third-graders, about half of elementary schools
provide after-school programs for children whose mothers or guardians work. After
school and during holidays, many children participate in their local Childrens
Association, and community- or school-based sports clubs such as soccer, baseball,
basketball, volleyball, and table tennis, which are under the supervision of parents or
local volunteers. According to a 2000 survey, about half of fourth- to sixth-graders
(44.6%) join their neighborhood-based Childrens Association. More than forty
percent of boys (40.2%) and 19.4 percent of girls participate in a sports club. Onethird (34.3%) do not join any associations (Naikakufu 2001b). Public schools open
their gymnasiums and school grounds for private sports clubs that are registered with
the municipal administration. Some teams practice two or three times a week. For
example, one soccer team practices from 1:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Saturdays and
from 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. on Sundays.
Most children participate in community festivals. Parents involvement in community
activities effects their childrens participation. Two-thirds of children whose parents
joined a festival participated in community festivals, while less than half of all
children whose parents do not join a festival participate (Smuch 1996:100-101,
The MOE started to subsidize local educational activities during holidays and afterschool in April 2002. Children can participate in community activities such as making
traditional crafts with the elderly, working in the fields with farmers, collecting plants

and insects, and learning techniques in factories, rather than going to cram schools,
watching TV, or playing games at home (AS August 30, 2001).
After-School Programs

After-school programs provide childcare for children from first to third grades whose
mothers or guardians work. Working mothers who cannot find a caregiver may send
their children to after-school programs if the school or the community has one. At
school or in public facilities, the children do homework, play with friends, have
snacks, and relax under the supervision of after-school teachers until 5:00 p.m.
In 1966, the MOE started a small-scale subsidized childcare service for latchkey
children. In 1975, the Ministry of Health and Welfare initiated the childcare club in
urban areas. When most mothers with small children stayed home in the 1960s and
1970s, many full-time working mothers were from low-income households.
Therefore, the after-school programs were regarded as a social welfare program for
poor children. Over the past two decades, the number of working mothers with small
children has been increasing. Now that the half of the mothers of first- to thirdgraders work outside the home, after-school programs are in high demand.
After the childbirth rate hit its all-time low (the so-called 1.57 shock) in 1989, the
government took a serious look at childcare in order to stop the falling birth rate. The
government recognized the importance of after-school programs in the 1994 Angel
Plan and in the revised Child Welfare Law in 1997. According to a 1995 survey
(N=718) of full-time working mothers with children in first through third grades, 44.2
percent of mothers who did not live with their parents or in-laws sent their children to
the after-school programs (Fujin Shnen Kykai 1995:14).
According to the National Federation of After-School Programs survey, by May 1,
2002, there were an unprecedented 12,825 programs for about 490,000 children.
More than 60 percent of after-school programs are operated by local governments and
social welfare associations. Almost half of after-school programs (43.3%) are schoolbased, 19.3 percent are in childrens centers, 18.1 percent in other public facilities, 9.1
percent in private homes, 6.3 percent in corporate facilities, and 3.3 percent in other
places. More than half of elementary schools (53.3%) have after-school programs.
Still more after-school programs are needed because only 170,000 of 420,000 firstgrade children from nursery schools attend after-school programs (Zenkoku 2002).

The government needs to support more of these programs. The government

subsidizes 3 million yen (one-third each from the national, prefectural, and municipal
governments) per year to programs with at least 20 children. The Ministry of Health
and Welfare decided to add subsidies to the programs that operate more than 6 hours a
day and after 6:00 p.m. to meet the needs of mothers who work late (AS September
21, 1998). After-school programs can operate efficiently and at minimum cost
because public schools and community facilities are available at no cost for afterschool programs. Moreover, caregivers can be recruited from a large pool of highly
educated homemakers, some of whom hold teaching certificates. The government
plans to add 15,000 more after-school centers for first- to third-grade children by
2004. Half of these after-school centers will be run by the private sector and nonprofit
organizations (NPOs) (AS May 21, 2001).
The After-School Program at Momo Elementary School

The Department of Lifelong Education under the Marugame Board of Education

supervises after-school programs.8 An after-school program for latchkey children
started at one elementary school in downtown Marugame City in 1966. In 1967,
after-school programs operated in four urban elementary schools, and in six rural
elementary schools during the planting and harvesting seasons. These rural programs
finally adopted a regular daily schedule in 1996. In April 1999, 19.3 percent of
students (433 students) in Marugame attended after-school programs in their
elementary schools.
The after-school program at Momo Elementary School in Marugame operates from
1:00 to 4:30 p.m. on weekdays. Two after-school teachers take care of 27 first- to
third-graders. There are no after-school programs during spring and winter vacations,
but there is a two-week program during summer vacation. During summer vacation,
the program runs from 9:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. for four weeks. Only ten children
attended after-school programs during summer vacation in 1997. One teacher said to
me that offering childcare services only in the morning did not make much sense
because it did not help full-time working mothers.
The after-school program operates in a small building with one large tatami mat room
at the corner of the school grounds. Momo Elementary School has one of the oldest
after-school programs, and that is why this facility is rather out-dated. The new afterschool programs in other schools have much better facilities. In Momo, the children

sit on the floor along three long wooden desks. There are two stoves, a bookshelf
with childrens books, cards, comic books, origami, an organ, a sink for washing
hands, and a shoe rack at the entrance. The maximum number of students per teacher
is 40, the same size as a regular class. In the 1997-8 school year, 41 children were
officially registered for this program. Therefore, there are two teachers for this club.
After school, children entered this building, saying, I am home (tadaima). They
began to do their homework, and asked one of the teachers for help if necessary. After
finishing their homework, some children went out to play on the school grounds.
When it started raining, they came inside. Three boys played with blocks, two girls
played with cards, one girl read comic books, three girls drew pictures, and two girls
played at cats cradle with the teachers. One teacher said that the children usually
liked to play in the schoolyard, but they stayed inside because of rain. Snack time was
at 3:30. All of the children looked forward to it, but they had to have finished their
homework if they wanted a snack. They chose four kinds of snacks from rice
crackers, cookies, tangerines, candies, and so on.
One boy did not want to do his homework. The teachers tried unsuccessfully to get
him to sit down and do his homework. They threatened not to give him any snacks.
He had not received a snack the day before. He did not finish his homework, but the
teachers gave him a snack anyway. The teachers could have been stricter, but the
after-school programs foster a more relaxed attitude between teachers and students.
After-school teachers are more like baby-sitters than classroom teachers.
Private Lessons (naraigoto) and Cram Schools (juku)

Parents are concerned about the academic achievement of their children, and
encourage them to earn the highest grades, apply to better high schools, attend
selective colleges, and eventually land well-paying jobs. Mothers are usually the ones
who help their children study, and create favorable study environments for them at
home. The majority of children have their own study room and desk. Many parents
send their children to private lessons (naraigoto) to learn swimming, calligraphy, and
piano. In addition, they buy worksheets and workbooks for their children and send
them to cram schools (juku).
Since the 1970s, after-school private lessons for piano, calligraphy, swimming,
abacus, and English conversation have been popular among elementary

schoolchildren. In 2000, male elementary school students attended after-school

lessons for (in descending order) swimming, piano, and calligraphy, while female
students preferred piano, calligraphy, and swimming (Japan Information 2002). When
they enter middle school, many middle school students stop taking music and sports
lessons, and attend private study classes, cram school (juku) instead.
According to a 2000 study of educational expenditures, one-third of elementary
school students (36.7%) attended juku, and parents spent on average 119,000 yen per
year for juku (Monbukagakush 2002c). The juku for elementary school children
usually operates informally in the private home of an individual juku teacher, often a
retired teacher or a homemaker. Children attend juku late in the afternoon several
times a week, or every day. Children review their schoolwork by doing homework
and studying workbooks with juku teachers. Many of these teachers are homemakers
who have teaching certificates but did not become teachers or who retired early to
raise children of their own. They start a juku in their homes after their children have
grown up. The juku helps elementary school children review schoolwork and
homework for relatively low fees. In this sense, the juku plays an important role in
supplementing childrens schoolwork.
Students At Home

At home, a typical elementary school child studies for thirty minutes to one hour,
watches TV for three hours, and also plays computer games. According to a 1999
survey of fourth to sixth graders, almost half (41.8%) studied for thirty minutes, onefifth of them (19.1%) studied for one hour, a few of them (3.5%) for two hours, while
one-third of them (33.2%) did not study the day before the survey. Also, one-fourth
(24.9%) of elementary students watched TV or videos, or played games for two hours,
another one-fourth (24.5%) did so for one hour, and 19.4 percent did so for three
hours. More than one-third (37.1%) said that they did not play with friends the day
before the survey (Smuch 2000b:64-66). According to a 2003 survey, 62 percent of
elementary school children use the Internet (AS June 5, 2004). According to a crosscultural survey in Japan and the United States, the fifth graders in Sendai, Japan spent
six hours a week on homework, while the fifth graders in Minneapolis spent four
hours a week (Stevenson and Stigler 1992:54-55).
Parents with only one or two children spend more time helping their children excel at
school. Many mothers check childrens homework, notebooks, tests, and school

journals every day. Teachers contact parents every day through classroom handouts,
and/or daily journals. Students write a daily schedule and make entries in a daily
journal, in which teachers and parents add comments of their own. The Parents
Associations at elementary school are generally active in organizing school events,
such as a sports day. PTA meetings are usually held after school visitation day when
parents visit and see their childrens classes at least once a trimester. Nowadays
schools try to have school visitation day on the weekend so that both parents can visit
the classes. As the number of working mothers increases, fewer mothers have time to
join the Parents Association. Many PTA meetings are now held in the evening when
most parents can attend. Parent-teacher conferences are held at the end of each
trimester to discuss childrens school performance and behavior. Many schools have
scheduled an open school day when schools invite parents and community residents to
school events, such as a sports day.
The positive and active involvement of parents contributes to the academic success of
children. The correlation between parents educational level and childrens
expectations is remarkable. Sixty-two percent of children in the fourth to ninth grade
whose fathers are college graduates plan to attend college, while only 26 percent of
children whose fathers are middle school graduates plan to attend college (Smuch
About half of fourth to sixth graders plan to attend college. According to a 1999
survey of fourth to sixth graders, about 38.5 percent of boys plan to attend a four-year
college, 7.2 percent plan to attend a junior college or specialized training college,
while 40.1 percent want to work after high school, and 10.4 percent have not yet
decided. Comparatively, about 34 percent of girls plan to attend four-year colleges,
18.4 percent to junior colleges or specialized training colleges, while 35.1 percent
plan to work after high school, and 12 percent have not yet decided (Smuch
2000b:61). According to a 1995 survey of fourth to sixth graders, many boys want to
be a professional sports player (25.3%) or company employee (5.6%), while 38.2
percent are not sure. Among girls, the most popular occupation is teaching (12.3%)
and the next most popular is nursing or care-giving at a daycare center and
kindergarten (9.7%), while 37.5 percent are unsure (Smuch 1996:72-73).



Homeroom classes are the core of elementary school education. Homeroom teachers
teach all subjects to their classes, and stay with their homeroom students all day.
Homeroom teachers are also responsible for the character development of their
The collapse of homeroom classes (gakky hkai) has become a major problem in
elementary schools. The term first appeared in educational journals in 1997. Since
1998, the mass media has publicized this problem (Asahi 1999:230). The collapse of
homeroom classes refers to a dysfunctional homeroom class where a homeroom
teacher has lost control over classroom management and student behavior for a certain
amount of time (Monbush 1999b:84).
This phenomenon occurs most frequently in elementary schools. There have always
been troublemakers who ignore their teachers, and disturb the classroom. But when
other students join the troublemakers and interrupt instruction regularly over several
weeks, the homeroom teacher cannot enforce discipline. Once the students no longer
respect the authority of the homeroom teachers, the class is considered collapsed.
Collapsed homeroom classes tend to be messy (Ogi 2000:10-14). The students
walk around at will, even leaving the classroom or screaming (Asahi 1999:57-8).
According to a 2001 survey, 26.0 percent of elementary school principals and 32.4
percent of elementary school teachers said that their school had some form of
collapse of homeroom classes (AS October 2, 2001). The television program,
Spreading Collapse of Homeroom Classes, broadcast on June 19, 1998, stated that
eight percent of 1,300 teachers surveyed had experienced a collapse of the
homeroom class (Kawakami 1999:190-1).
These troublemakers in the first to third grades are not ready to sit still and accept
instruction. According to a survey in 1998, the overwhelming majority of childcare
providers contend that children have become more self-centered, rough, and spoiled
than ever, and that children stayed up later at night mainly because of the lack of
discipline at home. The 1989 Course of Study for Preschool has drastically changed
preschool education from the teacher-centered classroom to child-centered education.
Children may have trouble adjusting to a more regimented elementary school after
having become accustomed to the unstructured days in preschools. Ogi argues that

the collapse of homeroom classes began in 1994-1995 when the children who had
experienced child-centered preschool education since 1990 entered elementary school
(Ogi 2000:89, 94).
It has been argued that children become self-centered at school when they are not
disciplined at home, and the class is boring in comparison to video games and comics
(Asahi 1999:232). Parents are also blamed for their out-of-control and undisciplined
children. Young parents who were raised amid the material culture of the 1970s
tended to spoil their children like themselves (AS February 11, 1999).
Furthermore, the media and the public blame homeroom teacher for losing control of
the classroom. The age difference between aging teachers and children needs to be
seriously considered (Asahi 1999:233-235). The average elementary school teacher is
now over 40 years old. Older teachers are considered to have a more difficult time
keeping up with the changes in society and with children. However, teachers cannot
take full responsibility for poorly disciplined children. Cooperation between teachers
and parents is necessary, and parents need to correct their childrens unacceptable
The Research Group for Classroom Management, consisting of 18 educational
specialists, principals, and superintendents, investigated 150 dysfunctional elementary
school homerooms in search of the causes of the collapse of homeroom classes.
The results suggest that the collapse of homeroom classes happens more often in
classes where the number of students had rapidly increased to nearly 40 students, the
maximum number of students per class in elementary schools (8 cases). The collapse
of a homeroom class tends to occur more frequently when the class is large. More
than one-fourth of dysfunctional homerooms (41 classes) had 36 or more students, 7.6
students more than the national average. The collapse of homeroom classes also
occurs in the following situations:
1. The class lacks cooperation with preschool education (20 cases);
2. The class has potential troublemakers, such as children who need special attention
(37 cases), do not receive enough education at home (30 cases), or are dissatisfied
with the contents of subjects and pedagogy (96 cases);

3. The homeroom class tends to be slow in resolving problems such as bullying (51
4. The school lacks the leadership of principals and the cooperation of teachers (51
5. The class lacks flexibility in classroom management (104 cases);
6. The class has not built trusting relationships with parents and is slow in
responding to problems (47 cases);
7. The investigation and countermeasures against the collapse of homeroom class
failed (24 cases); and
8. Discipline at home and in the school in response to the problems failed (26
The Group suggests that teachers, children, and parents take the collapse of
homeroom classes as an opportunity for learning and growth. Also, the Group
advises teachers and parents to understand that the children have different cultures
and that teachers should not give up on the potential of their students. The teachers
should consult and cooperate with other teachers as well as with social and medical
specialists (AS May 19, 2000). Homeroom teachers need to admit that their
homeroom class is dysfunctional as early as possible, and consult promptly with other
teachers and parents. Team-teaching can also remove some of the pressure from the
homeroom teacher (Asahi 1999:17-19). The MOE responded to the report and
decided to add retired teachers as temporary teachers to troubled classrooms (AS May
19 2000). According to a 2001 survey, the change of a homeroom teacher usually
improved the situation (87.5% of 88 cases) (AS October 2, 2001).
The majority of children between the ages 3-5 receive preschool education in ychien
(preschools and kindergarten) or hoikuen (nursery schools). Ychien, under the
Ministry of Education (MOE), provides preschool education for four hours a day for
the 3-5 year-old children of stay-at-home mothers or guardians, while hoikuen offers
childcare service for 0-5 year-old children of working mothers or guardians as part of
the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfares social welfare program. As the number of

working mothers increases, the number of children in nursery schools has also
increased. To survive an ever-decreasing number of children being born, many
ychien have begun to offer extended hours to meet the demands of working mothers.
Thus, the distinctions between ychien and hoikuen have become unclear, as more
ychien, like hoikuen, provide extended hours until 5:00 p.m. Some local
governments have started integrating ychien and hoikuen for all children prior to
elementary school. The integration of ychien and hoikuen is inevitable.
Preschool education is based on whole person education and child-centered
education. It emphasizes the emotional development of children, friendship,
responsibility, and socialization, but not their cognitive and academic development.
Children develop creativity and sensitivity through making crafts, drawing, playing
music, dancing, nurturing plants and animals, and playing. Children develop their
interpersonal skills among peers through small group activities. Teachers let children
play and resolve conflicts among themselves. Children take turns monitoring daily
tasks; every child has an opportunity to lead the class for a day. At home, mothers
teach their children basic reading and counting. Most children can read the Japanese
alphabet and count to ten before they enter elementary school.
Elementary schools have successfully provided whole person education, with
cognitive, moral, emotional, and physical training, based on ideals of egalitarianism
and group solidarity. Elementary school students have done well, acquiring a basic
knowledge of academic subjects, and have received high scores in mathematics and
science on international achievement tests.
The government has promoted childrens creativity and independence ever since the
1987 Rinkyshin (National Council on Educational Reform) educational reform. The
1998 Course of Study created the field of integrated study (sgtekina gakush no
jikan) for children in and above third grade. For at least two hours each week, they
explore international issues, information science, environmental issues, social welfare,
and health, through community-based social experiences. Integrated study is designed
to develop the creativity that inhabitants of a modern global society need.
The 1998 Course of Study has reduced the amount of subject content by 30 percent in
order to ensure a mastery of basic knowledge. Many educational specialists and
teachers worry that it may lower the educational level of Japanese students. Limiting

class sizes to fewer than 40 students will make it easier for teachers to give individual
attention to each student. Some prefectures have already set lower limits on class
size. The recruitment of classroom aides and volunteers from the large pool of highly
educated local homemakers will also help students, especially those who are
struggling academically.
1. The Ministry of Education (MOE) provides annual statistical data on preschool
and kindergarten in the Basic School Survey, and the Ministry of Health, Labor and
Welfare provides data on nursery schools. Anthropologists and education specialists
discuss preschool education on the basis of their fieldwork and/or analysis (Hendry
1986; Fujita and Sano 1988; Tobin et. al 1989; Boocock 1989; Fujita 1989; Sano
1989; Boocock 1991; Peak 1991; Lewis 1995; Ben-Ari 1997; Holloway 2000).
2. This case study is based on my interview with the principal and my observation
of childrens activities in the playgrounds and the classrooms in Sakura Preschool on
February 23, 2001.
3. This case study is based on my observation of classroom activities and interviews
with teachers on February 27, 2001.
4. Daily practices in Japanese elementary schools are described in ethnographic
studies in English (Lewis 1995; Benjamin 1997; Tsuchida and Lewis 1997; Sat
5. In the United States, parents and senior citizens are encouraged to be school
volunteers and to help teachers by checking assignments, working in the library,
reading to students, and helping slower learners and disabled children (Simic 1991;
Lipson 1994).
6. After examining moral education textbooks, Khan concludes that concepts such
as thoughtfulness, reverence, modesty, patriotism, and sincerity in moral
education resemble those of the prewar moral education (shshin), except for the
emphasis on imperial ideology (Khan 1997:204-205). McVeigh argues that moral
education takes a role in reproducing the ideology of the politico-economic elite, that
is, hierarchy, social categorization, and cultural homogeneity in the minds of students
(McVeigh 1998).

7. According to the 1989 Course of Study, life environment studies replaced social
studies and science for first and second graders in 1992.
8. I observed an after-school program at Momo Elementary School on February 24,



Contents of This Chapter

1. 3-1


1. 3-1-1


2. 3-1-2


3. 3-1-3


4. 3-1-4


5. 3-1-5
2. 3-2



1. 3-2-1


1. Academic High Schools

2. Vocational High Schools
3. Comprehensive High Schools
4. Six-Year Secondary Schools
5. Evening High Schools
6. Kiku Evening High School
7. Correspondence High Schools

3. 3-3

2. 3-2-2


3. 3-2-3


4. 3-2-4


5. 3-2-5



1. 3-3-1


1. Gender Roles in Schools

2. The Hidden Curriculum
3. The Formation of Gender Roles at Home and in School
4. The Gender Gap in Educational Achievement

2. 3-3-2


Preparation for high school entrance examinations is the main focus in middle
schools. Almost all 15-year-olds go through examination hell in order to take the
entrance examination for academically ranked high schools. To be competitive, many
middle school students attend juku (cram school) after school. To ease the intensity of
the competition, the Ministry of Education (MOE) suggests diversifying criteria for
high school admissions. To mitigate the rigid uniformity of middle school education,
students can take several elective classes, and integrated study, whose content is
designed by each school with the goal of stimulating students individuality and
High school students are sorted into three hierarchically ranked types of high schools:
academic, vocational, and new comprehensive high schools. High school students
enjoy extracurricular activities and work part-time after school. Almost two-thirds of
high school graduates enroll in colleges and specialized training colleges. However,
securing admission to higher educational institutions is not especially difficult.
Perhaps only the top 20 to 30 percent of high school students study hard to enter
prestigious colleges. More than half of the high school students study for only an
hour or less a day. This chapter will explore middle school and high school education
and discuss schools efforts to promote gender-neutral education.




All children from seventh to ninth grade (ages 12-15) attend middle school after six
years of primary education.1 The continuing decrease in the number of childbirths
has caused the number of middle school students to drop from 6,106,000 in 1986 to
3,748,000 in 2003. In 2003, there were 10,358 public middle schools, 700 private
middle schools, and 76 national middle schools affiliated with national universities, in
addition to 183 newly established six-year secondary schools (Monbukagakush

Every three or four years the teachers are rotated from one school to another in order
to maintain a consistent quality of instruction. Less than half of all teachers (40.9%)
are female (Monbukagakush 2004a), and in 2001 the average teacher was 41.8 years
old (Monbukagakush 2003a). Almost all middle school teachers teach only one
subject in which they specialize.
In 2003, the maximum class size was 40 students, with an average of 31.3 students per
class. The average student-teacher ratio is 14.9:1 (Monbukagakush 2004a).
Reduction of the 40-student class has been strongly considered, in order for teachers
to pay closer attention to the needs of individual students. The MOE announced that
it would limit class sizes for English, mathematics, and science in middle schools to
20 students, and subsidize temporary teachers (AS May 20, 2000). The MOE began
subsidizing additional teachers for these smaller classes in the 2001-2 school year, and
plans to hire 22,500 new elementary and middle school teachers within five years
(Monbukagakush 2003b:126-127). The Yamagata prefectural administration intends
to limit class sizes in all of its middle schools to 21 to 33 students in a few years, as
the first experiment with smaller classes for all middle school students in the country
(AS April 13, 2002). The teachers unions and a MOE Research Survey Group have
asserted that teachers are most attentive to individual students when classes are
limited to 30.
Team-teaching and classroom aides will also help reduce the problem of overworked
teachers. There is a large pool of retirees, homemakers, and community volunteers
that have the educational qualifications to work as classroom aides. Starting in the
2001-2 school year, the MOE began hiring 50,000 teachers aides for elementary and
middle schools over the next three years, and to invite volunteer assistants to
participate in classes and after-school extracurricular club activities and to work in the
library and on school grounds (Monbukagakush 2003b:62-63). In the 2001-2 school
year, 32 percent of elementary schools and 12 percent of middle schools had
volunteers working as school librarians (AS February 19, 2004).
Private middle schools have gained popularity among students in metropolitan areas
because many provide six-year elite education, and a fast track to a prestigious
college. In 1996, about 600 schools, five percent of middle schools had both middle
and high school sections. In Tokyo, about 21 percent of middle schools have been
merged with high schools, and about 24 percent of students in Tokyo attend six-year

secondary schools (Fujita 1997:81). Almost one-fourth (23.1%) of elementary school

graduates went to private middle schools in Tokyo in 1994 (Ogawa 2000:195).
Private middle schools offer a flexible curriculum geared to preparation for college
examinations. They have been successful in sending many of their graduates to
selective universities. Fifteen of the top twenty high schools that sent most of their
graduates to the University of Tokyo in 1989 were private six-year schools (Amano
Furthermore, private middle schools have escalators (free passes) to their parent
universities through a quota system for admissions that reserves space for graduates.
Keio University reserves twenty percent of its openings each year for graduates from
its escalator high school, while Waseda University sets aside ten percent from its
escalator high school (Amano 1996:100).
The popularity of private middle schools has risen as their success rate in sending
students to leading universities has increased. Students admitted into exclusive
private middle schools are more likely to have an urban upper and upper-middle class
background. In order to compete with private middle schools, the Shinagawa Ward of
Tokyo allows parents to choose an elementary school and a middle school from
schools in the larger school district (AS September 25 1999). Furthermore, in April
2002, the board of education of the Setagaya Ward of Tokyo began to invite public
high school teachers to public middle schools in order to attract students (AS February
7, 2002). This practice, however, may create inequality among public middle
schools. The results of school choice remain to be seen.
In 1997, there were 34 night middle schools in eight prefectures to serve 3,344
students, according to a survey done by the Research Association of National Night
Junior High Schools. There are also more than ten unrecognized night middle schools
operated by volunteers. The majority of students are foreigners: Chinese returnees
and their descendants (34%), Koreans (27%), and other foreigners (7%). In addition,
there are 1,022 Japanese (31%) including adults who have not completed their middle
school education, and youths who have not graduated from middle school because of
school refusal syndrome. Since 1991, the number of students per class at night middle
schools has been reduced from 40 to 20 students because of the extra attention that
foreign students require. The Research Association has requested that the MOE

assign teachers who can speak foreign languages and open public school education to
foreign residents who are past the traditional school age (YS February 9, 1998).


All public middle schools follow a standard national curriculum that is stipulated in
the MOEs Course of Study. The 1998 Course of Study for 2002 onward states that
the purpose of middle school education is for whole-person education. Wholeperson education emphasizes students physical and mental development. Each
school helps students to nurture energy for life (ikiru chikara), to learn and think
independently, and to develop their knowledge, individuality, and creativity.
The curriculum from 2002 includes Japanese language arts, mathematics, social
studies, science, foreign language, music, arts, industrial arts and home economics,
physical education, moral education, special activities, and integrated study
(sgtekina gakush no jikan) (Table 3.1). Starting in April 2002, elective classes
have been increased to a one-hour unit per week for the seventh grade, two- to threehour units a week for the eighth grade, and three- to four-hour units for the ninth
grade. Computer classes and integrated study are required for middle school students.
The MOE allows each school to design its own curriculum for integrated study in
order to promote educational diversification and deregulation. Social-experience
pedagogy supplements the lecture-centered instruction of middle schools, and helps
the students think and learn on the basis of their personal experiences, research, and
discussion. Since 2000, many schools have already introduced integrated study
courses. However, many teachers and schools are still struggling to find the best
means of teaching integrated study. Some teachers question the efficiency and
benefits of integrated study at the expense of the lecture-style instruction of academic
Community service and volunteering are promoted by the MOE. In 1997, the MOE
suggested that volunteer services be considered as a criterion for high school
admission. The National Commission on Educational Reform suggests that
elementary and middle schools require students to complete two weeks of volunteer
work. In practice, community service has not become popular. However, schools, in
cooperation with social welfare agencies, have initiated visits to nursing homes,
special schools for disabled children, and group homes for adults with disabilities.

Some students are regularly involved in community service or other extracurricular

volunteer clubs.
After the five-day school week was introduced in April 2002, classroom hours and
academic content were reduced. The 1,050 classroom hours in 1984 were gradually
reduced to 980 hours in 2002. Academic content in the 1998 Course of Study for
2002 onward was reduced by approximately 30 percent. Moreover, 20 percent of
classroom hours are assigned to review sessions. These relaxed (yutori) classes are
promoted so that many students who fall behind academically have a chance to catch
up with their peers. It is said that only half of middle school students have a thorough
understanding of the academic content of their classes (Ogawa 2000:212).
Table 3.1 Middle School Curriculum and the Prescribed
Number of School Hours per Subject in the 2002-3 School

7th Grade

8th Grade 9th Grade

Japanese Language Arts




Social Studies




















Physical Education




Industrial Arts and Home








Moral Education




Special Activities




Elective Subjects




Foreign Language

Comprehensive Learning
Total Classroom Hours







1. A classroom hour unit is 50 minutes.
2. Special activities hours are used for homeroom activities.
3. Hours for elective subjects can be used for elective subjects as
well as for special activities.
4. The Course of Study will decide the hours used for elective
subjects for middle schools.
5. The curriculum for the new 2002 Course of Study published in
1998 has been in effect since April 1, 2002.
(Source: Monbush 1998b)
However, many teachers are concerned about the possibilities of diminished academic
achievement as a result of the reduction of instruction time. This is particularly true
for mathematics and science teachers who are opposed to the 70 unit-hours reduction
among mathematics classes, and to the 25 to 60 unit-hours reduction for science
classes for ninth graders. They argue that students will lose their leading international
position in scientific knowledge, and that the internationally recognized superiority of
Japanese students in mathematics and science will come to an end.
In response, the MOE officially declared the Course of Study as a minimum
standard model and suggested that teachers use more advanced instructional
materials. For the first time, the MOE approved the mathematics and science of high
school textbooks for the 2004-5 school year that include more advanced contents than
those in the Course of Study. The MOE plans to allow all textbooks for elementary,
middle and high schools to include more challenging materials than those of the
Course of Study for the 2005-6 school-year textbooks (AS April 9, 2003).
Furthermore, in the 2002-3 school year, the MOE took the unprecedented step of
introducing special education for advanced students in 946 model elementary and

middle schools, through providing additional teachers, mostly in the fields of English,
mathematics, and science (AS August 18, 2001).
Middle school education emphasizes egalitarianism, and thus far has rejected ability
grouping. There are no classes based on educational achievement or special classes
for children with learning disabilities. Teachers as well as the public are opposed to
tracking because it stigmatizes low-achieving students, and discourages them from
studying rather than helping them learn more efficiently at their level. Also, students
considered as low-achievers could receive an inferior quality of instruction from
teachers with low expectations. However, these egalitarianism principles were
questioned in the 2000 report by the National Commission on Educational Reform,
which recommended the introduction of ability grouping based on educational
achievement, and allowing students to skip grade levels, as in the United States
(Kyiku Kaikaku 2000).
In the United States, ability grouping for English and mathematics is common in
middle schools. According to a 1993 survey, 82 percent of American middle schools
used some type of ability grouping, although 36 percent of schools reported that they
were considering eliminating it (Mills 1998).
Discrepancies in academic achievement are already distinguishable when students
enter middle school. Students who cannot understand academic subjects are labeled
as ochikobore, or slow learners. They do not enjoy classes, and often end up going
to a low-ranked high school and obtaining a low-status occupation. Teachers do not
have enough time to give special attention to those who cannot keep up with academic
classes because they are busy taking care at least 30 other students, completing
endless paperwork, and supervising extracurricular clubs. The MOE has begun to
recognize learning disabilities, and will eventually provide remedial education for
children with learning disabilities and those who are behind. At present, no teachers
aides or additional teachers have been assigned to those who have trouble learning.
Some teachers voluntarily remain after school to tutor them. Systematic remedial
education is needed for slow learners and learning disabled children. It should not be
difficult to provide such education for students who have trouble learning, if schools
look to the resources in their own communities.

The whole person education stipulated in the Course of Study is eclipsed by

preparation for high school entrance examinations. Teachers and students are most
concerned with the test scores in Japanese language arts, mathematics, social studies,
science and foreign language, usually English, all of which are part of high school
entrance examinations. Subject teachers deliver textbook-based lectures, and the
students copy what teachers write on the blackboard into their notebooks.
Educational achievement is tested through midterm and final examinations in each
trimester, and eventually by a high school entrance examination. The pedagogy is
blamed for stifling childrens natural curiosity and enforcing conformity. Therefore,
the principles of integrated study encourage active engagement in education rather
than passive learning and memorization.
The homeroom is the heart of middle school education. The students study, eat lunch,
and play in their homerooms. In contrast to American schools, in which the students
change classrooms at the end of each lesson, in Japanese schools the teachers go to the
students classroom. However, students do not stay in their homeroom all day. There
are special rooms for music, arts, crafts, home economics, the computer lab, the
gymnasium, the playground, and a science lab. Homeroom teachers are in charge of
morning and afternoon homeroom times, a weekly hour-long special activities class,
and moral education, in addition to their regular subject of instruction. They review
the journals of students and the han (fixed group), and track student development as
well as behavioral problems. Furthermore, they visit the home of each student early
in the first trimester, and also see parents on the schools visitation day, at the PTA,
and in parent-teacher conference at the end of every trimester.
The han is a small multi-purpose group of six to seven students. The members of the
han study, eat, work, and engage in planned activities together. The purpose of the
han is to build group solidarity and cooperation. The leaders of the han monitor the
other members and encourage them to work together. Group discussion and activities
in the han are conducted in Japanese language arts classes, social studies classes, and
during laboratory work for science classes. The han take turns every week to see that
all of the daily tasks are done, and lead the daily afternoon homeroom time when
students reflect on their behavior at the end of the school day. Each han is assigned to
cleaning tasks, and the han in charge of monitoring checks on how other hans clean,
and grades them during the daily afternoon homeroom time. For example, if one han
did not clean the classroom or hallway thoroughly or some members of that han failed

to do so, the han in charge of monitoring can ask them to reflect on their misbehavior
during the daily afternoon homeroom time. The han also take turns delivering and
serving school lunches, and the members of a han eat lunch together. All students
learn to cooperate with others in the han, and to take responsibility for the actions of
everyone in the group.
The homeroom class has several committees, each of which is in charge of specific
tasks. The members of these committees learn how to accept responsibility.
Classroom leaders, one male and one female, are elected every trimester, and
represent their class at the meetings of class leaders and in the student council. In
addition, many students are assigned to other committees, such as the cleaning
committee, the transportation committee, the cultural committee, the physical
education committee, the public health committee, and the school lunch committee.
In order to prevent student delinquency, everyone is expected to follow the rules and
to make sure that others are doing the same. There are strict rules about how students
must present themselves at school. Most schools prohibit earrings, makeup, and
permed hair. Male students have to maintain short haircuts. The length of skirts is
School counselors or psychologists are not yet common in Japanese schools, so
classroom teachers are responsible for guidance counseling and helping troubled
students. The teachers on the counseling and guidance committee deal with
disciplinary issues and troubled students in consultation with the students homeroom
teacher, a nurse teacher, and the teacher in charge of their extracurricular club.
Parents expect teachers to correct misbehavior. If necessary, the counseling and
guidance committee will also contact the youth center and the municipal police. As a
result, the teachers have extra work, but teachers are not only expected to improve
students minds, but also to improve their moral character.
In 1995, the MOE, concerned with the rising rate of juvenile delinquency, began to
deploy school counselors. The number of school counselors has been increasing.
These counselors also help reduce the workload of classroom teachers.
After school, the majority of students participate in extracurricular clubs where they
develop their physical or artistic abilities, while learning group consciousness and
responsibility. According to a 2000 survey, 69 percent of male students and 45

percent of female students joined after-school athletic clubs, while seven percent of
male students and 31 percent of female students belonged to cultural clubs (Naikakufu
2001b). Athletic clubs have an hour or two of daily training, and some clubs have
training even on the weekend. Among cultural clubs, brass band clubs and choir clubs
have daily practice, while painting clubs, volunteer clubs, and academic clubs (such as
the chemistry club or the reading club) meet several times a week.
Students who are active in clubs agree that the extracurricular activities are the most
enjoyable part of school. They stay involved in club activities until the summer of
their senior year, when their attention turns to preparation for high school entrance
examinations. Only a few middle school students join the childrens association in
their community (6.4% for boys and 6.2% for girls) or a community sports association
(12.2% for boys and 5.5% for girls) (Naikakufu 2001b) because most prefer the clubs
at their school.
After returning home, middle school students study for about an hour and watch
television or play games for about an hour. According to a 1999 survey, middle
school students studied for 30 minutes (22.4%), one hour (24.6%), two hours (13.9%),
or three hours (3.9%) at home on the day before the survey, while 34.8 percent said
they did not study at all. More than one-fourth (27.7%) of middle school students
watched television or videos or played games for two hours, 22.7 percent did so for
one hour, 21.9 percent did so for three hours. More than half of all surveyed middle
school students (57.4%) did not play with their friends on the day before the survey
(Smuch 2000b:64). According to a 2000 survey, among ninth graders, most of
whom took the high school entrance examination, 13.8 percent studied for more than
two hours a day, while 39.5 percent studied occasionally, though not everyday, and
11.9 percent did not study most days (Kariya 2001:64, 66, 120).


In April 2003, 97.3 percent of middle school graduates continued on to high schools,
including correspondence high schools (Monbukagakush 2004a). Students select
one public high school from the school district and take its entrance examination, in
addition to the entrance examinations for as many private schools as they want. All
high schools in a school district are ranked, according to their success in sending
graduates to prestigious colleges, and matched to the standard deviation of the test
scores of prospective students.

There are three kinds of regular daily high schools: academic, vocational, and
comprehensive, in addition to evening high schools and correspondence high schools.
Academic high schools are usually ranked higher than technical, commercial, and
agricultural schools because the majority of middle school graduates plan to earn a
degree from a university, a junior college or a specialized training college. Vocational
high schools are also ranked through their success in placing their graduates in jobs.
Among the vocational school students, male students tend to choose technical high
schools, while female students tend to attend commercial high schools and the
departments of nursing and home economics in vocational or academic schools.
Each student can take only one entrance examination for public high school since the
examination day is the same. They can take as many private high school
examinations as they want. There are two kinds of private high schools: elite and
low-ranked. Unless they have extremely bad behavioral problems, all students can
pass the exams for low-ranked private schools, so that everybody who wants to attend
high school can do so even after they have failed the exams for public high school.
The high school entrance examination is the first obstacle that almost all ninth
graders, except for students in elite private six-year schools, encounter. Middle school
students decide which high school to attend, based on their school grades and test
scores. Going to a high-ranked high school gives students a better chance to enter a
high-ranked college, and to land a high status job, because employers use educational
credentials as one of the main criteria for recruitment. Takeuchi argues that the high
school examination used for screening students is based on tournament mobility
theory, and that early winners get better chances for the next stage in selection, the
college entrance examination (Takeuchi 1995).
Examination hell places enormous stress on 15-year-old ninth graders. According
to the 1995 survey, over two-thirds of parents of children from fourth to ninth grades
described the entrance examination as stressful for their children and for themselves
(Smuch 1996:163). In order to solve this problem, several proposals have been
made: 1) diverse criteria for admission; 2) six-year secondary schools; 3)
comprehensive community high schools; and 4) the return-match system (e.g.,
transfer system and a quota system to colleges).

Defenders of the examination contend that the competition is a good motivation for
study. According to a 1987 survey, almost 90 percent of teachers and two-thirds of
middle school students think that competition is a good reason for study, and 60
percent of both teachers and students think that the competition is necessary (Kudomi
The admission selections are based on academic merit including the entrance
examination scores, grades, and interviews. The overemphasis on academic test
scores undermines the whole-person education of middle school. The MOE, objecting
to the fierce competition during the entrance examinations, suggested in 1997 that
high school admissions should use a greater variety of criteria: 1) student motivation;
2) sports and cultural club activities; 3) volunteer service; 4) reports from community
leaders; 5) school recommendation; 6) interviews; and 7) essays, composition, and
practical skills (Smuch 1998:320).
However, the evaluation of these criteria can be too subjective. Also, students would
still compete to get better evaluations from extracurricular activities and volunteer
service. Although extracurricular activities help students develop their physical and
artistic abilities and improve their interpersonal skills, and volunteer activities help
students gain social experiences in the community, their participation in these
activities should not be forced. As long as educational credentials affect the future
careers of the students, competition to enter high-ranked high schools and then highranked colleges will persist.
During placement counseling with students and parents, homeroom teachers of ninth
graders take the most significant role in matching each student to a high school.
Homeroom teachers know the students interests as well as parents preference, and
present the odds of passing the exams based on the analysis of his/her test scores from
midterms, final exams, and practice exams. Teachers compare the students
performance to that of previous students, during a parent-teacher-student conference
at the end of the first trimester. They sort out students according to their academic
rank, and suggest to them the high schools where they have the best chance of passing
the entrance exams. Students who reluctantly agree to take exams from their second
or third choice of high school are discouraged. At the same time, they can clearly see
the probability of passing based on their academic position, and understand which
high school they have the best chance of entering. The problem with this system is

that the students are sorted only by academic achievement, such as the standard
deviation of mock test scores, and not by their future life plan.
Middle school students, especially ninth-graders, are serious about their future, and
study hard to enter their first choice high schools. Parents help them prepare for the
exams by sending them to cram schools (juku), and by making sure that they have a
quiet study area. Two-thirds of students have their own study rooms at home
(Smuch 1996:26). More than half of middle school students plan to continue on to
higher education, and study hard to enter higher-ranked academic high schools.
According to a 1999 survey, 63.5 percent of male students plan to pursue higher
education (50.4% to enter college and 13.1% to enter junior college or specialized
training college), while 30.6 percent of male students plan to work after high school
and 1.4 percent plan to work after middle school. In contrast, 76.6 percent of female
students plan to pursue higher education (42.2% to enter college and 34.4% to enter
junior college or specialized training college), while 18.8 percent of female students
plan to work after high school, and 0.8 percent plan to work after middle school
(Smuch 2000b:61).
For future careers, male students hoped for jobs as company employees (8.8%); sports
professionals (8.5%); programmers, architects, technicians, or interpreters (8.1%); and
civil servants (7.6%), and 44.5 percent of boys surveyed were undecided. Female
students were interested in becoming nurses or nursery caregivers (13.8%); designers,
artists, musicians, novelists, or comic writers (9.3%); and preschool/kindergarten,
elementary, middle, or high school teachers (8.2%), and 37.5 percent of girls were
undecided (Smuch 1996:72-73).
According to a 1999 survey, the majority (74%) of parents want their children to
continue on to higher education (51.1% to college, 8.6% to junior college and 14.3%
to specialized training college), while 19.3% want their children to work after high
school, and 0.2% want their children to work after middle school (Smuch
2000b:121). Parents are more likely to assume that their sons rather than their
daughters will enroll in four-year colleges. According to a 2000 survey, 66.9 percent
of parents of children between the ages of 9 and 14 expect their son to go to a fouryear college, while 44.7 percent of parents expect their daughter to go to a four-year
college, and 17 percent of them want their daughters to go to a junior college
(Naikakufu 2002:104).

The educational level and occupational status of parents affect the educational
attainment of their children. According to a 1995 survey, 63 percent of fourth to ninth
graders whose fathers attended college planned to go to college, while 37 percent of
children whose fathers were high school graduates who had not attended college
planned to go to college (Smuch 1996:169). According to a 1995 Social
Stratification and Social Mobility (SSM) survey, among those who were born in 19561975, 41.9 percent of those whose fathers were professionals or in managerial
positions, 24.6 percent of those whose fathers were in clerical, sales, or service, 15
percent of those whose fathers were manual workers, and 7.3 percent of those whose
fathers were in the primary sector (agriculture, forestry, and fishery) went to highranked academic high schools (Kariya 1998:94-95).
The Central Education Committee and the National Commission on Educational
Reform promote six-year secondary schools to ease examination hell. The
Amendment to the School Education Law has been in effect since 1999. It helps both
middle schools and high schools cooperate and create six-year secondary schools.
Sat proposes the elimination of high school entrance examinations and the abolition
of public subsidies for private high schools. Under his proposal, private schools will
need to either abolish their entrance examinations or sacrifice public subsidies. He
predicts that many private high schools, which would be in dire financial straits
without the subsidies would abolish entrance examinations (Sat 2000:84-89).
Comprehensive community high schools that can accommodate all students in small
school districts have never prevailed in Japan. Comprehensive community high
schools introduced by the GHQ after World War II, were never popular and ceased to
exist soon after the Occupation, except in the Kyoto area. When small school districts
were introduced in Tokyo in 1967, many high-ranked public schools in Tokyo lost
their best students to private elite high schools or private six-year secondary schools.
That intensified the competition among ninth graders as well as sixth graders to enter
good private middle and high schools.
In 2003, the Tokyo metropolitan administration abolished its 10 school districts in
favor of citywide public high schools, in order to attract students to the public high
schools. As a result, the traditionally competitive public schools attracted many
students from outside their former districts to take the 2003 entrance examinations
(AS January 8, 2003). In addition, the Wakayama, Fukui, Gunma and Mie prefectures

plan to abolish school districts, and many other prefectures also plan to broaden their
school districts so that students have the choice of many more high schools, and so
high schools can compete for the best students. Since 2001, the prefectural boards of
education have been able to decide how they wish to divide the school districts (AS
October 20, 2001).
Flexibility in college entrance admissions and the return-match system for students in
low-ranked high schools would give late-bloomers a second chance, and ease the first
stage of competition: the entrance examination for high school. The established
model, in which students go from high-ranked academic high schools to high-ranked
colleges, discourages students in low-ranked high schools from competing against
students in high-ranked high schools at the second stage of competition: the college
entrance examination. They usually experience a cooling off of their ambitions and
life goals after having lost the initial competition during high school selection because
they realize that they do not have good chance of admission to a good college
(Takeuchi 1995).
In addition, low educational expectations from teachers and parents do not inspire
students to seek admission to a good college. Remedial education for low-achievers
helps students to improve their academic performance. Some students from lowranked high schools go to specialized training colleges and junior colleges. If they
can keep their grades up and transfer from these two-year colleges to four-year
colleges, these late-bloomers can still attend a good college. However, transfer is
extremely difficult. Increased flexibility in the transfer system would help ease
examination hell and provide a second chance for late-bloomers, just as many
community college students transfer to four-year colleges in the United States. The
MOE has moved in the right direction since 1999 by creating a transfer system for
students from two-year specialized training colleges with 1,700 hours of class units or
more to enroll in college (Monbush 1999b:167).


Juku are private educational organizations; the term is usually translated as cram
school. Many large-scale juku, which prepare students for the high school and
college entrance examinations, are called shingaku juku (cram school for entrance
examinations) or yobik (preparatory cram school for college examinations). These
schools employ many full-time and part-time juku teachers, and operate in urban

areas. However, most juku are simply study classes taught by retired teachers or
homemakers in their houses a few times a week in the late afternoon and early
Juku provides middle school students with supplementary lessons several times a
week, if not every day, and helps them to prepare for the high school entrance
examination. According to a 1993 survey conducted by the MOE, the majority of
middle school students attended juku to review academic subjects and to improve
their school performance (Smuch 1998:313). English juku and mathematics juku
are operated by retired teachers and part-time juku teachers in their homes or in rented
offices several evenings a week between 6:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. Some of the more
professionally-run juku may provide not only English and mathematics, but also all
five academic subjects. Many college students take part-time jobs as juku teachers in
these juku companies.
Some parents force their children to attend juku, while some students go to juku to
socialize. Parents are happy to pay the tuition because they believe that juku helps
their children improve their school performance and increase their chances of passing
the entrance examination of the high school of their choice. Most parents can afford
juku. Nevertheless, well-educated upper and upper-middle class parents are more
likely to send their children to juku than are lower-class parents.
By middle school, differences in school achievement among students appear. Some
students are already far behind when they enter middle school, and have already given
up on schoolwork. These students are unlikely to attend juku. But the majority of
students who want to enhance their chances of going to a better high school attend
juku, hoping that it will help boost their test scores. According to a 2001 survey, fifth
to eighth graders who attend juku score much higher on the examinations for Japanese
language arts and mathematics than those who do not attend (AS March 17, 2002).
Of course, many students excel in their schoolwork without juku. For the majority of
students, juku is part of their school life, and supplements their school
performance. Attending juku is not stressful. The problem of tense and exhausted
children comes from the rigid educational system and the Japanese emphasis on
credentials. The juku merely offer children assistance with their schoolwork so that
they will perform better on their entrance examinations.

According to the 2000 Survey of Expenditures in Education for Children, 37 percent

of elementary school students, 76 percent of public middle school students, 37 percent
of public high schools, and 45 percent of private high school students attended juku
(Monbukagakush 2002c). Children in urban areas were more likely to attend juku
than those in rural areas, because many highly educated parents in urban areas place
higher emphasis on the educational achievement of their children. Moreover, the
competition for high-ranked high schools or even private middle schools in
metropolitan areas is fiercer than in rural areas. Therefore, 42 percent of children in
the fourth to ninth grades in the metropolitan areas go to private study classes or
preparatory schools, in contrast to 28.4 percent in the rural areas who do so (Smuch
1996:171). The number of juku for elementary school students has risen from 18,700
in 1981 to 51,100 in 2001 despite the decrease in the number of elementary school
students, from 11,958,000 in 1981 to 7,265,000 in 2001. Nowadays, small-scale juku
with several students have gained popularity. The popular juku corporation operates
three-student classes for 79,000 elementary school students whose parents pay about
300,000 yen tuition per year (AS March 28, 2003).
Additionally, the educational level of parents and household income account for
participation in shadow education, such as cram schools, private tutors, and
correspondence courses, with parents investing more in boys than in girls, according
to the surveys taken in 1980 and 1982 (Stevenson and Baker 1992:1649). According
to the 1995 SSM survey, almost 70 percent of those in their 20s whose fathers were in
professional or managerial positions took private educational lessons (juku, tutors, and
correspondence studies), in contrast to the less than 30 percent of those in their 20s
whose fathers worked in agriculture (Aramaki 2000:27). Though juku is relatively
affordable, highly educated parents with greater ambitions for their children can invest
more in their education. Private tutoring is relatively expensive, and only families
from upper, upper-middle, and middle-class families can afford hiring a tutor.
The MOE and many teachers criticize juku for undermining schoolwork because the
students are less serious at school, and study more seriously in juku. In reality, many
children see juku as a part of their social activities because their friends are also
enrolled. The majority of students who attend juku think that juku teachers are more
earnest and enthusiastic than teachers, according to a 1997 survey (Japan Information

Juku has also been blamed for taking too much time away from students who are no
longer spending as much time with their families. Many parents believe that their
children are overscheduled and overburdened. However, they push their children to
keep up with their classmates who are also attending juku, and they do not mind
paying their tuition, which averages around 10,000 yen a month. The parents of
elementary school students paid 119,000 yen for juku a year, those of public middle
school students paid 214,000 yen, those of public high school students paid 179,000
yen, and parents of private high school students paid 235,000 yen in 2000
(Monbukagakush 2002c).
Private tutors and correspondence courses have been popular, especially in
metropolitan areas. Private tutors, usually college students, come to the students
home, and teach academic subjects. Correspondence courses are usually provided for
middle and high school students. Every month, the sponsoring organization mails
study materials to its subscribers. The children complete worksheets and take mock
exams and quizzes at home, which they then return to the correspondence course
institution for correction.
In 2000, 26 percent of elementary school students, 39 percent of middle school
students, 26 percent of public high school students, and 28 percent of private high
school students used private tutors and/or correspondence education. Among these
students, 39,000 yen was spent by elementary school students, 96,000 yen was spent
by public middle school students, and 101,000 yen was spent by public high school
students. From the data, it is obvious that the students in private schools spent more
than those in public schools (Monbukagakush 2002c).
Juku is an affordable way for students to receive extra help with their schoolwork.
MOEs recent decision to cooperate with its traditional adversary, the juku, was a
surprise. The MOE plans to subsidize the tuition of English juku to supplement
English conversation classes in elementary schools, because schools cannot allocate
enough time for English conversation classes (AS August 30, 1999). Furthermore,
with the introduction of the five-day school week in April 2002, the MOE plans to
cooperate with juku managers to provide extra activities on weekends, such as
camping, sports, science experiments, and cultural experiences (AS February 1,
2002). This new partnership between schools, the community and the private sector
will provide a better and more well-rounded education for students. Schools can

entrust after-school programs to community centers or even private educational



Only three percent of middle school graduates do not attend high school. They are
usually considered low-achievers, troublemakers, or averse to studying. Poverty no
longer has a direct effect upon high school enrollment because public high school
education is so inexpensive. However, the students whose education ends in middle
school are more likely to have a family background that is characterized by lower
socioeconomic status and lower educational levels. In 2003, 10,000, 0.8 percent of
middle school graduates (1.1% of male students and 0.4% of female students) entered
the workforce, 6,000 enrolled in the high school and general courses of specialized
training colleges, and 1,000 went to public human resources development facilities.
Another 19,000 neither worked nor went to school (Monbukagakush 2004a). In
2003, 140,000 youths between the ages of 15-19 were unemployed with an 11.9
percent unemployment rate (Naikakufu 2004a).
More than 90 percent of middle school job seekers obtained employment through the
cooperation of their middle schools and the Public Employment Security Placement
Center (Smuch 1998:378). Almost half of these jobseekers (49.3%) found positions
in small manufacturing or construction and the rest (43.3%) entered the service
industry. Ten percent accepted jobs outside of their home prefectures
(Monbukagakush 2004a). About half (49.3%) of middle school graduates who went
to work in March 2000 left their jobs within a year, another 14.4% (the cumulative
total 63.7%) within two years, and another 9.3% (73.0%) within three years
(Naikakufu 2004a).
In 2003, approximately 6,000 new middle school graduates enrolled in the high school
and general courses of specialized training colleges. In 2003, 622 specialized training
colleges offered high school courses to 53,000 middle school graduates, including
high school dropouts (Monbukagakush 2004a). Among these schools, 278 schools
provided a certificate to take college entrance exams, and about 13,000 (40%) went to
college with a high school equivalent in 1998 (Monbush 1999b:167). In 2003, 1,000
new middle school graduates entered into public human resources development
facilities operated by the prefectural government and the Ministry of Health, Labor
and Welfare (Monbukagakush 2004a). New graduates from middle schools and high

school dropouts take one to two-year courses, and high school graduates take six- and
twelve-month vocational training courses.




In April 2003, 97 percent of 15-year-old middle school graduates entered high school,
including evening high schools (Monbukagakush 2004a), and are expected to
graduate with only a 2.6 percent dropout rate (in the 2001-2 school year).2 In the
2001-2 school year, students gave the following reasons for dropping out: unfit for
high school life (38.2%); desire to change their course of life (36.3%); low
educational achievement (6.4%); delinquency (4.5%); family problems (4.4%);
disease, injury, or death (3.5%); economic reasons (3.3%); and others (3.4%)
(Monbukagakush 2002b).
The enrollment rate for high schools more than doubled during the years of the
economic boom, from 42.5 percent in 1950 to 90.8 percent in 1974. College
enrollment rates for 18-year-olds rose nearly fourfold from 10 percent in 1960 to 37
percent in 1975. Many sons of farmers became college-educated, white-collar
employees, constituting a new middle class by the 1970s. Since 1975, during the
period of slowed economic growth, high school enrollment and college enrollment
rates have risen at a much slower pace, up to 97 percent and 45 percent in 2003,
respectively (Monbukagakush 2004a).
Most of the 5,450 high schools are public schools under the jurisdiction of the
prefectural board of education. About one-fourth (24%) of high schools are private, in
addition to 15 national high schools affiliated with national universities, and 104
newly combined six-year secondary schools (Monbukagakush 2004a). As of 1997,
50.8 percent of private schools and 4.3 percent of public schools are single-sex
institutions (Kimura 1999:47). In addition to regular daytime high schools, there are
correspondence high schools and evening high schools. Special high schools for
disabled children serve children with visual impairments, hearing impairments,
orthopedic disabilities, mental retardation, and/or chronic illness.
Since 1990, the number of students has been rapidly decreasing due to the falling birth
rate. In 2003, there were 3,810,000, 120,000 fewer than in 2002. Since 1998, the
maximum number of students in a high school class is 40 students. The student-

teacher ratio is 14.7:1 (Monbukagakush 2004a). Only one quarter of teachers

(25.2%) were female, and the average high school teacher was 43.8 years old in 2001
(Monbukagakush 2003a). The MOE plans to add 7,008 high school teachers in the
five years since 2002 (Monbukagakush 2003b:210).
About 73 percent of high school students attend academic high schools for college
preparation. One-fourth of high school students attend vocational high schools.
Vocational high schools fall into three categories: technical, commercial, and
agricultural. Some academic and vocational high schools have special departments
for comprehensive course programs, home economics, nursing, fishery, social welfare,
information science, science, physical education, arts, music, international relations,
and English (Monbukagakush 2004a).
Vocational high schools are losing their students, as more 15-year-olds prefer
academic high schools. Some vocational high schools are making the transition to
comprehensive or academic high schools in order to attract higher achieving students.
Moreover, the decreasing number of high school students has caused some less
popular high schools to close down or merge with other institutions. Technical high
schools and high school nursing programs have gained popularity under the recent
economic recession, probably because many students prefer attending job training to
attending low-ranked academic high schools.
The correlation between socioeconomic status, the educational level of parents, and
the rank of their childrens high schools confirms the theory of reproduction.
According to reproduction theory, dominant groups perpetuate their privilege through
education, although education is not in itself a simple reproduction machine. A 1995
analysis of a social mobility survey confirms that for male children their fathers
education and occupation affect their sons choice of high school, as well as their
choice of profession. Those who attended elite high schools and are in professional or
managerial positions are more likely to have fathers in similar positions (Nakanishi
High schools consist of students of comparable levels of academic achievement.
Typically, students in elite academic schools are all college-bound, studious, and well
behaved. These schools often have a competitive atmosphere with high educational
aspiration and expectation from peers, teachers and parents. Less selective academic

high schools have average students who are less driven, who enjoy extracurricular
activities, and who look forward to attending four-year colleges, junior colleges,
specialized training colleges, or to work.
Vocational high schools have average and lower achievers who do not plan on
higher education, and enjoy extracurricular sports clubs and a social life. Technical
high schools, known as boys schools are overwhelmingly male. Female students
comprise the majority in commercial high schools, and almost all the student body in
nursing and home economics departments of high schools. Vocational and lowranked high schools tend to have students with more delinquency problems and a
higher dropout rate.
Academic High Schools

Each academic high school is ranked according to the number of graduates who enroll
in prestigious colleges. Elite academic schools send almost 100 percent of their
students to a renowned four-year university, while the least competitive academic
schools send very few of their students to such institutions. Middle school students
know which high schools provide the best chances for admission to a selective
university. The highest-ranking public academic high schools attract the highest
achievers from the districts middle schools. The majority of academic high schools
include students who plan to attend less competitive colleges, junior colleges, or
specialized training colleges, with a few students seeking employment after
graduation. Many low-ranked private academic high schools accept low-achievers
who failed to pass the examination for public academic or vocational schools. After
the late 1970s, some academic high schools began to offer ability-grouping classes,
especially in the prefectures where the influence of JTU is weak (Kariya 1998:101).
Private high schools, comprising 24 percent of all high schools, are also hierarchically
ranked. The tuition for private high schools is usually about three times as much as
that of public high schools, which for the 2001-2 school year amounted to 111,600
yen per year (YS December 28, 2000). Many elite private academic schools provide a
six-year college preparatory curriculum. Some of them are escalator schools,
whose students may automatically go on to private universities like Keio University.
Elite private academic high schools attract many of the best students. For example,
among those who entered the University of Tokyo, the nations most highly respected
university, 64 percent of new entrants, including 93 percent in Tokyo in 1999 came

from national or private six-year academic high schools, an increase from 26 percent
in 1965 and 50 percent in 1985 (Nihon Keizai 2001:195).
In metropolitan areas, where many elite academic high schools are concentrated,
private high schools are more popular than high-ranked public academic schools.
Highly educated parents want to send their children to private middle schools with a
fast track to the best universities through the escalator system. Twelve-year-olds
compete to enter these six-year private schools. In contrast, low-ranked private
schools have an important role in accepting students who failed the entrance
examinations for public high school. These private schools accept almost every
The curriculum for academic high schools prepares students for college entrance
examinations. Classes are based on textbook-centered lectures and rote practice
examinations. Many academic high schools divide their students between humanities
majors and science majors. The students may be also divided into homerooms
according to their interest in attending a national university or a private university.
National universities require five subjects for the entrance examinations, while private
universities usually require three. Some schools offer advanced classes for their most
qualified students. However, the majority of academic high schools are not very
rigorous. Enrolling in a low-ranked college, junior college, or specialized training
college does not require much hard work. Many colleges admit their students through
school recommendation without college examinations.
Vocational High Schools

Vocational high schools provide basic academic courses and special training for
students who plan to work after graduation. Technical high schools offer courses in
civil engineering, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, information science,
chemical engineering, programming, and ceramics technology. Commercial high
schools teach business, marketing, accounting, and computer programming.
Agricultural high schools teach agronomy, animal husbandry, and biotechnology.
The popularity of vocational high schools has waned, as more high school graduates
prefer going to academic high schools. Prior to the 1960s when the overwhelming
majority of students joined the workforce after high school, vocational high schools
attracted many students who wanted to obtain specialized skills for better

employment. In 1955, 40 percent of students attended vocational high schools, which

by 2001 had dropped to 25 percent. In order to attract higher quality students, some
vocational schools have become academic schools or comprehensive high schools.
However, vocational high schools still have an important role in rural areas. In rural
areas where far fewer students go to college than in urban areas, the enrollment at
vocational high schools is higher because vocational schools can provide job-related
skills and help students to find jobs through the school referral system.
The majority of students who attend vocational schools now do so simply because
they thought they could not enter public academic schools. Students in vocational
schools enjoy high school life with less pressure from teachers, parents, and peers.
Because teachers do not expect as much from these students academically, they teach
less demanding courses. Students enjoy friendships and extracurricular activities.
Students in vocational high schools tend to come from the lower-middle class and
working class families. According to the 1995 survey on Social Stratification and
Social Mobility (SSM survey), children whose fathers were not professionals or in
managerial positions are on average more likely to go to vocational high schools
(32.4%/22.6% in the average). The majority of those who attended vocational high
schools or low-ranked academic high schools went to work after graduation, half of
them becoming blue-collar workers (Nakanishi 2000:52).
After a decade of economic recession, more people have come to appreciate the
importance of vocational and technological skills. The popularity of technical high
schools and nursing departments has risen among middle school graduates who would
obtain useful job skills. Many adults and even college students attend specialized
training colleges or take evening classes to learn technical skills. Some vocational
high schools provide evening classes for adult students in the community. Once
vocational high schools show that they can produce graduates who can obtain good
jobs, the schools will regain their former popularity.
Comprehensive High Schools

Comprehensive high schools (sg kt gakk) are credit-based schools similar to

public high schools in the United States. Established in 1993, they offer both
academic and vocational subjects. Every prefecture was required to build at least one
comprehensive high school by 1996. In 1999, there were 124 schools in 46

prefectures (Monbush 1999b:261). In 2003, 104,665 students, or 2.8 percent of all

high school students were enrolled in comprehensive schools (Monbukagakush
2004a). These students have greater freedom in choosing their classes, can transfer
credits from other schools, and can even graduate early if they fulfill the required
units, a new feature in the Japanese educational system. Comprehensive programs
have trendy names like international studies, information science, and ecology.
However, students do not develop as much group solidarity because of the lack of
interaction with homeroom classmates and a homeroom teacher.
Comprehensive high schools, modeled upon American community high schools, were
introduced during the post-war Occupation. However, comprehensive high schools
never took root in Japan. By the 1950s, the current system of academically ranked
high schools prevailed over comprehensive high schools. Responding to the
increasing diversity of ability and aptitude of high school students, in 1971 the Central
Council of Education recommended that high school curriculum be diversified. The
National Association of Prefectural Superintendents proposed credit-based high
schools, joint high schools, boarding schools, and six-year high schools in 1978.
Comprehensive high schools were reintroduced, and tested in the 1980s and 1990s. In
1991, the Central Council of Education proposed the synthesis of academic and
vocational programs, known as comprehensive courses. In 1993, the Committee for
the Enhancement of High School Reforms recommended a credit system, inter-school
cooperation, and admissions criteria: interviews, recommendations, and schools
reports (Shimahara 1995a).
Despite the governments promotion of comprehensive high schools, the majority of
schools, especially the traditional high schools, are skeptical about the quality of
comprehensive high schools. Very few public high schools are adopting
comprehensive programs. Only some less selective high schools have become
comprehensive high schools. Some vocational high schools became comprehensive
high schools in order to combine vocational programs with academic programs.
The basic structure of high school education has not changed. Like other high
schools, the reputation of a comprehensive high school depends upon the percentage
of graduates who attend college. Comprehensive high schools are more likely to have
mediocre students who might otherwise have attended non-elite academic high
schools or vocational high schools. Moreover, comprehensive high schools provide

credit-based courses and flexible time schedules for older or nontraditional students
whose education was interrupted.
Six-Year Secondary Schools

In recent years, the government has promoted establishing six-year secondary public
schools in order to replace the high school examination hell with a continuous sixyear education with yutori (a relaxed atmosphere). The 1998 Amendment to the
School Education Law makes it easier for middle and high schools to convert into sixyear secondary high schools. The government plans to establish 500 more six-year
secondary schools, at least one in each high school district in the near future. These
schools follow the model of credit-based comprehensive schools, including vocational
training and internships. The high school department of a six-year school can take
graduates from other middle schools. Also, several middle schools and one high
school can be combined to provide a six-year secondary education. Sixth graders can
enter six-year schools without examination. Middle school graduates can enter the
high-school department of a six-year secondary school through a grade check and
aptitude tests (Monbush 2000a:28-29).
In 2003, there were 183 middle school sections and 104 high school sections in newly
combined six-year secondary schools. Among them, 50 middle schools and 50 high
schools were combined at the secondary school level while 133 middle schools and 54
high schools exchanged teachers. There were also 16 six-year schools (2 national, 5
public, and 9 private schools) with about 3,105 students and 382 teachers
(Monbukagakush 2004a).
The National Commission on Educational Reform, commissioned by Prime Minister
Yoshir Mori, recommended a radical plan to replace half of all high schools with the
six-year schools (Kyiku Kaikaku 2000). Will a new type of six-year secondary
school resemble the existing national and private elite six-year schools, even though
the new six-year secondary schools do not require written entrance examinations?
Just like other high schools, the popularity of six-year secondary schools will be
judged by the number of graduates enter selective colleges. It will be difficult to do
away with examination hell unless the college admission policies are overhauled
and Japanese society abandons its obsession with educational credentials.

Evening High Schools

In 2003, 110,000 part-time high school students attended evening high schools, which
are usually affiliated with daytime high schools (Monbukagakush 2004a). Students
take four 50-minute classes on weekdays, and graduate in four years. Since 1988,
students have been allowed to finish the course in three years. Most evening schools
hold classes from 5:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. However, in the past ten years or so, more
evening schools have become credit-based evening high schools, and added daytime
classes for a more varied student population. The popularity of daytime classes in
evening high schools is rising among students who dropped out of regular high
schools and students who had school refusal syndrome. Twenty-five prefectures plan
to open at least 30 evening high schools with daytime classes. In May 2000, 135
evening high schools had daytime courses, mostly for the students who worked at
night (AS March 29 2001).
The curriculum is the same regardless of when it is offered. The instruction resembles
that of low-ranked high schools, because many of the students had been unsuccessful
in daytime high schools. Since classes are smaller, students have more individual
attention from the teachers. Teachers may offer extra help to students who hope to
attend college, and who are struggling to keep up with their classes. In addition to
studying, there is a snack or meal interval between classes. Extracurricular clubs like
badminton, basketball, table tennis, photography, and computer clubs meet until 10:00
p.m. The school also provides special events such as field trips.
Until the 1960s and 1970s, evening high schools had played a significant role in
providing high school education for working youths. In 1953, a record 567,000
students, almost one-fourth of high school students, attended evening high schools
(AS February 9, 2004). Nowadays, the majority of students in evening high schools
are low achievers or youths who had either failed to pass the entrance exams for
daytime high schools or been expelled from daytime high schools. Some students had
school refusal syndrome in middle school, and young working adults who want to
earn a high school diploma. These more mature students are more likely to be
enthusiastic about classes, and have better grades. In metropolitan areas, the student
population includes refugees from Indochina and the children or grandchildren of
Chinese returnees, who have difficulty going to daytime high schools because of a
lack of Japanese language proficiency.

Kiku Evening High School

In 2001, seventy students (37 male and 33 female) were enrolled in the four-year
evening high school courses in the elite academic Kiku High School in Marugame.3
Like other evening high schools, it originally consisted of students who held daytime
jobs. Kiku Evening High School even had an outpost classroom in a sewing factory
from 1968 to 1978. However, most students enrolled now are those who failed to
enter or were expelled from daytime high schools, and those who had school refusal
syndrome in middle school, in addition to a few young adults who returned to school
for a high school diploma. More than half of all students have a full-time or part-time
job. Most of the male students worked in the construction or manufacturing
industries, while most of the female students worked in retail and service. Teachers
advised students who did not work to take a day job in order to add regularity to their
Kiku Evening High School keeps its curriculum based on traditional homeroom
classes, and is currently considering new credit-based evening courses. If a student
misses one-third of the class hours in a subject, he/she fails to receive credit. Firstyear students have the highest dropout rate. About half of first-year students
completed the four-year evening program. Among 18 graduates in March 2000, three
students went to four-year colleges, one student went to junior college, and two
students went to specialized training colleges; the rest kept the same job or found
another one.
I observed classes on biology and Japanese language arts, and the long homeroom
hour. Students do not wear uniforms, and many of the female students wear makeup
and have fashionably bleached hair. Teachers emphasize the basics, according to the
academic level of students, and the class atmosphere is rather casual. In the Japanese
language arts class, there was little student participation, but all the students quietly
copied the Chinese poems and the teachers comments on the blackboard into their
notebooks. At the end of the class, the teacher collected their notebooks. During the
long homeroom hour, the young teacher and the students behaved more like friends,
and discussed the practice of employment recruitment. Because there are fewer than
20 students in a classroom, the relationships between the students and teachers,
especially younger teachers, are very close and friendly.

During the snack time between the second and the third periods, the prefectural board
of education provides a piece of bread and milk to the students. For extracurricular
clubs, the students form teams for baseball, basketball, and badminton, and during the
first semester practiced for the prefectural tournament against other evening high
Correspondence High Schools

Students in correspondence high schools study independently at home. They

regularly submit papers for their classes, attend school for discussion, experiments,
and practical training on assigned days, and take exams to obtain credits. It usually
takes four years to obtain a high school diploma; however, a three-year program was
introduced in 1988. In 2003, 190,000 students attended 138 correspondence high
schools, which included 100 correspondence schools affiliated with daytime regular
high schools, in addition to 397 regular high schools, which provided correspondence
courses (Monbukagakush 2004a).
Like the students in evening high schools, most of the correspondence school students
are low achievers, students who had school refusal syndrome during middle school,
and youths at risk. Some students have physical disabilities and health problems that
make it difficult to make the daily commute to school. In addition to the teenagers,
the students include adults who want to obtain a high school diploma and credentials
for career advancement training, and retirees and homemakers who want to learn
academic subjects or vocational training skills.
Among the 40,000 graduates, 5,000 attended college, 6,000 attended the specialized
courses of specialized training colleges, 1,000 attended the general courses of
specialized training colleges, 100 attended public human resources development
facilities, 7,000 joined the workforce, and 17,000 did not fit any of these categories
(Monbukagakush 2004a).


The 1999 high school education Course of Study for 2003-2012 is designed to further
deregulation, diversity, individuality, internationalization, and information
technology. The Course of Study also encourages moral education, volunteer service,
and employment experience. The Course of Study reduces class hours, consistent
with the five-day school week, and creates more elective courses. Regular high

schools have 30 hour-units (one hour unit is 50 minutes) a week for 35 weeks a year,
beginning in April 2002.
The Course of Study states that the current 80 units required for graduation are to be
reduced to 74 units, including 31 required units and 25 elective units. The required
subjects for general education are: Japanese language arts; world history; Japanese
history or geography; contemporary society, ethics, or political science and
economics; mathematics; basic science, physics, chemistry, biology, or geology;
physical education or public health; music, arts, craftwork, or calligraphy; oral
communication or English; home economics or daily life technology; and information
science. In addition, all high schools are required to teach three to four units (105 to
210 hour-units) of integrated study. Also, all high schools have hour-long homeroom
Each school can create one school-specific subject based on the needs of its
students. High-ranked academic high schools provide advanced courses. In
comparison, vocational high schools provide basic academic courses and specialized
vocational courses, such as electrical engineering and business. Comprehensive high
schools offer unit-based courses for both academic and special vocational subjects, in
which the students can create their own curriculum (Monbush 1999a).
The reduced number of class hours and the changes in mathematics and science
curricula may cause a shortage of scientists and engineers in the decades to come.
Many science and mathematics teachers worry that the reduction of content in
academic subjects for the sake of a yutori (relaxed) curriculum will undermine the
academic ability of high school students. More universities and colleges need to
provide remedial classes. The business community echoes the cry for the importance
of a highly trained and globally competitive workforce. Many educators fear that
Japan might lose its pre-eminent position in mathematics and science in the future.
Responding to this outcry, the MOE decided to subsidize 1,500 elementary, middle,
and high schools with more than 1 million yen for science education promotion, and
to designate 20 super science high schools funded with grants of 30 million yen per
school. The schools will invite college professors as lecturers, have adequate
laboratory equipment, and promote scientific club activities (AS August 19, 2001).

As in elementary and middle schools, the homeroom is the core of high school
education, except in credit-based comprehensive high schools. Academic subject
teachers come to homeroom classrooms to deliver instruction. High schools do not
have government-subsidized school lunches, like elementary and middle schools do.
Many students bring a lunch box and eat in their homeroom classroom. Other
students go to the school cafeteria.
The students clean the classrooms, corridors, and school grounds every day in small
fixed groups, known as han. Two class leaders, one male and one female are elected
every trimester, and many students are assigned to specific task committees in their
homeroom class. Homeroom teachers are in charge of morning and afternoon
homeroom times, as well as a weekly one-hour long homeroom period. They also
take responsibility for counseling students behaviors and future plans. Homeroom
teachers discuss college admissions or employment with the students and their parents
in parent-teacher conferences.


After-school extracurricular activities play a significant role in the lives of high school
students. Almost half of boys (42.5%) and 26.9 percent of girls participate in afterschool athletic clubs. Moreover, 10.7 percent of boys and 29.4 percent of girls join in
after-school cultural clubs (Smuch 1996:58-59). Many athletic clubs such as
baseball and basketball clubs require daily training after school. Students learn to
cooperate in teams, build lifelong friendships, and cultivate physical and emotional
discipline. Furthermore, they develop interpersonal social skills in the hierarchically
ranked relations between seniors (senpai) and juniors (khai).
Volunteer activities and community service are not popular among high school
students. According to a 1995 survey, only 15 percent of 15 to 17-year-olds
participate in volunteer activities (Smuch 1996:91). Volunteer activities and
community service have been recently promoted by the government, and are taken
into consideration as admission criteria for high school and colleges. Thus, the
number of high school students who are participating in volunteer activities has been
increasing. The National Commission on Educational Reform recommends one
month of mandated volunteer work for high school students (Kyiku Kaikaku 2000).
The Tokyo Board of Education decided to create one-unit (35 hours a year) volunteer

experience activities as a required course for the graduation for all public high
schools in Tokyo, to begin in the 2007-8 school year (AS November 11, 2004).
High school students also enjoy dating, shopping, watching TV, and playing video
games after school and on the weekends. According to a 1995 survey, the majority of
high school students spend weekends with their friends, while one-fourth of boys and
one-fifth of girls spend the weekends alone. On the weekend, two-thirds of boys
watch TV or listen to music, while one-third of boys play video games, and read
comics or books. In contrast, 71.4 percent of girls watch TV or listen to music and
almost two-thirds of girls go shopping on the weekends (Smuch 1996:84-88).
Many high school students have part-time jobs. According to a 1998 survey in the
Tokyo metropolitan area, 60 percent of high school students worked at restaurants,
convenience stores, or supermarkets with salaries of 820-yen an hour (close to
minimum wage) for 90 days a year, earning an average of 300,000 yen (Shokuhin
2000:149-151). According to a 2000 survey of employers of part-time high school
students, most work at supermarkets, post offices, family restaurants, or gas stations,
for 600 to 800 yen an hour for several days a week, especially on the weekends (AS
May 7, 2000).
The majority of high school students do not study much at home. According to a
2001 survey, the average Japanese high school students study 50 minutes a day at
home or in cram schools during the weekdays, compared with 100 minutes from the
1980 survey. More than half (51%) hardly study (AS May 28, 2002). According to a
2002 survey, almost half (41.0%) of twelfth graders do not study or barely study,
compared with 10.8 percent of sixth graders and 8.5 percent of ninth graders of a 2001
survey. Most (79%) think studying is important, but only 39.5 percent said they
understand the contents of classes at school well (AS January 24, 2004).
According to a 2000 survey, more than one-third of high school students attended juku
(cram school), and their parents spent on average 200,000 yen a year on juku
(Monbukagakush 2002c). Many students who planned to take college examinations
for competitive colleges attended English juku and mathematics juku, and/or attended
preparatory schools for college examinations, known as yobik in the evening and/or
on the weekend. These students are more likely to be from high-ranked academic
high schools and take college examinations for competitive colleges.

Yobik, a preparatory cram school for college entrance examinations, was originally
established for rnin students (literally master-less samurai) who studied full-time
for at least an additional year after high school in order to take college entrance
examinations. Rnin became common in the late 1960s, especially among male
students. Each year, 200,000 to 300,000 retake college entrance examinations after
failing to be accepted by the college of their choice (Ogawa 2000:106). Large
preparatory schools provide year-round lessons. In rural areas without many
preparatory schools for rnin, academic high schools provide classes for alumni rnin
for an additional year. Yobik tuition is expensive, and some students board at
schools and/or rent a room nearby. Yobik teachers can be full-time yobik teachers,
part-time college graduate students, or moonlighting professors (Tsukada 1991).


In 2003, almost two-thirds (63%) of high school graduates went on to higher

education, including colleges (44.6%; 42.7% for boys and 46.6% for girls) and
specialized training colleges (18.9%; 16.1% for boys and 21.7% for girls). On the
other hand, 16.6 percent went to work, while 10.3 percent entered neither colleges,
specialized training colleges nor the workforce (Monbukagakush 2004a). The
enrollment rate of colleges has increased among students from non-metropolitan areas
since 1975, when the government began to establish new colleges all over Japan
(Aramaki 2000:30-31). However, though decreasing, regional discrepancies are still
striking. Only one-third of high school graduates in the northern and southern
prefectures attended college. In contrast, half of all high school graduates in the urban
prefectures and the western prefectures attended (Monbukagakush 2004a). Since
almost half of all high school graduates enter college, admission into colleges, with
the exception of the most competitive colleges, is possible.
The examination system was imported from Europe to Japan following the 1868 Meiji
Restoration, and in the 1920s the term examination hell represented the fierce
competition for academic middle schools and high schools, though only a few elite
went to college (Amano 1990:xii). During the Occupation after World War II, college
admissions were based on high school records, a standard aptitude test, and entrance
examinations by individual colleges. Entrance examinations given by each college
primarily determined admissions.

From 1949 to 1954 and from 1963 to 1968, a national examination was required, but
as the universities did not trust the results, the examination never became as
influential as the government had hoped. National universities based their admissions
primarily through entrance examinations and secondarily from school
recommendations. All national universities were divided into two groups so that
applicants could apply for two national universities and as many private colleges as
they wished.
Since 1979, the National Universal Test of seven courses from five academic subjects
was introduced to ease competition in entrance exams. All national universities were
required to consider the universal test in admission decision. Since the students had
only one chance for national universities rather than two after the introduction of the
National Universal Test, the reform did not have the intended effect. Instead,
competition for private colleges increased. In 1987, the National Universal Test was
revised to cover five academic subjects. Each university can choose which subjects it
takes into consideration. All national universities were again divided into two groups
so that the students could apply for two national universities. In 1989, that system
was abolished. All national universities currently have two entrance examination
periods so that the students can take the entrance examinations twice.
In 1990, the Central Test for college admissions was introduced, and private
universities can also use the test. In 1990, 14.3 percent of high school seniors took the
Central Test. After more private universities adopted the Central Test, one-fourth of
high school seniors took the Central Test in 1996 (Ogawa 2000:112). Since 2004,
junior colleges have used the Central Test. Starting in 2004, most national universities
have assigned seven courses from five academic subjects rather than the five
academic subjects of the Central Test.
Despite reforms, the competition will continue as long as educational credentials from
these colleges help graduates obtain better jobs, and the infrastructure of the college
admission systems does not change. Students should be able to take written
examinations for national universities more than once a year. In the 2000 proposal,
the Central Education Committee suggested allowing students to take the national
examination twice a year, and use their best scores over a three-year period. The
national examination will be offered in December and January, starting in 2006 (AS
April 29 2000). Written examinations are fairer and more objective than school

recommendations. If students take exams several times over a long period, similar to
the SAT and ACT in the United States, the scores are more reliable.
Furthermore, the implementation of college admissions quotas for transfer students
and adult students give late bloomers another chance. Educational credentials are
important because most companies look for educational credentials when they recruit
college graduates. Partly because of the recession, the system of lifelong careers for
full-time workers has come under scrutiny even in large companies. Practical abilities
and skills have come to outweigh educational credentials as recruitment criteria.
Professional certificates and technical skills can be obtained by students who study
part-time at specialized training colleges, correspondence courses, evening schools, or
even independent studies. These flexible routes to obtain higher status jobs or more
desirable jobs may make the competition for college admission less intense.
However, only those who have the money and time to study are able to get a second
chance at going to a well-regarded college.
The survival of private colleges and junior colleges is a serious problem because of
the drastically decreasing population of 18-year-olds, from a peak of 2.05 million in
1993 to 1.5 million in 2000, and a projected 1.2 million in 2010. Many colleges
cannot obtain enough applicants to meet their admissions quotas. Enrollment in
junior college has been decreasing even more rapidly. Private universities and junior
colleges rely on school recommendations to fulfill admissions quotas. Four-year
private universities use school recommendations for one-third of their admissions,
while private junior colleges use recommendations from high schools for two-thirds
of their admissions (Amano 1996:99, 106).
Universities are now considering the use of admission criteria other than test scores
from examinations, such as extracurricular activities, volunteer activities, interviews,
and written essays in order to obtain students from a wider variety of backgrounds.
Some universities (130 colleges including three national universities in 2001) have
begun to use an admissions office system to consider an applicants GPA,
extracurricular activities, essays and interviews. They have also begun to promote
outreach programs to high school students (Kuroki 1999:79-80; Ishi 2002:22-24).
Additionally, many universities now welcome non-traditional students, and have
created special admissions quotas for adult students, graduates from vocational high
schools, and Japanese returnees from overseas.



In 2003, one sixth (16.6%) of high school graduates (cf., 35.2% in 1990), the lowest
rate on record, went directly into the workforce (Monbush 2000b; Monbukagakush
2004a). Around 30 percent of high school graduates entered the workforce in the
northern part of Japan, while in Tokyo only 6.6 percent of high school graduates did
(Monbukagakush 2004a). Among the 213,000 high school graduates who went to
work in March 2003, most found jobs in the manufacturing and service industries
(Table 3.2). The percentage of professionals and technicians was much smaller than
the national average, and more high school graduates were employed in secondary
industries, such as manufacturing. The majority of them were employed in small- and
medium-size firms in their hometowns. About one-fourth (26.3%) of high school
graduates in March 2000 left their jobs within a year, another 14.7 percent (the
cumulative total 41.0%) within two years and another 9.3 percent (50.3%) within
three years (Naikakufu 2004a).
Table 3.2 Occupations for High School Graduates Who
Went to Work After Graduation in 2003

Male (118,917)


Manufacturing Process











Professional, technical











(Source: Monbukagakush 2004a)

Among the high school graduates in 2002 who sought employment through schools
and placement centers, the ratio of job openings to job applicants was 1.26:1, the
lowest on the record. The number of job openings for new high school graduates
decreased from 1.67 million in 1992 to 240,000 in 2002 (Kosugi 2002:17). According
to a survey by the MOE, the rate of employment was only 86.3 percent, the lowest
since 1976. Approximately 218,000 graduates who sought employment started to
work in April 2002, and more than 30,000 high school graduates graduated in March
without any job prospects (AS May 11, 2002).
Most high school job-seekers use the school referral system to find a job in their
community, while some use personal networks. Teachers in vocational high schools
help students find jobs in local companies through institutional networks between
schools and local companies. These employers have, over the years, developed a
network with vocational schools, and employers and schools cooperate to match high
school graduates with suitable jobs. In 2001, 80 percent of those who obtained
employment found a job through the school referral system, and 96 percent of those
who used the school referral system succeeded in finding a job (Kosugi 2002:101).
The 1947 Employment Security Law stipulates that the Public Employment Security
Office (PESO) under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare,
and other nonprofit organizations, including schools can provide job placement
assistance for youths. For job information for high school graduates, 64.3 percent of
schools cooperated with the Public Employment Security Placement Center to help
students obtain job information, while 29.9 percent of high schools, mostly vocational
high schools, had their own school placement centers in 2000. In addition, 5.8 percent
of high schools relied on the Public Employment Security Placement Center for job
information (Naikakufu 2001a:303). Most vocational high schools, which are
attended by the majority of job seekers, have their own placement centers.
Under the school referral system, employers who want to employ high school
graduates fill out a recruitment card, giving the name of the company, the job
description, and labor conditions, including wages and benefits. These cards are then
approved by the Public Employment Security Office, and are sent to schools for job
referral assistance. Employers consider academic achievement the most important
criterion. They want to employ graduates from higher-ranked high schools, and
graduates with good grades in academic subjects. Employers determine how many

students they employ from a particular school, judging from their past records and
experiences. If the graduates from a particular school have worked well in the
company, the company develops a mutual trust with the school and is more likely to
send out its recruitment cards in subsequent years. Vocational schools have several
full-time or part-time teachers at the school placement center who help students find a
At the beginning of the senior year in April, schools provide new seniors with
information about jobs and employment placement procedures. Students choose
several companies they would like to work for from the recruitment cards, and consult
their homeroom teacher, parents, and friends. By late August, the teachers at the
school placement center, homeroom teachers, and the dean decide which companies
are best suited for which students, based on students preferences, academic
achievements, extracurricular activities, parents wishes, and family background.
They use academic achievement as the main criterion to decide which students
acquire their first choice of company if several students seek employment at the same
companies. After placing students in suitable companies, the teachers in the
placement center teach students how to take recruitment exams, and prepare them for
their interviews. In September, the students take recruitment exams at the companies
that the school chose for them. Teachers in school placement centers can help
unsuccessful job-seekers until the end of May, two months after their graduation.
Afterwards, schools are prohibited from helping them find a job (Rausenbaum and
Kariya 1989; Okano 1993).
The institutional networks between schools and local companies match high school
graduates to suitable companies because employers and placement counselors share
information on students and companies. The school referral system also provides a
network for disadvantaged students who do not have strong social networks and
useful family connections. The criteria for selection are based on academic
achievement and grades. Therefore, it is a relatively objective way to select students.
The system has obviously worked so far since the employers keep returning to schools
with recruitment cards. However, employers yield to schools in the selection process,
and are obligated to employ whoever the schools nominate. Students have to compete
with each other for these nominations, and cannot appeal to the companies directly.
Moreover, students are pressured to perform well at their workplace; otherwise, their
schools reputation suffers.

In 2002, the MOE and the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare decided to relax the
one applicant for one company school referral system and allow high school
students to apply to several companies. In the 2003-4 school year, 36 prefectures
abolished the one applicant for one company school referral system, and in the
2004-5 school year, all prefectures abolished it (AS November 25, 2003; AS
September 9, 2004).
In the United States, high school graduates do not use school networks to find a job.
According to a 1983-1984 survey, fewer than 10 percent of high school seniors
entering the workforce reported that their high school helped them find their job,
while in Japan 75 percent of high school graduates found a job through their schools.
Most high school graduates in the United States found jobs through friends and
relatives or through direct applications to employers. Employers do not trust grades
or references from high schools for hiring, and emphasize the importance of
interviews as well as social skills from extracurricular activities more than grades
(Rausenbaum and Kariya 1989).
In recession years, the number of so-called freeters, youths between the ages of 15
and 34 who are working part-time jobs (including dispatched/contracted workers)
and/or are looking for a job, except for students and homemakers, increased from
1,830,000 in 1990 to 4,170,000 in 2001. One out of nine youths as well as one out of
five youths (except for students and housewives) are freeters. More than 70 percent
of freeters wanted to be regular workers but could not find jobs (Naikakufu 2003b).
Recently, approximately 30 percent of high school graduates and about one-fourth of
college graduates did not obtain regular employment immediately after graduation,
and became freeters (Yamada 2001:124). Moreover, about 50 percent of all high
school graduates, 40 percent of junior college graduates, and 30 percent of university
graduates have left or changed jobs by their third year after graduation and finding
employment (Ministry of Labour 2000:49). The MOE plans to send freeters to
several-month long educational programs regarding information industry, welfare, and
so on at 56 specialized training colleges in order to obtain regular jobs since the 20045 school year (AS August 18, 2003).
In 2003, among the youth between the ages of 15 and 34 years old (33,760,000),
22.01 million were in the labor force, including 2.17 million freeters, and 1.64 million
unemployed. Outside of the labor force, there were 11.71 million youths, including

students, homemakers, and 640,000 others who did not wish to work, called NEET
(Not in Education, Employment or Training). The NEET includes delinquent youths,
hikikomori (those who confine themselves in their homes and isolate themselves from
the society), those pursuing their dreams, and those who lost confidence in working.
They do not seek a job for many reasons: they cannot get along with people at work,
they have not found the right job, they do not know their own abilities and aptitudes,
they do not know how to look for a job, they are in poor health, or other reasons (AS
October 2, 2004). The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare plans to provide a
three-month training camp for these youths in order to generate an interest in working
through job training. It plans to invite 2,000 or more youths at 40 places in 2005, and
will eventually serve 10,000 youths per year (AS August 24, 2004).




The legal status of women before the 1947 Constitution was lower than that of men,
and women were denied equal opportunity to education by law and custom.4 During
the Edo Period (1603-1867), women, especially those of samurai status (less than 10%
of population) were supposed to follow Confucianist teaching to obey their fathers,
husbands, and sons. However, most women were farmers (80% of population) and
worked together with men in the farms and fields. In the Edo period, girls began to
attend temple schools (terakoya) with boys to learn reading, writing, and calculating.
By the end of the Edo Period, the enrollment percentages in terakoya were 79 percent
boys and 21 percent girls (Passin 1965:44).
Since the 1872 School Ordinance, primary school education was provided equally to
girls and boys. By 1910, almost all boys and girls attended elementary schools.
However, co-education ended after elementary school, and female students attended
female-only middle schools and female-only post-secondary schools in the gendersegregated school system. Until the end of World War II, women were not allowed
entrance into Imperial Universities except for Thoku Imperial University, which was
opened to women in 1913.
In the 1930s, about 20 percent of boys went up to five-year middle schools, the first
step for higher education, while 17 percent of girls attended female middle schools to
become good wives and wise mothers (Aramaki 2000:16). By 1937, there were 42
three-year private womens colleges, six public colleges for women, and two national

womens higher normal schools (Fujimura-Fanselow and Imamura 1991:233). During

this period, only 1 or 2 percent of women attended postsecondary schools.
The 1946 Constitution and 1947 Education Fundamental Law guaranteed equal rights
to education for women. Furthermore, the human rights of women are protected by a
series of international human rights treaties: the U.N. Human Rights Covenants in
1979; the U.N. Convention of the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against
Women in 1985; the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1994; and the
domestic 1999 Basic Law for a Gender-Equal Society. For equal rights of women in
education, the U.N. Convention of the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination
Against Women specifically mentions the elimination of prejudice based on
stereotyped roles for men and women (Article 5), and the protection of the equal
rights of men and women in education (Article 10). Article 10 stipulates the
elimination of any stereotyped concept of the roles of men and women at all levels
and in all forms of education by encouraging coeducation and other types of education
which will help to achieve this aim and, in particular, by the revision of textbooks and
school programs and the adaptation of teaching methods.
In practice, the gender gap is still evident in education and employment, though the
discrepancy has been narrowing. Fewer female students than male students attend
four-year colleges. Fewer female students major in science and engineering, which
affects employment rates and wages. The statistical discrimination (Thurow 1975)
against the employment of women, and their commitments of childbirth and
childrearing also account for gender discrepancy in employment rates and wages.
Gender Roles in Schools

Schools still provide gender-specific education such as boys-first attendance sheets,

and single-sex high schools. The boys-first attendance sheet contains the names of
all male students first in an alphabetical order and then the names of all female
students. Thus, male students are always called on first when a teacher checks the
attendance. All classrooms and schools used boys-first attendance sheets before the
1983 nationwide movement for gender-neutral attendance sheets. The movement
began when one elementary school teacher began using a gender-neutral attendance
sheet in her classroom.

Feminist critics argued that boys-first attendance sheet implied the superiority of
boys over girls. Many municipal boards of education decided to use a gender-neutral
attendance sheet for all public schools under their jurisdiction. In 2000, 46.6 percent
of elementary schools, 28.7 percent of middle schools, and 55.3 percent of high
schools used gender-free attendance sheets (Nihon Fujin 2002:165). The 1999 survey
of the JTU (Japan Teachers Union) found that 43.6 percent of schools used a genderneutral attendance sheet but that there was a large regional discrepancy. Some regions
have a very low usage of the gender-neutral sheets, such as 13.8 percent in Iwate
Prefecture (AS Iwate April 15, 2000). It is easy to change the currently used boysfirst attendance sheet into a gender-neutral attendance sheet. Therefore, there is no
reason for schools to keep using boys-first attendance sheets. The gender-neutral
attendance sheets should be used in all schools.
Some old public high schools and many private schools have kept single-sex
education. As of 1997, 50.8 percent of private high schools and 4.3 percent of public
high schools are single-sex (Kimura 1999:47). Private schools have the right to be
sex-segregated, following their school policy. Though many feminists have
questioned the existence of public single-sex schools, some studies from the U.S. have
shown that female students in same-sex high schools tend to have higher self-esteem,
and higher academic accomplishments in mathematics and science, and are less likely
to seek gender-stereotyped jobs and careers than female students in co-education
(Sadker and Sadker 1994:232).
The most obvious case of gender bias in school education was female-only home
economics education courses in middle schools and high schools. Home economics
(e.g., sewing, cooking, housekeeping, and childcare) classes had been assigned to only
female students in middle and high schools until 1993 (for middle schools) and 1994
(for high schools). Schools reproduced traditional gender-roles of women as
homemakers. Currently, more than 90 percent of families responded that women were
in charge of cooking and doing laundry in their family in Japan, compared with threefourths of American families, according to a 1992 survey (Band 1998:22).
Boys and girls in the fifth- and sixth-grades learned cooking, sewing, and handcrafting
together in elementary schools, but by middle school, the students went to separate
classrooms. Before 1989, male students went to take an industrial arts class while
female students studied home economics. Male students learned home improvement

skills such as carpentry from a male teacher, while female students learned sewing,
cooking, and child care from a female teacher. In high schools, home economics
classes were required only for female students until 1994. In my high school, male
students were assigned physical education classes, while female students were
required to take home economics classes.
The Association for the Promotion of Home Economics for Male and Female
Students, formed by teachers, journalists, and citizens groups in 1974, lobbied for the
abolition of gender-segregated home economics classes in cooperation with labor
unions and educational organizations. After the ratification of the U.N. Convention of
the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and the
implementation of the Equal Opportunity Employment Act of 1985, the MOE created
gender-free home economics for middle and high schools in the 1989 Course of
Since 1994, both male and female middle school students now take industrial arts and
home economics classes, including woodcrafts and cooking. Since 1994, both male
and female high school students are required to take home economics classes. Male
students are also required to learn cooking, sewing and childcare in the formal school
curriculum. Perhaps male students will learn to share housekeeping responsibilities in
the future.
The Hidden Curriculum

In the United States, feminist movements furthered the abolition of gender

discrepancies in education by lobbying to enact Title IX of the Education Amendment
of 1972, which prohibits gender discrimination in education programs or activities
that receive federal financial assistance. However, since the 1970s, education
specialists found gender-specific hidden curriculum in classroom management,
student guidance, and school events, through classroom observation and textbook
analysis. Based on classroom observation, they argued that teachers in general expect
male students to do better in class than female students, and that teachers interact with
male students more than with female students in class. The analysis of textbooks and
instructional materials confirms the lack of womens contributions and the invisibility
of females in curriculum materials (Sadker and Sadker 1994:55-65, 70-72).

According to the 1992 American Association of University Women (AAUW) Report,

female students do not receive equitable amounts of teachers attention, are less likely
than male students to see themselves reflected in the materials they study, and often
are not expected or encouraged to pursue advanced math and science. In order to
achieve gender equity in education, the AAUW report recommended that teachers,
administrators, and counselors be prepared and encouraged in bringing gender equity
and awareness to every aspect of schooling; the formal curriculum include gender-fair
materials; female students be supported in pursuing education and employment in
mathematics and science; and gender equity in vocational education programs be
supported (AAUW 1992). Curriculum intervention on gender role attitudes seems to
be most successful with young children, particularly preschoolers and kindergartners
(Banks 1991:467).
Japanese feminist activists and educational specialists have followed the example of
the United States, and began to analyze textbooks and classroom management.
Textbooks, especially those on Japanese language arts, social science, and home
economics often have many examples of stereotyped gender roles and sexism. An
analysis of the 1991 elementary textbooks for 1992-1996 academic years found that
the main characters in novels and important figures in history are overwhelmingly
male. Traditional gender roles are strongly emphasized, such as the depiction of
women as being kind and generous, while men are depicted as being decision-makers
and breadwinners (Nijichiseiki 1994:22).
The Formation of Gender Roles at Home and in School

Both parents and teachers tend to be less aggressive in encouraging female students
into achieving higher educational goals, in contrast to male students, because of
expected gender roles. Most people believe that women, unlike men, do not have to
work to support their families once they marry. According to a 1999 survey of the
parents of fourth to ninth graders, the majority of parents (69.3%) wanted their
daughters to be like girls and their sons to be like boys (Smuch 2000b:123124). Many parents expect their daughters to have a woman-friendly education
such as junior college. Parents generally expect their sons more than their daughters
to attend four-year colleges. According to a 2000 survey, 66.9 percent of parents of
children ages 9-14 expected their son to go to a four-year college, while 44.7 percent
of parents expected their daughter to go to a four-year college, and 17 percent of them
wanted their daughters to go to a junior college (Naikakufu 2002:104).

According to the 1995 Social Stratification and Social Mobility (SSM) survey, women
who had high academic achievements in the ninth grade tended to attend institutions
of higher education, regardless of their fathers occupations. The only exception can
be found in women from blue-collar backgrounds. It is because it is far less expensive
to attend local colleges. However, women in their 20s whose grades were average
during ninth grade were 50 percent more likely to attend colleges if their fathers were
in professional and managerial positions than those whose fathers were in clerical and
sales positions (Iwamoto 2000:87). Many private colleges and junior colleges are not
competitive. Therefore, female students who have average grades can still attend
colleges. Those who have fathers in professional and managerial positions may also
be more encouraged to attend colleges.
Furthermore, according to surveys taken in 1980 and 1982, parents tend to spend
more on their sons for private educational institutions, such as private after-school
classes (juku), private tutors, and correspondence courses than on their daughters
(Stevenson and Baker 1992:1643-1655). However, in recent years more parents,
especially mothers agree with gender-neutral education at home. According to a 1995
survey, only one-third of women between ages 25-44 agree that boys and girls should
be raised differently, compared with more than half (53%) of the same age group of
women who agreed with the statement in the 1985 survey (Ojima and Kond
The Gender Gap in Educational Achievement

Influenced by their teachers and parents views of gender roles, female students are
more likely to attend less competitive academic high schools or commercial high
schools rather than technical high schools. Almost half of male and female students
went to college in 2003. One seventh (13.9%) of female students went to junior
colleges. Therefore, one-third (34.4%) of female students, compared to slightly less
than half of male students (47.8%) went to four-year colleges after high school.
However, this gender gap is closing. In 1960, only 2.5 percent of women, compared
to 13.7 percent of men, went to four-year colleges (Naikakufu 2004c). Junior
colleges, 90 percent of whose students are female, have the image of preparatory
schools for good housewives. Junior colleges teach home economics, humanities,
education, social science, and public health, mostly for women. Most junior college
graduates obtain clerical or sales jobs in private companies and work as Office
Ladies before marriage or motherhood.

The gender gap in majors at universities and colleges affects employment and wages.
Lifelong employment for college-educated women has been traditionally restricted to
the professions of teaching and public service. An overwhelming majority of collegebound high school female students choose to major in traditionally female fields such
as humanities, home economics, and social science rather than science and
engineering. Only 7.5 percent of female students majored in science and engineering
in 2000 (Table 3.3). However, compared to a decade ago, these numbers have
increased. Because of a lack of background in science and engineering, many female
college graduates have had a much harder time obtaining a job. After the
development of micro-electrics and computer science, where working environments
are friendlier to women than in heavy industry, more female students have majored in
engineering and computer science.
Table 3.3


The Majors of College Students by Gender in


Male students

Social Science

Science Engineering

Educatio Health







(36.3% in

(17.7% in 1998)


(2.4% in




(Monbush 2000b; Keizai Kikakuch 1999:178)

In the United States, female college undergraduates have outnumbered males since
1978, and the same has held true for graduates since 1984. Women earned 57 percent
of BA degrees, 59 percent of the Masters degrees, 46 percent of first-professional
degrees, and 45 percent of PhDs in the 2000-1 school year. However, female college
students are less likely than male students to earn BAs in computer and information
science (28%), and engineering (20%) (NCES 2003a).



The 1997 revision to the 1985 Equal Employment Opportunity Act mandates
sanctions against violators, and promotes affirmative action (known in Japanese as
positive action) in narrowing the gender gap in employment. Nevertheless, female

graduates have a harder time obtaining jobs. Female students have a disadvantage as
employers tend to assume that women will only work until they marry or have their
first child (called statistical discrimination) (Thurow 1975). Furthermore, very few
companies officially promote affirmative action and set quotas for female employees
and female managers.
The majority of women start to work full-time after graduation (72.0% of women
working in the 20-24 age group), quit their jobs at marriage or childbirth (58.8% in
the 30-34 age group), and return to work as part-time workers when their children
enter school (72.7% in the 45-49 age group). In 2001, the average age of female
employees was 37.7 years old, in comparison to 40.9 years old for male workers, and
the average length of service was 8.9 years, compared with 13.6 years for male
workers. Female workers earned 63.5 percent of the wages of male workers. Fourfifths (82.2%) of part-time workers were women (Nihon Fujin 2002:257, 267, 270271).
According to the 1995 SSM survey, only 22.1 percent of women who were full-time
employees before marriage still worked full-time when their youngest child was born,
except for female workers in agriculture, forestry, family-managed firms, and selfemployment. Tanaka concludes that the educational attainment of women did not
affect the continuity of full-time work, with the exception of teachers (Tanaka
1997:134-135, 139). In fact, the educational attainment of housewives is often higher
than women in the workforce because college-educated women are more likely to
marry men with higher income and are not economically dependent upon their job
(Table 3.4). However, younger four-year college graduates in their 30s are more
likely to work full-time than junior college graduates, high school graduates, and
junior high school graduates, according to the 1995 SSM survey (Kimura 2000:179180).
In the United States, however, a record 59 percent of women who have a baby under
one year old had a job in 1998, compared to 31 percent in 1976. In 1999, women who
worked full time earned 72 percent ($26,300) of the wages of men who worked full
time ($36,500). College-educated women who were in the workforce full time earned
69 percent ($34,408) of the wage of college educated male workers ($49,982)(Los
Angeles Times March 15, 2001).
Table 3.4

The Rate of Full-Time Workers (SSM Survey 1995)


Junior college

High school

Middle school

30-40 years old





40-49 years old





50-59 years old





(Source: Kimura 2000:180)

Almost all students between the ages of 12 and 15 attend neighborhood public middle
school and receive an education based on national standards. In recent years, the
uniformity of middle school education and its lecture-based pedagogy have been
criticized for undermining creativity and individuality. In response, in the 1998
Course of Study the government has increased the number of elective classes and
created an integrated study (sgtekina gakush no jikan). Integrated study
includes international issues, information science, environment issues, and social
welfare and health issues through social experience pedagogy such as debates,
volunteer activities, and experiments. Each school has the freedom to design its own
integrated study, and teachers are still experimenting with the best methods of
teaching this new subject.
Currently, the maximum class size of 40 students prevents teachers from paying close
attention to individual students. The Ministry of Education (MOE) rejected a proposal
of 30-student homeroom classes, citing budgetary constraints. Instead, in 2001 the
MOE has hired additional teachers to make 20-student classes for English,
mathematics, and science classes in middle schools. In addition, the MOE has come
to rely upon teachers aides and to invite school volunteers from the community to
assist busy teachers and to tutor students.
Middle school education is undermined by the preparation for high school entrance
examinations. The competition for high school entrance examinations is so fierce that
many students suffer stress. Almost all 15-year-olds are sorted into ranked high
schools. In 1997, the MOE suggested the diversification of admission criteria in order
to minimize competition. Under this new policy, admission officers consider not only

the test scores but also students motivation, extracurricular activities, volunteer
service, reports from community leaders, school recommendations, interviews, and
essays. The government also established six-year secondary schools that had no
examination requirement of admission. However, as long as the examination war
for admission to prestigious colleges persists, the competition will continue. I suggest
promoting the return-match system of college admissions such as a transfer system
from junior colleges or specialized training colleges to four-year colleges, and a quota
system for adult college enrollment, which gives late-bloomers a second chance.
High school education is universal education, though not compulsory education,
because almost all 15- to 18-year-olds attend high schools. More than 70 percent of
high schools are academic high schools, that is, preparatory high schools for college,
and the rest are vocational high schools. Fewer than three percent of students attend
the new comprehensive high schools.
Family backgrounds have a significant impact on the rank of the high schools that
children attend. Children whose fathers are in professional or managerial positions
are more likely to attend high-ranked academic high schools. Outreach programs for
low-achievers, such as after-school lessons, particularly in elementary and middle
schools, would help break the reproduction of academic stratification.
In April 2003, almost two-thirds of high school graduates continued on to higher
education, attending colleges and specialized training colleges. College admission,
with the exception of prestigious colleges, is not too difficult. Only the top 20 to 30
percent of high school seniors go through examination hell to pass the yearly
entrance examinations for national universities and the best private universities. One
sixth (16.6%) of all high school graduates, the lowest rate on record, joined the
workforce after graduation in March 2003. School placement centers in vocational
high schools match job-seeking students to local employers through institutional
school networks. The school referral system assists disadvantaged students who do
not have the personal connections or social capital to find a job. Because of a decade
of economic recession, high school graduates as well as college graduates have had a
hard time obtaining a desirable job.
The gender gaps in higher education and employment derive from the gender
stereotyping at home and in school, in job recruitment, and in childrearing. The

majority of parents still raise their children to respect traditional gender roles, and
schools reproduce gender specifics through curriculum, classroom management,
and teachers attitudes. The mass media and the community also reinforce gender
In recent years, however, school education has attempted to provide gender-neutral
education. Since 1993 and 1994 respectively, female-only home economics classes in
middle and high schools have admitted male students. Starting from 1983, genderfree attendance sheets, instead of boys-first sheets have been in widespread use.
The number of female four-year college students, and that of female students in social
science as well as science and technology have increased in recent years, and have
narrowed the gender gap, though slowly.
1. Middle school education in Japan has been introduced in English through
ethnographical research (Singleton 1967; Fukuzawa 1996; LeTendre 1995; 1996a;
1996b; 1999; 2000; Fukuzawa and LeTendre 2001). Japanese cram schools are
summarized in Russell (1997).
2. Rohlens Japans High Schools (1983) describes Japanese high school education
through the ethnography of five different kinds of high schools in Japan. A
comparative study done through interviews on the social lives and material
consumption of American and Japanese teenagers can be found in White (1987,
1993). The employment of high school graduates is discussed in the ethnographical
research and sociological analysis of vocational high schools in Okano 1993, and
Rosenbaum and Kariya (1989 and 1991). Examination hell (Frost 1991), and
preparatory schools for college entrance examination (yobik) (August 1992; Tsukada
1991) are discussed through ethnographical research and data analysis.
3. I conducted classroom observations and an interview with the vice-principal in
Kiku Evening High School on February 27, 2001.
4. The history of womens education is summarized in English (Fujimura-Fanselow
and Imamura 1991; Fujieda and Fujimura-Fanselow 1995; Fujimura-Fanselow 1995).
Kimura discusses gender problems in schools (Kimura 1999) and Utsui analyzes a
comparative study of female education in Japan and the United States (Utsui 1994).



Contents of This Chapter

1. 4-1


1. 4-1-1


2. 4-1-2


1. Sumire Adaptation Classroom

2. 4-2

3. 4-3


1. 4-2-1


2. 4-2-2


3. 4-2-3



1. 4-3-1


1. Violence in Schools and Outside Schools

2. Drug Use
2. 4-3-2


Homeroom teachers and teachers on student guidance committees have been
responsible for addressing the problems, such as school refusal syndrome, bullying,
and juvenile delinquency. Concerned with the increasing number of school-related
problems, since 1995 the Ministry of Education has deployed professional school
counselors to schools to consult with students, parents, and teachers. This chapter will
present current school-related problems, and discuss how schools are solving these
problems in cooperation with parents, counselors, volunteers, and law enforcement.




The Ministry of Education (MOE) defines school refusal syndrome (tkkyohi) as

the phenomenon where students do not go to school or cannot go to school, despite a
desire to go to school, due to some psychological, emotional, physical and/or social
factor, and environment, with the exception of illness or economic factors
(Monbush 1999f).1 In the 1960s, those students were diagnosed as school phobic,
based on psychiatric behavioral abnormalities. These students were distinguished
from the students whose non-attendance was caused by financial and family problems
(Morita1991b:18). Since the 1980s, the number of students with school refusal
syndrome has been increasing rapidly, and school refusal syndrome has become a
nationwide school problem. In 1966, the MOE began to keep records of those
students who were absent from school for 50 days or more because of school
phobia. However, since 1991, the MOE has counted those who were absent from
school for 30 days or more in terms of school refusal syndrome. These students are
called the students of non-attendance at school (futksei).2
The number of students with school refusal syndrome in the 2001-2 school year was
the highest since the first records were kept in 1966. Approximately 139,000 children,
including 27,000 elementary school students (one out of every 275) and 112,000
middle school students (one out of every 36) were out of school for at least 30 days.
This is twice as many as the number of 66,817 recorded in 1991 (Monbukagakush
2002a; Monbukagakush 2002b). The magnitude of this problem indicates that the
causes of school refusal syndrome remain unaddressed. However, in the 2002-3

school year, the number of students with school refusal syndrome decreased to
131,000 students with school refusal syndrome from the 2001-2 school year
(Monbukagakush 2004a). According to a 2004 survey, teachers and/or school
counselors cannot personally see 28.2 percent of students with school refusal
syndrome, even when they visit their home (AS April 16, 2004).
Two types of students have school refusal syndrome: those who cannot go to school
because of emotional or neurotic problems; and those students who do not intend to
go to school because of truancy. Truants deliberately skip school to spend time with
their friends. They tend to be low-achievers, act rebelliously toward teachers, be late
for school, ditch classes, and have family problems. About 14 percent of middle
school students with school refusal syndrome are truants (Table 4.1).
Many students with school refusal syndrome want to go to school and/or think that
they should go to school, but cannot because of emotional disturbance, anxiety, or
some other neurotic problem. School refusal syndrome frequently means specifically
this type of student, not the truant. One-third of elementary school students and onefourth of middle school students with school refusal syndrome have emotional
disturbances. One-fourth of students with school refusal syndrome feel apathetic
towards school and do not feel like going to school. One-third of elementary school
students and one-fourth of middle school students with school refusal syndrome have
several combined causes (Table 4.1).
These children usually stay at home and do not like to meet people. Many of the
students with school refusal syndrome have sleep disorders and abnormal hormone
secretion (AS July 13, 1999). To all appearances, they are ordinary children with
average or above average school performances. However, they tend to be overly
sensitive, anxious, serious, perfectionist, selfish, timid, and/or anti-sociable. Their
parents, in particular their mothers, are likely to be overprotective and demanding
(Inamura 1994:12, 103, 138).
Table 4.1 Types of School Refusal Categorized by Schools
in the 2001-2 School Year
Elementary School (26,503

Middle School (138,696 cases)

Problems in school






Not feeling like going,




Emotional disturbance









No intention of going
Several reasons

(Source: Monbukagakush 2002b)

Teachers and schools, not students, listed the causes of school absenteeism for the
students in the survey. The causes can be school-related (19.7% for elementary school
students and 40.2% for middle school students), family and home problems
(28.9%/16.8%), and the students own physical and emotional health (36.6%/34.6%)
(Table 4.2). However, the main cause of school refusal syndrome is problems with
peers, especially bullying. According to the 1988 survey, about one-third of students
with school refusal syndrome said they would not go to school because of bullying
(Hmush 1994:32).
Poor academic performance accounts for 8.9 percent of school refusal syndrome cases
in middle school students, many of whom are also troubled students. Family
problems, such as divorce and poor relationships with parents, can also cause school
refusal syndrome. More than one-fourth of the cases of school refusal syndrome are
linked to the psychoneurotic problems, such as emotional disturbance, extreme
anxieties, and stress (Table 4.2).
Table 4.2 The Direct Causes of School Refusal as Reported
by Schools in the 2001-2 School Year
Middle School
School (26,406 (110,198



Friends (e.g., bulling, quarrels)



Teachers (e.g., punishment, scholding)



Poor academic performance



Extracurricular clubs



School rules



New schools, new classes, transfers



Change of home life (e.g., father's transfer)



Parents (e.g., scolding, rebellion)



Family problem (e.g., quarrels between parents)






Other reasons relating to themselves (e.g.,

extreme anxiety and stress)









(Source: Monbukagakush 2002b)

Since the 1980s, the rising number of students with school refusal syndrome has been
attributed to the weak and spoiled children of the wealthy society, and the intense
pressure of the educational credential society. Until the 1960s, middle school
students with school absenteeism were mainly students living in poverty who had to
work to help support their impoverished families, or truants who were mostly from
disadvantaged and poor families. As a result of the economic boom of 1953-1973,
almost all Japanese consider themselves middle class. Since the 1970s they have
enjoyed unprecedented material wealth. Consequently, the majority of students with
school refusal syndrome no longer come from economically disadvantaged families.

Several studies suggest several reasons for the rapid increase of students with school
refusal syndrome. One is that children have been overly indulged by their parents.
With the prevalence of one- or two-child families, children are spoiled and have
become accustomed to getting their own way. Another reason is that students are
exhausted from too much schoolwork and from too many expectations from their
parents (Takagaki et al. 1995a:5-6; Morita 1991b: 10; Inamura 1994:138).
Many more students drag themselves to school with the burden of anxiety and tension,
and exhibit the symptoms of school refusal syndrome. According to a 1988 survey of
6,000 eighth graders, 70.8 percent of them have thought that they did not want to go
to school, and one-fourth of them tended to be absent, be late, or go home early. If the
children have a hard time getting up in the morning or dawdled instead of getting
ready in the morning, they may eventually develop school refusal syndrome (Morita
1991a:24, 26, 137; Takagaki 1995:153, 155).


The Kagawa prefectural board of education issues a manual, informing parents of

early signs of school refusal syndrome. Children who may be suffering from school
refusal syndrome frequently complain about their friends or their teachers. They may
withdraw to their rooms, saying that they are tired. They may appear depressed or
apathetic, and their grades may start to drop. They may delay going to school by
taking an inordinate amount of time to prepare for school, and may try to avoid going
to school by saying that their head or stomach hurts, especially on Mondays (Kagawaken 2000).
The manual also mentions the early signs that children evince in schools: 1) they
become quiet, and start to play with younger children; 2) they are isolated from their
friends, and stay alone in the classroom; 3) they lose enthusiasm and become passive
in classes; 4) they begin to go to see a nurse teacher in the health room during recess;
5) they lose their concentration, and become negligent in classes; and 6) they forget to
bring their homework. The manual advises parents to consult homeroom teachers,
school counselors, and public counseling centers when their children exhibit any of
these symptoms. Parents are encouraged to be open to children and to create a warm
and welcoming home environment. Moreover, they should not be too interruptive. It
is also important for children to assist with chores around the house (Kagawa-ken

It is important to build a support network of teachers, parents, nurse teachers,

counselors, and physicians to help students with school refusal syndrome return to
school or to find an alternative means of education. Nurse teachers have taken
significant roles in counseling students with school refusal syndrome in their health
care rooms. According to a 1995-1996 survey, 28,400 students spent their school days
in the public health room, instead of the classroom (Ogi 2000:102). Since the 1995
amendment to the School Education Law, nurse teachers can be the chief educator of
public health, and since the 1998 Amendment to the Law of the Teaching Certificate,
nurse teachers with at least three years of experience can teach public health classes in
middle schools and physical education in elementary schools (Morita et al.
Among students who were absent from school for 30 days or more in the 1997-8
school year, one-fourth returned to school by March 1998. Teachers may help these
children return to school in several ways. Teachers may visit the students at home and
discuss their schoolwork and social lives with them. By calling the students, or
picking them up in the morning, teachers show an interest in their students and
persuade them to attend school. Discussions with parents about the environment at
home may reveal underlying issues. Finally, discussions among teachers may provide
insights and solutions to the problem of school refusal syndrome (Nihon
Gakkhokenkai 1997).
Teachers in elementary schools are advised to show sympathy and understanding to
the family of students with school refusal syndrome so that they earn the parents and
the children trust. It is important for first- to third-graders to get involved with their
classmates. But fourth- to sixth-graders tend to be sensitive to the involvement of
their classmates; therefore, teachers may avoid sending a classmate to their homes
(Takagaki et al. 1995a:6-8). The regional Centers for Educational Counseling provide
services to students with school refusal syndrome, their teachers, and their parents.
The Wakayama JTU has opened nine Centers for Education Counseling with 63
counselors. A handbook distributed by the Center advises teachers not to force
students with school refusal syndrome to go to school, and not to press them for an
explanation. Instead, it suggested that teachers should visit those students once a
week, play with them, and tell them to relax at home. The handbook also advises
teachers to talk to the parents, cooperate with them, and ask parents to keep a daily

journal about their child. According to the handbook, it is important for the students
to reintroduce themselves gradually to school, by playing with friends after school,
participating in school events, visiting the nurse teacher in the health care room only
in the morning or in the afternoon, and attending school once or twice a week. Mutual
trust with teachers and classmates help students to feel comfortable about returning to
school. Middle school teachers are advised to be patient, and not to pressure the
students to return to school. Teachers may spend time with those students by going
out and shopping together to develop a bond. Teachers may also help students study
and plan (Takagaki et al. 1995b:132-136; 153-165).
Parents can assist their children return to school by being accepting and
understanding. Morishita, a clinical psychiatrist who consulted more than 300
students with school refusal syndrome and established a high school for them has
learned from his practice that children with school refusal syndrome are cured only
when parents accept them and say, You do not have to go to school. You can take a
good rest at home. It generally takes half a year for mothers to fully accept that their
children have stopped going to school, and takes three years for fathers (Morishita
2000:84, 95). The Associations of Parents of Students with School Refusal Syndrome
provide an opportunity for these parents to learn how to accept their children, and
encourage each other to overcome their hardships.
As the number of students with school refusal syndrome has rapidly increased since
the 1980s, public adaptation classrooms and private free schools have been
established specifically for them. According to a 1999 survey, there are 779 public
adaptation classrooms and more than 200 recognized private alternative schools in
Japan. In the 2001-2 school year, the number of students who attended public
adaptation schools was 11,266 (1,968 elementary school students and 9,298 middle
school students) (Monbukagakush 2002b).
Since 1992, the MOE has allowed the prefectural board of education to count
attendance in private free schools as regular school attendance. In 1984, parents of
students with school refusal syndrome founded the Concerned Society for School
Refusal Syndrome, which developed into a nationwide Network for Parents Who
Have a Child with School Refusal Syndrome in 1990. The support networks have
summer camps, group counseling, and meetings to find the best solution for their
children (Tkkyohi 1992). The National Association for Home Schooling promotes

home schooling for children with school refusal as an alternative to school education.
Furthermore, since April 2002 the educational Board of Education in Shiki City in
Saitama Prefecture has sent temporary teachers and volunteers with teaching
certificates into the homes of children with school refusal syndrome for one to four
hours of daily instruction (AS February 15, 2002). In 2005, the MOE plans to provide
a weeklong camp for elementary and middle school students with school refusal
syndrome so that they can experience group activities (Sankei Shinbun August 13,
Students with school refusal syndrome confront problems during the high school
admission process because of their chronic absenteeism and poor grades. High
schools select applicants based on the test scores on high school entrance exams, and
their attendance, grades, conduct, and extracurricular activities. Students with school
refusal syndrome by definition have poor attendance and consequently poor grades.
The MOE has suggested that the prefectural boards of education consider special
treatment for students with school refusal syndrome who are applying to public high
school. Some prefectures exempt their poor attendance. For example, beginning in
the 1997-8 school year, Kagawa prefecture set up a 5-percent quota for students with
school refusal syndrome who can be judged only by the test scores of their entrance
examination (AS April 8, 1999). The Shizuoka prefectural board of education set up a
similar quota for such students, who take written examinations, compose an essay, and
complete an interview without their school reports being taken into consideration (AS
September 29, 2000).
Students with the syndrome may attend correspondence schools or evening high
schools if they are not ready to return to regular daytime high schools. They may
study at home and take high school equivalency examinations. In recent years, many
students who had school refusal syndrome attend daytime courses of evening high
schools where the students stay in school for shorter amount of time, and the
environment is more casual. Some students attend evening middle schools.
Since attendance at high school is not compulsory, there are no public facilities
specifically for high school students with school refusal syndrome. In fact, there are
many young adults, called hikikomori, who confine themselves in their homes and
isolate themselves from the society.3 Many specialists claim that the number of
hikikomori may have reached one million (Morishita 2000:220; Sait 2003:56).

Among the hikikomori, those who have confined themselves in their homes for six
months or more, almost 60 percent are 21 years old or older, and one-fourth had been
hikikomori for at least five years. Men are 2.7 times more likely than women to be
hikikomori, and 41 percent had experienced school refusal syndrome (AS May 9,
2001). Some public health centers operate day care activities for hikikomori. Public
services for young adults with psychological and psychiatric problems are needed.
The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare helps hikikomori to find jobs through the
system of registered companies for hikikomori. The MOE plans to offer a program in
2005 to provide social experiences to hikikomori through three months of group
camping so that hikikomori can experience work and volunteer activities (AS August
24, 2004).
It is important to create a more flexible educational system for elementary and middle
school education, in order to avoid labeling students with school refusal syndrome as
socially unfit. The government has started to recognize alternative educational
institutions such as home schooling and free schools, and to grant eligibility for their
graduates to attend high schools. The cooperation of parents, homeroom teachers,
nurse teachers, school counselors, and physicians as well as the increasing number of
school counselors will help students who have school refusal syndrome to return to
school. However, school administrators and teachers also have to find and cure the
school-related causes of school refusal syndrome, such as bullies.
Sumire Adaptation Classroom

The Kagawa prefectural board of education provides counseling for students with
school refusal syndrome and their parents in public counseling centers and youth
centers, and runs 17 adaptation classrooms.4 Most of these classrooms are located in
community centers, not in schools. Attendance in the adaptation classroom is counted
as school attendance. The students study and play freely with other students with
school refusal under the supervision of teachers, and prepare to return to school. Most
students with school refusal syndrome stay at home; therefore, attending an adaptation
classroom is their first stepping stone.
There are many more students who stay home, and are not able to come to the
adaptation classroom. Homeroom teachers and a nurse teacher hold the primary
responsibility for counseling students who have stopped attending elementary school.
In middle school, the school counselor collaborates with a homeroom teacher and a

nurse teacher to treat these students. Three middle schools in Marugame share one
school counselor who has an office in one school, and visits the other middle schools
at their request. Homeroom teachers visit the students at home, and talk with their
parents. It usually takes some time for parents to admit that their child has school
refusal syndrome. Parents tend to blame the school and the teachers, while teachers
tend to consider home environment as a cause of school refusal syndrome. In reality,
it is often difficult to have good cooperative relations between teachers and parents.
The Sumire adaptation classroom has operated in two small rooms in the community
hall since 1992. In February 2001, there were three sixth-graders (two boys and one
girl), two eighth-graders (one boy and one girl), and two ninth-grade boys. One sixthgrade boy returned to school, but he came back to the adaptation classroom two
months later when I visited the class. Two ninth graders had already been accepted by
a private high school, and one of them was preparing for the public high school
entrance examination in March. One eighth-grade boy had begun coming to the
adaptation class for only two days. Most students planned to return to school in April
for the 2001-2 school year when new schools and classrooms awaited all students.
The sixth-graders would begin middle school in April, and the eighth-graders would
have a new homeroom class and a new homeroom teacher. There are always fewer
students in the adaptation classroom in April when many students try to fit into a new
school environment.
One full-time teacher and two teachers aides usually supervise the students. The
classroom operates from 9:00 to 3:00. The students do whatever they like, playing
electric games, ping-pong or cards, reading comics or library books, and talking with
teachers. They have a pottery-making workshop once a month. The teachers told me
that they used to have a daily study schedule for the students, but that the students
stopped coming to the classes because it was too much like the traditional classroom
After that, the teachers let the students decide what they wanted to do. Those children
who have a hard time complying with strict regulations and schedules are willing to
come to this less regimented classroom. Parents and teachers meet once a month, and
a school counselor is also occasionally invited for consultation. The adaptation class
teacher keeps in touch with homeroom teachers in regular schools, and provides

follow-up services for students who return to school. These students are always
welcome to visit the adaptation classroom after they return to their regular schools.
There were seven students and three teachers in the small main room when I visited
the classroom in the morning. Most students arrived around 9:00, though they are
allowed to come to class any time they want. There are a large table, one video game
station, one computer, one sideboard and a sink in the main room. A table and chairs
are in the other room. All students want to play video games, and they take turns
using the game station. One student used the computer to write an essay for a
collection of students compositions. One sixth-grade student brought textbooks and
studied with a teacher for about an hour every day. The students mingled, talked, and
read comics. Snack time was at 10:00. Then they played around in the classroom
again. Around 11:00, most students went out to the baseball field, and played catch or
badminton for one hour. They had lunch together in the classroom for one hour. Then
they played games and cards until 3:00, when all the students went home. All
students were relaxed and comfortable in the classroom, and had good relationships
with their teachers. The three teachers were more like their mothers or big sisters, and
made sure that the students enjoyed coming to the classroom.




Bullying (ijime) has always been a fact of life, both among children and among
adults.5 The MOE defines bullying as a physical or psychological attack against
weaker one(s), which brings deep suffering to the victim(s) (Hmush 1994:3).
School bullying began to receive attention after the sensational media coverage of a
series of suicides related to bullying in the mid-1980s. One 13-year-old committed
suicide, leaving a note describing how he had been repeatedly bullied by several boys
at his middle school. He had been beaten, threatened with death, and was forced to
perform humiliating acts. Before his suicide, he even received a sympathy card
signed by his classmates and four teachers, including his homeroom teacher, after they
staged a mock funeral for him in the classroom (AS February 3 1986; AS February 6
Since 1985, the MOE has collected data on bullying cases that teachers referred to the
board of education. Not all teachers report all bullies, so the MOEs figures
underestimate the incidence of bullying. In the 2002-3 school year, 39,000 cases of

bullying were reported in public elementary, middle, and high schools (Naikakufu
2004a). The number of cases peaks among fifth- to ninth-graders, and then decreases
among high school students.
Morita categorizes four roles in bullying: victims, victimizers, the audience, and
bystanders. Several children, the victimizers, bully a child, the victim, and the
rest of children are the audience who cheers for the bullying, and the bystanders
who allow bullying without intervening (Morita and Kiyonaga 1994:48-52).
According to the 1996 and 1997 surveys, more than half of middle school students
said they did nothing about bullying (Smuch 1998:15-19). Unfortunately, the
majority of bystanders are afraid of being bullied if they intervene, or because they do
not care about the victims. Morita points out the characteristics of bullying in Japan:
1) bullies are invisible to teachers and others; 2) victims can become victimizers, and
vice versa; 3) anybody can be a victim; 4) there are many unidentified victimizers and
a small number of particular victims; 5) very few children try to stop bullying; and 6)
the bullies often exhibit other types of inappropriate behavior (Morita and Kiyonaga
1994:21-28). In many cases, bullying occurs among classmates and members of
extracurricular clubs.
Bullying is more often psychological than physical. The types of bullying include
teasing (31.6%); verbal insults (17.9%); physical violence (14.9%); ostracism
(14.2%); theft (7.6%); shunning (5.2%); blackmail (2.2%); harassment (1.3%); and
other forms (5.1%), according to the reports filed by teachers in the 2002-3 school
year (Naikakufu 2004a).
According to a 1997 survey of fifth to ninth graders (N=6,906), 13.9 percent of them
had been bullied, and 17 percent of them had bullied someone else between
September and December of 1996 (Morita et al. 1999:19). The types of bullying
reported by bullied students (N=959) include slanders and teasing (88.3% of
elementary school students and 85.2% of middle school students); being
ignored/ostracized (60% and 54.2%); hitting, kicking, and threatening (39.8% and
33.3%); malicious rumors and graffiti (31.8% and 34.6%); and the extortion of money
or the destruction of belongings (16.7% and 17.7%). Eighty percent of victims had
been bullied by a group, and 60 percent of them said they had been bullied for a week
or more. Bullying occurred in classrooms (74.9%); corridors and stairs at school
(29.7%); in clubs (29.7%); on school grounds (12.3%); in the gymnasium (9.7%); at

the school entrance (7.6%); in bathrooms (5.4%); in schoolyards (2.2%); and outside
of school (19.0%). Among those who were bullied outside of school (N=467),
bullying occurred during their commutes between school and home (46%); at home or
at a friends house (21.4%); in juku (cram schools) (13.9%); in the neighborhood
(10.3%); in community clubs (7.9%) and other places (20.1%) (Morita et al. 1999:36,
Table 4.3

Types of Bullying Cases in the 2002-3 School Year


Elementary School
Middle School (%)

High School (%)

Verbal insults




Being ridiculed




Having belongins




Being ostracized




Being ignored by a




Physical violence








Forced intrusive








(Source: Naikakufu 2004a)



Those who bully are frequently the classmates and acquaintances of the victims, and
the same gender as their victims. Victims said that the people who bullied them were
classmates (80%), the children in the same grade but not classmates (24.1%), older
children (9.1%), and younger children (2.9%). The number of those bullied by their

classmates decreases as the students grow older. About 80 percent of elementary

school children and 70 percent of middle school students reported that someone they
often played with or someone they sometimes played with had bullied them. The
majority of victims were bullied by members of the same sex and by two or more
A third of the bullies who were surveyed (31.1% of boys and 37.5% of girls) felt
guilty, and another third (29.5% and 38.7%) felt sorry for victims. One-fourth of them
(21.9% and 20.4%) did not think anything of it, some (18.0% and 14.4%) worried
about being scolded and others (8.4% and 12.0%) worried about their victims getting
even. On the other hand, more than a fourth of girls (26.9%) thought that the victims
deserved to be bullied, compared with 13.6 percent of boys. Some thought bullying
was fun (16.2% and 11.6%) and felt great (8.1% and 7.7%) (Morita et al. 1999:46, 48,
52-53, 56, 80, 82). Many students take bullying as a part of a game, and do not feel
guilty (Hmush 1994:2).
Bullying is caused by various factors, including psychological stress and frustration;
financial extortion; the game of bullying; sanctions against an uncooperative person;
the exclusion of someone different; jealousy and envy toward someone outstanding;
and the avoidance of being a victim (Takekawa 1993:11-13). Adolescents have
psychological imbalances between their maturing bodies and their immature minds,
and struggle to build an identity. Bullies are more likely to be frustrated and to feel
inferior, and to exhibit irresponsible, impatient, self-centered, flamboyant, and
inconsiderate behavior (Hmush 1994:22, 25-6).
Those who bullied tend to be more frustrated with teachers, classmates and class
activities than those who have not bullied (Morita et al. 1999:94). The pressure from
the competition for high school entrance examinations causes frustration and
inferiority complexes among the less academically successful children. In addition,
unstable home environments and family problems cause children to feel insecure.
They derive self-esteem and relief from frustration by bullying (Hmush 1994:25).
Bullies and troubled students tend to have similar characteristics: they do not like
teachers, cannot fit into their classes, have troubled family relationships, have little
discipline, do not cooperate and are self-centered. Physical violence, extortion,
threats, and destruction of property are also related to delinquency. It is important to

note that bullies can be victims under different circumstances: 5.8 percent of boys and
6.9 percent of girls, as well as 9.7 percent of elementary school students and 4.3
percent of middle school students were both victims and victimizers (Morita et al.
1999:45, 86).
Any child who is different from the other children can be a target of bullying in the
Japanese school culture, which values conformity. Those who are bullied tend to be
slow learners, those who broke a promise or told a lie, have strong personalities,
pretend to be good children, are selfish, or are new to the school. Even good
students can be bullied (Hmush 1994:27).
Girls (15.8%) report being bullied more than boys (13.1%). Among those who had
been bullied (N=959), 58.3% of them were bullied once or twice during the trimester,
12.6 percent were bullied once or twice a month, 10.1 percent were bullied once a
week, and 19.1 percent were more than two or three times a week. Less than half
(46.4%) said that the bullying lasted one week or less, and 27.9 percent said bullying
lasted longer than the four-month trimester. As the children grow older, the period of
being bullied becomes longer. Among those who were bullied, 16 percent of
elementary school students, 24 percent of boys, and 16 percent of girls in middle
schools were bullied once or more times a week for at least one trimester. Those who
were bullied a few times or more a week tended to have no friends (7.7%/1.5% of all
students) or have only one friend (8.2%/1.9% of all students), and 37.9 percent had six
friends and more, compared to 61 percent of all students. More victims and
victimizers than those who were neither thought that they were not liked by their
classmates (Morita et al. 1999:20, 26, 30-31, 90, 92, 166-167).
Many victims endured bullies, without seeking help. Almost half of all boys did not
tell anybody about bullying incidents while the majority of girls (54.7% of elementary
school and 64% of middle school girls) told their friends, if no one else. Less than a
quarter of them told their homeroom teachers. More than one-third of girls, 28.4
percent of elementary school boys and 17.7 percent of middle school boys told their
parents. About half of those being bullied did not want their parents to know. More
than half of boys and almost two-thirds of girls wanted their friends to stop the
bullying, while one-third of elementary school students and one-fourth of middle
school students wanted their homeroom teachers to intervene. However, almost onefourth of boys did not want anyone to stop it (Morita et al. 1999:62-73).

A few victims confided in their parents about the bullying. Only 13 percent of girls
and 10.9 percent of boys who were bullied wanted their parents to stop the bullies.
Older children tended to keep their parents from finding out about bullying incidents.
Less than 30 percent of the victims parents knew about the bullies, while 7.3 percent
of the victimizers parents knew what their child was doing. Among parents who
knew about the bullying, about half of them discussed it with teachers, and if they did,
two-thirds of bullying incidents were at least reduced, if not stopped (Morita et al
About 40 percent of the boys and 20 percent of the girls told their victimizer(s) to
leave them alone, while 31 percent of the boys and 14 percent of the girls fought
back. More girls than boys called upon friends for help (6.4% for boys and 27.6% for
girls) and their teachers for help (9.8% for boys and 17.4% for girls). The victims
who fought back (45.8%) or told victimizer(s) to leave them alone (43.9%), found that
the bullying stopped within one week, in contrast to those who went to a teacher
(30.3%), cried (34%), or ran away (33.8%). Half of all victims came to hate their
victimizer(s), and many middle school victims (31.8% for boys and 41.7% for girls)
came to hate themselves. After being bullied, approximately 40 percent of girls and
more than one-fourth of boys were depressed and almost half of girls and one-fourth
of boys became unwilling to go to school (Morita et al. 1999:58, 60-61, 106-107).
Parents and teachers need to recognize the early symptoms of victimization before
bullying escalates, because the majority of the victims of bullying do not tell parents
or teachers, and either try to endure the suffering by themselves or try to solve it
among peers. Bullied children naturally dread going to school. They arrive late to
class if they show up at all, and have difficulty concentrating. These children often
seek refuge with the nurse teacher and stop participating in the activities that they
once enjoyed. They come home in tears, and might start bringing a knife to school.
The bullies gives them cruel nicknames, scrawl graffiti on their desk, chairs,
notebooks or textbooks, break their chair or desk, tear their clothes, steal their money,
and physically attack their victims. Bullied children stop going to school and engage
in risky behaviors, including suicide attempts. According to the 1988 survey, about
one-third of students with school refusal syndrome said they would not go to school
because of the bullies. According to an inspector of the Family Court, 30 to 40
percent of children at risk have experienced being bullied (Hmush 1994:23-39). In
the 1998-9 school year, as many as fourteen students in public primary and secondary

schools may have killed themselves because of problems in school (AS December 16,


Some homeroom classes have an environment that is conducive to bullying. These

homeroom classes have several common features. Students spread vicious rumors
about the teachers pet, there are cliques that exclude and do not come to the
defense of unpopular students, students break school rules behind the teachers back,
defiance of authority is regarded as fun, and students feel compelled to blend in
(Morita et al. 1999:104-105). It is important to create an atmosphere in the homeroom
class that does not condone bullying, through instilling a sense of fairness in the
students and encouraging friendships.
Unfortunately, few classroom leaders are willing to stop bullying, or can lead the class
without bullying. Most bullying occurs in the presence of bystanders (Morita and
Kiyonaga 1994:33). Almost 45 percent of all students responded that they did not
stop bullying when they saw or heard about such incidents, while only one-fourth of
students told their victimizers to stop. Ten percent of students asked for help from
adults when they saw or heard others being bullied. Older students did nothing to stop
bullying (Morita et al. 1999:100-101). According to a 1996-1997 survey, 33 percent
of male students and 23 percent of female students blamed the victims of bullying,
while about one-fourth of middle school students blamed the bullies (Smuch
According to a survey of middle school students, bystanders are more likely to come
from nuclear family with stay-at-home mothers. Masataka suspects that the attitudes
of bystanders are caused by the childrearing style of stay-at-home mothers who spoil
and overprotect their children (Masataka 1998). Bullying violates the human rights of
the victim. Bystander children need to understand the victims perspective, and learn
not to tolerate bullying through human rights education.
Homeroom teachers can create a homeroom class in which bullying is not tolerated.
Teachers need to control their students. If the teacher is too strict, the students
become frustrated and stressed, and accept the necessity of targeting the weak and
vulnerable. If the teacher fails to control the class, the students are free to act as they

like without fear of punishment, and tend to play at bullying their classmates
(Takekawa 1993:14-17).
Teachers need to keep an eye on students who are likely to be bullied, because only
one-fourth of those who were bullied spoke to a teacher, in most cases a homeroom
teacher. In fact, approximately 40 percent of elementary school students and one-third
of middle school students who were bullied wanted a homeroom teacher to intervene.
More than half of the victims said that their teachers did not know about the bullying,
although 41.8 percent of them said teachers intervened it. In these cases, more than
60 percent said that the teachers intervention was effective. It is interesting that
bullying occurs even among teachers. More than half of all elementary and middle
schools have reported that bullying occurred among teachers as well (Morita et al.
1999:136-143, 201).
A research group established by the MOE in 1994 recommended in its 1996 report the
most effective ways of preventing bullying:
1. Schools should teach children to consider bullying from the victims point of
view and to recognize that bullying is a violation of human rights.
2. Teachers should learn to recognize the signs of bullying before the behavior
3. Homeroom teachers should cooperate with other teachers, such as teachers in the
extracurricular activities of the students, under the leadership of the principal to
prevent bullying and discipline bullies.
4. Teachers should attend in-house counseling workshops.
5. A nurse teacher should participate in coping with bullying.

Schools should work with outside counseling professionals.


School counselors should be deployed to schools.

8. Schools should extend special consideration to victims, such as forgiving school

absences, changing their homeroom class, transferring them to another school, and
suspending victimizers.

9. Teachers should cooperate with parents.


Parents should discipline their children (Monbush 1999e).

Teachers should lead discussions on bullying with their students, help those who
bullied express their frustration, and offer emotional and spiritual support to the
victims (Hmush 1994:49-53). Teachers need to attend counseling training and
workshops, and work closely with school counselors. Since the 1995-6 school year,
school counselors have been assigned to some schools. In the 2001-2 school year, 6.6
percent of elementary schools, 25 percent of middle schools and 6.6 percent of high
schools have school counselors. The MOE plans to assign school counselors to all
middle schools until the 2005-6 school year (AS August 24, 2002). Since 1995, the
National Education Center has provided a toll-free hotline for information and
counseling about bullying in order to help students, parents, and teachers.
Bullying can become a criminal or legal matter if the victim is injured or killed. In
2003, police were called in on 106 bullying cases, and 229 youths were arrested
(Naikakufu 2004a). If an offender is younger than 14 years old, the Child
Consultation Facilities usually takes the case to the child welfare commissioner and
committees (Child Welfare Law 26 and 27). If necessary, they can bring the case to
the Family Court. With children between the ages of 14 and 19, the Family Court
hears the case. The young offenders may be admitted into a juvenile home, a home
for juvenile training and education, or a childrens shelter (Juvenile Law 24). If the
offender is 14 or older, and the bullying was violent enough to warrant imprisonment,
the Family Court decides whether or not the case should be transferred to a criminal
Some parents of the victims who took their own lives or were killed because of
bullying may sue the school and the parents of the offenders for compensation. The
courts can find the school guilty of negligence if the damage could have been
prevented if the school had recognized the bullying, and handled it appropriately. If a
child is not mature enough to predict the consequences of his or her behavior, the
parents will be responsible for the childs crime, unless the parents prove that they
have not neglected their parental responsibility (Civil Code Law 714). If a child has
the ability to take responsibility, the parents are not responsible for the childs actions,
unless there is a clear causal relationship between the violation of supervision

obligation and the childs behavior. Middle school students are old enough to take
legal responsibility for their behavior; therefore, parents are not held liable unless
their negligence is proven to have caused the bullying (Hmush 1994:73-74).




According to the Juvenile Law, juvenile status refers to youths under 20 years of age.
Juvenile delinquency includes: 1) criminal acts by juveniles aged 14 or over; 2) illegal
acts by juveniles under 14 years of age; and 3) pre-delinquency by juveniles, such as
runaways.6 Responding to the recent increase of teenage murderers,7 the revised
Juvenile Law in April 2001 lowered the minimum age for criminal punishments from
16 to 14. The Criminal Law does not punish illegal acts by those 13 years of age and
younger. These cases are handled by the Child Welfare Law and may be referred to
the childrens shelters or the home for juvenile training and education.
Three Family Court judges hear cases that involve youthful offenders. In the case of a
serious or particularly violent crime like murder, the Family Court allows prosecutors
to attend court sessions. If there is any dissatisfaction with the decisions of the Family
Court, the prosecutors can appeal. If the defendant is 16 years of age or older, and
commits an offense punishable by the death penalty, by penal servitude, or by
imprisonment, his or her case is referred to the Prosecutors Office.
In 2003, 175,000 juveniles were arrested or were taken into protective custody by the
police. Among these, 144,000 juveniles, 17.5 per 1,000 youths between the ages of 14
and 19, were in protective custody for criminal offenses. That total comprised high
school students (43.4%), middle school students (26.4%), unemployed (13.8%),
employed (9.1%), college students (3.9%), and others (3.4%). Almost one-fourth
(24.1%) were girls.
Their offenses included larceny (56.4%), embezzlement (26.7%), assault (5.6%),
extortion (2.8%), homicide, robbery, arson, and rape (1.5%), and others (6.9%).
Almost 1,800 were arrested for robbery, and 80 were arrested for homicide. Nearly
half of the larceny arrests were for shoplifting, and the rest were theft of motorcycles
and bicycles. In 2003, 2,684 members of motorcycle gangs were taken into custody
on criminal charges. The police also took 1,299,000 people under the age of 20 years
old into custody for misdemeanors such as drinking, smoking, and running away. In

addition, 22,615 runaways, 41.2 percent of whom were middle school students, were
placed into protective custody (Naikakufu 2004a).
Students at risk were traditionally low-achievers who came from disadvantaged or
dysfunctional families. Many were also repeated offenders. However, in recent years,
troubled youths are more likely to be ordinary students who become unpredictably
violent. Ordinary students, and even good students suddenly explode in anger
(kireru) or burst into anger (mukatsuku), which leads to impulsive acts of violence.
For example, in January 1998, one middle school student suddenly erupted, and
stabbed his teacher to death after the teacher warned him about his misbehavior (AS
January 29, 1998). Over the next two months there were copycat crimes (Smuch
1998:29-32). Japanese people are prohibited from owning guns. Otherwise, there
would be many juvenile crimes involving guns.
Educators, journalists, professionals, scholars, and policy-makers have become greatly
concerned with the rise in juvenile crime. Many critics claim that children are spoiled
and undisciplined, and they turn to violence out of stress and frustration. According to
the report of the Deliberative Committee on Youth Delinquency, troubled youths have
no self-control or respect for rules. According to the Committee, the causes of
delinquency are chronic discipline problems, the inability of schools to respond to a
diverse student population, and the younger offenders lack of consideration for
Furthermore, a decade of recession has created many unemployed pessimistic youths
who are vulnerable to juvenile crime. In 2003, there were estimated 370,000 youths
without jobs. These unemployed youths, 4.5 percent of all youths, accounted for 31.2
percent of homicide, robbery, arson, and rape and 60.7 percent of stimulant drug
abuse (Naikakufu 2004a). They are also influenced by violence in the mass media,
and video games. There are also many psychologically troubled, antisocial teens and
young adults (hikikomori, those who isolate themselves), who may cause or find
trouble. Neighbors and community leaders used to watch and discipline youth at risk
on the street. However, the weakening social bonds in urban areas have undermined
the power of these social controls.
The Committee proposes cooperation among schools, parents, and the community, the
nurturing of each childs creativity, giving teachers a stronger grounding in

counseling, and the deployment of school counselors, as measures to prevent juvenile

crimes (Smuch 1998:312-313; AS July 23, 1999). Schools are the main place in
which students learn self-discipline. The teachers in student guidance committees
discipline troubled students in cooperation with a homeroom teacher, a nurse teacher,
and the supervising teacher of their extracurricular clubs, as well as with community
youth centers and the police. Teachers visit homes and remain in contact with the
parents of troubled students.
In 1995, the MOE began to deploy school counselors (who had been trained as
clinical therapists) to some public elementary and middle schools, where they worked
with students, their teachers, and their parents. Human rights education and volunteer
activities can instill in students a respect for the law, for life, and for the rights of the
victims of bullying. The lessons learned from volunteer activities help the students,
especially low-achievers, to enhance their self-esteem through service to other
Violence in Schools and Outside Schools

In the 2001-2 school year, there were 33,129 cases of violence in public schools, a
decrease of more than 9.4 percent from the record high of 36,577 cases in the 19992000 school year. School violence included fights among students (47.2%);
vandalism (36.1%); attacks upon teachers (16.0%); and attacks against people outside
of the school (0.7%). School violence took place mainly in middle schools (77.8%),
but also in high schools (17.8%) and elementary schools (4.4%). In addition, 5,101
cases of violent crimes were committed by students outside of school
(Monbukagakush 2002b).
Because middle school education is compulsory, students are rarely expelled.
However, in the 1999-2000 school year, 84 middle school students were prohibited
from attending classes for between 3 and 20 days because of violent behavior in
school. Thirty-five of these students had assaulted a teacher (AS December 15, 2000).
High schools, on the other hand, have the authority to suspend or expel students who
violate school laws. In the past, groups of students were responsible for school
violence, but now, a single student perpetrates many cases of school violence. The
MOE plans to expand the number of school counselors to work with these students.
In 2003, 716 cases of school violence were reported to the police, and 1,019 students,
mostly from middle school, were arrested (Naikakufu 2004a).

The students who commit school violence share many characteristics. Many perform
poorly in class, have adversarial relationships with teachers and peers, lack selfcontrol, and have a need to be the center of attention. At home, they often have
overprotective or domineering parents. School violence became a problem in the
early 1980s when groups of students vandalized school buildings and property, and
assaulted teachers. In the 1981 report from the Public Prosecutors Office, 70.1
percent of those who committed school violence were poor in academic classes,
though many of them were good athletes. They were not satisfied with their school
life and despised their teachers. They approved of violence more than other students
did (Ota 1994:124, 130-133).
In 2003, 1,154 cases of domestic violence caused by juveniles were reported to the
police. The violence was directed against mothers (51.6%), furniture and other
property (15.5%), fathers (13.4%), relatives in the household (11.5%), siblings (5.5%)
and others (2.5%)(Naikakufu 2004a).
In the United States, 9 percent of high school students reported being threatened or
injured with a weapon, such as a gun, knife, or club, on school property in 2003. In
the 1999-2000 school year, there were 16 homicides and 6 suicides of school-aged
youths at elementary or secondary schools (ages 5-19). Away from school, there were
2,124 homicides and 1,922 suicides among youth ages 5-19 (NCES 2004b).
More than 4,000 policemen patrol the hallways and playgrounds of schools in the
nation. In Los Angeles, every 49 high schools and almost all middle schools have at
least one police officer (Los Angeles Times March 24, 2001). Many schools use
metal detectors, security guards, and closed circuit television surveillance, and
conduct random searches of students bodies, possessions and lockers, in order to
promote school safety. In 1994, President Clinton signed the Gun-Free Schools Act,
requiring that any student caught bringing a gun to school be expelled for one year.
Elementary schools provide training in anger management, impulse control,
appreciation of diversity, mediation and conflict resolution skills in order to prevent
children from engaging in at-risk behaviors (Schwartz 1996). Many districts have
alternative schools for troubled students, and many schools have their own special
programs for troubled students.

Drug Use

Drug charges include the possession of stimulants, marijuana, and paint thinner. In
2003, 16 middle school students and 36 high school students were among the 524
youths who were taken into protective custody for possession of stimulant drugs. The
most popular of these substances is paint thinner. In 2003, 2,835 youths including 291
middle school students and 463 high school students were charged with possession of
paint thinner, and 185 youths (including three middle school students and 38 high
school students) were charged with possession of marijuana (Naikakufu 2004a). The
government and the police provide special counseling for drug abusers, support antidrug programs in the community and schools, and promote anti-drug campaigns
through pamphlets, television, radio and other media.
In the United States, 22 percent of high school students reported in 2003 that they had
smoked marijuana in the past 30 days and 6 percent reported using marijuana on
school property (NCES 2004b). Another survey found that 11 percent of middle
school students experimented with drugs (TIME July 5, 1999).


Under the Penal Code, anyone who performs a sexual act or commits an indecent act
with a male or female less than 13 years of age is subject to punishment, whether or
not the act is committed by violence or threats. The Child Welfare Law also prohibits
enticing a person younger than 18 years of age into obscene acts.
Before the 1999 Law for Punishing Acts Related to Child Prostitution and Child
Pornography and for Protecting Children, if a man had consensual sex with a girl 13
years old or older, he would not be punished, unless the girl pressed charges.
However, since the 1970s, prefectural governments have made their own regulations,
which give law enforcement the authority to punish men who solicited a prostitute
who was younger than 18 (Oji 1998:168-171).
The 1999 law imposes stricter punishments on sex offenders, brokers of child
prostitutes, and on dealers of child pornography. Those who bought the services from
child prostitutes face imprisonment for up to three years, or a fine of one million yen
or less. The brokers of child prostitution could be sentenced to a term of up to three
years or a fine of no more than three million yen. Professional brokers could go to
prison for five years and be fined up to five million yen. Dealers of child

pornography would face prison sentences of three years or less or a fine of three
million yen or less. Those who buy a child for the purpose of a child prostitution
business would face one-year to ten-year prison sentences. Anyone who trafficked in
foreign children for the purpose of prostitution would face prison sentences of two
years or more.
All of these punishments are applied to Japanese people, even if the crime is
committed abroad. It will stop child prostitution through the notorious sex tours of
South East Asian countries, Japans online child pornography industry, and the
problematic dating service telephone clubs of teenagers. In 2000, 613 suspects
were arrested in 985 cases of child prostitution, 164 suspects were arrested in 170
cases of child pornography (U.N. Committee 2003).
In 2003, 4,412 youths, including 19 elementary school students, 1,315 middle school
students, and 1,882 high school students were taken into custody on prostitution
charges. The arrested youths said they prostituted themselves voluntarily (71.4%),
because they wanted spending money (29.0%), because there was a particular man
they liked (21.1%), because they were curious (12.9%), and because they wanted sex
(5.5%). More than one fourth of arrested youths said that their friends had persuaded
them (26.0%) (Naikakufu 2004a).
In recent years, many girls have begun to use telephone clubs to engage in sexual
relationships for money. Telephone clubs allow women and men to communicate
anonymously to arrange meetings. Women can join without fees. Therefore, it is
popular among underage girls. In 1999, there were 3,122 such clubs. If they are
caught, the men who bought the girls service are usually punished, and the police
take the girls into protective custody. More than half of the 836 child prostitution
cases from November 1999 to October 2000 were associated with these clubs (AS
January 26, 2001).
According to the 1996 survey by the Tokyo Government, one out of every four
students said they knew someone who joined a dating service (enjo ksai) telephone
club, and four percent of girls among 110 high schools in Tokyo said they participated
in this behavior (Oji 1998:150). According to another 1996 survey, 10.2 percent of
male students and 17.0 percent of female students in middle school, and 6.6 percent of
male students and 27.3 percent of female students in high school had already used

telephone clubs. Girls joined telephone clubs because they found it fun, were bored,
wanted to tease their dates, found it thrilling, wanted to play, wanted to talk about
eroticism, and the telephone bill was free (for women) (Smuch 1997:69).
Tougher regulations, sanctions, and public education about the dangers of child
prostitution would help prevent the increase of child prostitution. The National Police
Agency announced in 2001 that it would regard telephone clubs as part of the sex
industry, and prohibit anyone under 18 years from using telephone clubs, under the
revised Law of the Justification of the Entertainment Industry (fzoku eigy
tekiseikah) (AS January 26 2001).
School refusal syndrome, bullying, juvenile delinquency, school violence, drug abuse,
teenage gangs, and teenage prostitution have been on the rise. Homeroom teachers
and teachers in student guidance committees handle these problems in schools. Since
1995, the Ministry of Education (MOE) has designated school counselors to deal with
these problems by working students, parents and teachers. The MOE promotes
strengthening teachers counseling skills and encourages the cooperation among
teachers, parents, school counselors, and outside professionals. Smaller class sizes
allow teachers to pay closer attention to their students and to recognize the early signs
of these problems.
The number of the students with school refusal syndrome has increased rapidly since
the 1980s. In the 2001-2 school year, one out of every 36 middle school students had
school refusal syndrome. The majority of the causes are related to school problems,
such as bullying. Schools need to develop a support team of parents, homeroom
teachers, nurse teachers, school counselors, and medical doctors to work with these
students so that they can return to school. Local governments have begun to accept
transfer credits from students who have been schooled at home or in free schools.
Furthermore, school administrators and teachers have to find a way to reduce the
causes of school refusal syndrome, such as bullying.
Bullying usually occurs among classmates and members of extracurricular clubs, from
the fifth to ninth grades. In most cases, several children bully a particular child, and
the rest of the children become the audience or the bystanders (Morita and

Kiyonaga 1994). Thus, it is important for homeroom teachers to create a homeroom

environment that refuses to tolerate bullying.
The number of 14- to 19-year-olds in protective custody for juvenile crimes rose to
141,775 (16.7 per 1,000 youths) in 2002. Delinquent behaviors include larceny,
embezzlement, assault, murder, robbery, arson, and rape. Moreover, there were
33,129 reported cases of school violence in the 2001-2 school year. To a greater
degree than ever, troubled students include normal students who became
unpredictably violent. Violent youth are more likely to have been indulged by their
parents, and resent the regimented school routines. The teachers in the student
guidance committees handled troubled students in concert with a homeroom teacher, a
nurse teacher, a supervising teacher from their extracurricular clubs, parents,
community youth centers and the police.
1. The problems of school refusal syndrome are discussed in English (Lock 1986;
Yoneyama 1999). Inamura, a psychiatrist, analyzed school refusal syndrome from a
clinical psychological perspective (Inamura 1994). Morita and Hosaka linked school
refusal syndrome to the role of schools and society (Morita 1991a; Morita and
Matsuura 1991; Hosaka 2000). Takagaki et al. collected case studies on students with
school refusal syndrome and the parents support network (Takagaki et al. 1995a;
1995b; 1995c).
2. Since 1999, the MOE has replaced the term from school phobia (gakk girai)
with non-attendance at school (futk). Since 1990, the Ministry of Justice calls the
problem school refusal syndrome/non-attendance (Hosaka 2000:14-15). The more
neutral term non-attendance at school (futk) is generally preferred to school
refusal syndrome (tkkyohi). I use the term school refusal syndrome only
because it refers to the problem more directly in English than non-attendance at
3. The term hikikomori was popularized by several well-publicized murder cases
committed by hikikomori in 1999 and 2000. In one case, a 37-year-old recluse
kidnapped a girl and kept her confined to his home for nine years, a home that he
shared with his mother (AS January 29, 2000).

4. I visited the Sumire adaptation classroom on February 22, 2001. The case study
is based on my classroom observation and interviews with the teachers. The
information is also based on communication with a teachers aide from the adaptation
classroom and an elementary school teacher on December 26, 2000.
5. The White Paper on Education and the White Paper on Youth present annual
official data on bullying as reported by teachers. Morita et al. conducted a
comprehensive survey about bullying as reported by students in 1997 (Morita et al.
1999). Bullying is analyzed through classroom and school factors (Morita and
Kiyonaga 1994; Morita et al. 1999; Takekawa 1993; Nihon Bengoshi 1995), and
psychological factors (Inamura and Sait 1995, Masataka 1998). The Ministry of
Justice (Hmush 1994; 1997a) has circulated several manuals about how to handle
bullying, and the Association of Attorneys (Nihon Bengoshi 1995) has discussed
bullying as a human rights issue.
6. Japans report about the Convention on the Rights of the Child (U.N. Committee
1998a) summarizes the official views and policies on troubled youth and the
childrens rights. Annual data regarding juvenile delinquency are presented in the
White Papers on Youth (Naikakufu), Education (Monbukagakush) the Police
(Keisatsuch) and Crime (Hmush).
7. In 1997, a 14-year-old boy beheaded an 11-year-old boy, and put his head at the
school gate of his middle school in Kbe in May 1997. He stuck a note in the mouth
of the victim, calling himself the School Killer and stating that he enjoyed killing.
The Family Court found that he was responsible for four other assaults, including the
death of a 10-year-old girl. He was sent to a juvenile home with medical facilities.
The Kbe Regional Court in 1999 also ordered the boy and his parents to pay more
than 100 million yen as compensation (AS March 11 1999).



Contents of This Chapter

1. 5-1


1. 5-1-1


1. Four-Year Universities and Colleges

2. Graduate Schools
3. Junior Colleges
4. Five-Year Colleges of Technology (Kt Senmon Gakk)
5. Employment of College Graduates
6. Specialized Training Colleges (Sensh Gakk)
2. 5-2


1. 5-2-1


2. 5-2-2


1. Lifelong Education in Marugame City

3. 5-2-3


4. 5-2-4


Almost two-thirds of Japanese high school students attend college or specialized
training colleges after graduation. The competition to enter prestigious colleges
remains intense. But a college education has become much more accessible. In fact,
the falling birthrate has forced many private colleges to find creative ways to meet

their quotas. Furthermore, many colleges have begun to welcome non-traditional

students. Local governments and private lifelong-education centers provide noncredit courses, especially for homemakers and retirees. This chapter will discuss how
and what students acquire through higher education and lifelong learning.




In 2003, almost two-thirds (63%) of high school graduates went on to higher

education, including colleges (44.6%) and specialized training colleges (18.9%). The
number of college students, 2,804,000 (including 2,509,000 undergraduates) is the
largest number on record (Monbukagakush 2004a), despite the fact that the number
of 18 year-olds has been decreasing drastically from its peak in 1993 at 2.05 million,
to 1.5 million in 2000, and an estimated 1.2 million in 2010 (Amano 1996:106).1
Almost all students who continue on to higher education ultimately obtain degrees.
The academic quality of college students will decline as many money-strapped
colleges accept most applicants. In 1995, 64.8 percent of all applicants to four-year
colleges were admitted, and five years later that figure had risen to 80.5 percent. An
estimated 70 percent of high school graduates will proceed to colleges in 2010 (Kajita
2000:11, 114). By 2019, all of the estimated 707,000 college applicants (62.9% of an
estimated 1.2 million population of 18-year-olds) will be accepted. Everyone can
attend a college when the number of applicants matches admissions quotas (Okushima
et al. 1998:118-119). This will result in lower educational standards for entrants.
Therefore, colleges have to provide remedial courses for students who are not
prepared for college-level work. In 1997, 42 percent of colleges offered remedial
courses in high school subjects (Kuroki 1999:74).
In 2003, 73.5 percent of college students attended private colleges (Monbukagakush
2004a). Many less selective private colleges have a difficult time drawing sufficient
revenue to operate, due to the drastic decrease of applicants caused by the decreasing
number of children. Almost one-fourth of four-year private colleges and almost half
of private junior colleges ran deficits in 2001-2002, because of the decreasing number
of students. Student fees of private colleges can account for almost 60 percent of an
institutions income. The average income per private college decreased by 845
million yen, 7 percent of total income for the previous five years (AS January 3,

2003). The Japanese Federation of Private Colleges advised financially troubled

private colleges to merge with other colleges or to shut down (AS June 10, 2001).
In 2004, 29.1 percent of private colleges and 41.0 percent of private junior colleges
fell short of their quotas of new students (AS August 4, 2004). Private colleges need
to have at least 50 percent of the full quota to receive government subsidies, though
exemptions are granted to original or unique private colleges (AS June 28, 2000).
Since 2003, the government has limited the duration of exemptions to three years.
Since 1970, the government has subsidized private colleges, though these subsidies
have been cut from 30 percent of revenues in the early 1980s to 12.2 percent in 2002
(Monbukagakush 2004b:66). In the 2001-2 school year, private colleges received an
average subsidy of 166,000 yen per student (AS September 26, 2003). Neither public
nor private colleges generate much income apart from government subsidies and
In 2001, the average tuition of private colleges amounted to 800,000 yen, 1.6 times
more than the tuition of national colleges, 497,000 yen (Ch Kyiku 2001). Since
2000, the MOE has expanded the quota for college admissions through
recommendations from 30 percent of successful applicants to 50 percent for four-year
colleges, and from 50 percent to 100 percent for junior colleges (Nakamura 2000:39).
Many colleges also have relaxed their admission standards for non-traditional
students. The enrollment of adult and foreign students has been growing rapidly since
the 1990s.
In 2004, all national universities and their affiliated institutions, as well as prefectural
and municipal universities became independent educational foundations (gysei
hjin), in a series of deregulatory reforms. Then, a university president has more
authority to administer the university, such as determining tuition, and funds. The
government set a standard tuition of national universities for the 2005-6 school year,
535,800 yen, but each national university can set its own tuition (AS December 15,
In April 2004, 68 law schools with 5,590 students started. Twenty of these institutions
were national, two were prefectural or municipal and 46 were private. The three-year
law schools are designed and modeled on the U.S. law schools. Two-year courses are
also open to those who have already acquired a legal background. The success rate of

a bar examination of graduates of the law schools will be expected to be 34 percent.

The success rate of the current bar examinations open to the public was around 3
percent in 2003 (AS May 13, 2004; AS October 17, 2004; Murakami 2003).
Furthermore, several private colleges are interested in establishing two-year
accounting schools. The government plans to increase the number of certified public
accountants from 14,000 to 50,000 by 2018 (AS June 28, 2003). The MOE and the
Department of Health, Labor and Welfare have also decided to require pharmacy
students to study for six rather than four years.
The government promotes cooperation between research universities and high
technology companies Research and Development (R&D) departments. The
Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry plans to create three educational facilities
for entrepreneurs in the vicinity of the University of Tokyo, the University of Kyoto,
and Ritsumeikan University. These measures are intended to raise the number of
university-affiliated business ventures from 240 to 1,000 within three years (AS
August 21 2002). The MOE endorsed a world-class research plan through the Center
of Excellence (COE) Program for the 21st Century in 2002, and 133 research plans
from 56 colleges were selected in 2003. Furthermore, the MOE started the program to
support college education with distinguished programs in 2003 and selected 80
programs to improve college education (Monbukagakush 2004b:55-58).
The University of Tokyo established a fund-raising company for business ventures
that was based upon student and faculty research. As of 2004, 36 Technology License
Organizations (TLOs) have been founded to apply technology that academic
researchers have developed to businesses. The TLOs identifies worthwhile academic
projects, licenses them for business use, and collects users fees from business for
academic researchers. The TLOs submitted 1,619 patent applications in FY 2002.
Furthermore, there are increasing venture businesses starting from colleges from 128
in 2000 to 614 enterprises in 2003 (AS February 8, 2004).
College professors are among the most respected people in Japan, though their
salaries are modest. In 1997, the MOE implemented a system of contract
appointments for college instructors, in addition to the current tenure system. Since
1999, each college has been required to engage in faculty development. The gender
gap between male and female college professors is striking, although the number of

female professors has been increasing. As of 2003, only 15.3 percent of professors in
four-year colleges are female. In addition, in junior colleges where 88.0 percent of
students are female, 46.1 percent of the professors are female (Monbukagakush
The Association of National Universities plans to see the percentage of the ratio of
female professors rise from 6.6 percent in 1998 to 20 percent by 2010. The
Association uses positive action, and requests universities to operate nursery
schools. In the United States, 39.6 percent of college professors are female; the
number is 13.8 percent in France, 8.5 percent in England, and 5.9 percent in Germany
(AS June 6, 2000; Nikkei Shinbun Evening July 2 2001).
In 1987, the College Council, composed of college educators and business leaders,
was created to reform college education, as proposed by the National Council on
Educational Reform (Rinkyshin). In its 1991 report, the College Council
recommended the introduction of an independent evaluation system, and the
expansion of graduate schools. Since 1991, each college has had the right to design
its own curriculum without the requirement of liberal-arts general courses. By 1997,
about 97 percent of colleges had reformed their curricula in order to attract more
students and survive (Kuroki 1999:38).
Like colleges in the United States, many colleges have begun to use syllabi,
evaluation sheets, teaching assistants and research assistants, as well as accepting
more adult students and transfer students. More than three-fourths of colleges use
student evaluations, and 60 percent enforce the faculty development by having
professors observe each other in the classroom (AS September 19, 2003). The
transfer system from junior colleges, five-year colleges of technology, and specialized
training colleges to four-year colleges has been promoted. Since 1999, graduates
from specialized training colleges can transfer to four-year colleges. For the
promotion of lifelong education, more colleges have introduced a special quota for
non-traditional students. Since 1990, students have been able to receive credit from
courses that they have audited. Night graduate schools and correspondence graduate
schools have been open since 1989 and 1998, respectively.
Since 2000, three-year undergraduate courses, and one-year masters courses were
introduced in the name of deregulation. Since lifting the age requirements for college

entrants in 1997, students who excel in mathematics and physics can skip a grade, and
attend college at the age of 17. In 1999, six 17-year-olds enrolled in college.
College costs, especially for private institutions, are quite high, as are living expenses
for out-of-town students. Although there are some scholarships and student loans,
most parents pay their childrens college expenses. Living expenses are much cheaper
if college students remain at home. In the 2002-3 school year, students who attended
private colleges and rented an apartment spent an average of 2.61 million yen
(Monbukagakush 2004d). In the United States, annual prices for undergraduate
tuition, room, and board for the 2002-03 academic year were estimated at $8,556 at
public colleges and $23,503 at private colleges (NCES 2004a).
Many parents work hard to send their children to college. Many mothers say that one
of main reasons they returned to work after child rearing is to finance their childrens
college education. Tax exemption for college tuitions would help parents send their
children to college in an era of recession. Need-based scholarships and student loans
are available. In 2000, approximately 437,000 college students were receiving loans
from the Japanese Scholarship Society. Students in public colleges received 41,000 to
47,000 yen a month in no-interest loans, while those in private colleges received
50,000 yen to 60,000 yen (AS June 8, 2000).
According to one calculation, the costs of college education (4 million yen) and four
years outside of the work force (11 million yen) amount to 15 million yen. The
lifetime income difference between high school graduates and college graduates is
estimated at 75 million yen. If high school graduates saved 15 million yen at a six
percent interest rate, they would make 75 million in their lifetime. Therefore, college
education does not make much of a difference in lifetime earnings (Yano 1998:112113).
Four-Year Universities and Colleges

All colleges are academically ranked. Preparatory cram schools for college
examinations (yobik) publish rankings every year, according to entrants standard
deviations on mock exams. Public universities include selective universities like the
University of Tokyo, local national universities, prefectural and municipal
universities, and junior colleges.

Three-fourths of four-year colleges are private institutions. The government

subsidizes about 10 percent of their administrative budgets. Other budgetary costs are
financed by tuitions. Therefore, many private colleges offer affordable education
through part-time courses, correspondence courses, and humanities and social science
courses taught by part-time instructors. Almost all students in private colleges major
in humanities or social science because those majors are the least costly. The
drawbacks of the private college system include higher costs and higher studentinstructor ratios. This ratio is 24.8:1 in private universities and colleges, and 9.8:1 in
national universities (Amano 1996:71-77).
College students are more likely to come from the households with higher incomes
and higher occupational status. According to the 1995 Social Stratification and Social
Mobility (SSM) survey, more than 70 percent of college graduates in their 30s had
fathers in professional and managerial positions (Aramaki 2000:23). In 1990, almost
half (47%) of students in national universities came from households whose incomes
were in the highest 20 percent (LeTendre et al. 1998:291). Higher education
demonstrates the reproduction of social stratification.
In 2003, college students majored in social science (39.0%); humanities (including
history) (16.3%); engineering (17.8%); education (5.5%); science (3.5%); agriculture
(2.8%); medicine and dentistry (2.5%); home economics (2.1%); and pharmacy
(1.6%). Female students are 38.8 percent of the college student population
(Monbukagakush 2004a).
Most humanities majors are women. Humanities majors without technical skills have
a more difficult time obtaining jobs. More than half of education majors are women.
Education majors must pass highly competitive prefectural examinations in order to
find a teaching position. On the other hand, the number of female students in
computer science and electronic engineering has risen, but male students vastly
outnumber female students.
The number of transfer students to four-year colleges had increased after the
launching of the transfer system, peaked in 2000, and then decreased slightly. The
transfer system is similar to the agreements between community colleges and fouryear universities in the United States. In 2003, about 10,000 transfer students have
come from junior colleges; 2,500 from five-year colleges of technology; and 1,800

from specialized training colleges (Monbukagakush 2004a). Under the transfer

system, students who did not do well in high school or on their college entrance
examinations can still enter a competitive college. The transfer system needs to be
more widely publicized and promoted.
More students than ever are now enrolled in correspondence courses. In 2003, the
number of students in correspondence courses from thirty-five colleges amounted to
235,000 undergraduates and 14,000 graduate students, in addition to 25,000 students
enrolled in correspondence courses from ten junior colleges (Monbukagakush
2004a). The University of the Air, a public correspondence university established in
1983, broadcast its classes to 89,000 students through TV, radio, and other media in
the second semester of 2002 (Naikakufu 2003a:115).
Japanese college students do not study much because almost everyone graduates, and
because the GPAs do not matter in employment recruitment. It is difficult to enter
competitive universities, but once enrolled, the vast majority of students graduate.
For example, 78.7 percent of college students who entered four-year colleges in April
1999 graduated on schedule in March 2003. Also, 91.5 percent of entrants of fouryear colleges in April 1995 had graduated by March 2003 (Monbukagakush 2004a).
Most companies look at applicants alma maters, not their GPAs. Therefore, many
students regard their college years as a break-time between the examination hell
of high school and the working world. A 1995 survey found that 84.2 percent of male
students and 76.4 percent of female students in junior colleges and specialized
training colleges studied one hour or less per day. In addition 84 percent of male
college and graduate students and 59.1 percent of female college and graduate
students spent one hour or less per day studying (Smuch 1996:60-61). Most college
students spend their time holding part-time jobs, participating in sports and cultural
clubs, traveling, dating, drinking, and partying.
Because of the combination of the increasing number of college graduates and a
sluggish economy, college education no longer guarantees a high-status job. Only the
best colleges can provide educational credentials that reward their graduates with
good careers. Due to the tight job market, only 55.0 percent of 545,000 college
graduates in 2003 obtained full-time jobs. Another 11.4 percent of college graduates
entered graduate schools (the largest such group on record), and 1.5 percent (8,000)
accepted medical internships. In addition, 4.6 percent obtained a temporary job, and

22.5 percent neither found a job nor went to graduate school. The remaining 5 percent
either died or are unaccounted for (Monbukagakush 2004a). It is a very serious
problem that more than 22.5 percent of college graduates, approximately 123,000
graduates, cannot find a job or did not continue onto graduate school, and that another
4.6 percent found only part-time jobs. They are so-called freeters, young, single
part-time workers or graduate job seekers, mostly living with their parents.
Among college graduates who found jobs, 33.0 percent of men and 32.7 percent of
women were employed as professional or technical workers (including 25.7% of men
and 8.1% of women employed as technical workers, 2.0% of men and 8.1% of women
as health and medical workers, and 2.3% of men and 6.7% of women employed as
teachers); 27.4 percent of men and 41.2 percent of women were employed as clerical
workers; and 27.8 percent of men and 17.9 percent of women were employed as sales
clerks (Monbukagakush 2004a).
Graduate Schools

Graduate schools were traditionally open only to college graduates who sought
careers in higher education and research. The College Council recommended in 1988
that graduate programs accept a wider variety of applicants. Many graduate schools
have tried to emulate graduate schools in the United States. Collaborate research
between universities and businesses has become more widespread. Graduate schools
have become more open to working adults and homemakers, and offer night classes.
Since 1999, graduate schools accept students without a bachelors degree, if they are
22 years old or older. Starting in 1999, one-year masters courses and long-term
masters courses have been set up to make it easier for working adults complete a
degree. Many graduate schools have more teaching assistants and research assistants
than ever before. In addition, the system of professional graduate schools has been
recognized since April 2003.
When graduate schools with masters and doctoral programs began in 1950, there
were 189 masters degree students. By 1955, there were more than 10,000 students.
All of the national universities and two-thirds of private colleges have graduate
programs. The majority of graduate school students attend national universities. In
1998, 60 percent of graduate students in MA programs and 70 percent of them in
Ph.D. programs were enrolled at national universities (Amano 2003:220). The
number of graduate students continued to rise from 122,360 in 1993 to 231,489 in

2003 (Monbukagakush 2004a). Nevertheless, graduate students are still much fewer
in Japan than in the United States. In 1999, the ratio of graduate students to the
overall population was 1.4 per 1000 in Japan while in the United States it was 7.7
graduate students per 1,000 in 1997 (Monbush 1999b). In the United States, by
1997, 30 percent of those who received a bachelors degree in 1992-93 were
registered in graduate schools. There are many part-time graduate students in the
United States (NCES 2000).
Graduate schools have become very popular because many college graduates opt to
attend graduate schools to pursue better jobs with a higher degree, after failing to find
jobs because of the decade-long recession. Many highly educated homemakers and
retirees are taking graduate classes because they see a graduate degree as a status
symbol. Moreover, many private colleges have been aggressively recruiting graduate
students in order to remain financially solvent.
Among 76,000 students (29% female students) who entered a masters program in
2003, 78.5 percent were their early 20s, 10.8 percent were (working) adults, and 7.2
percent were foreign students. Among 159,000 people in the masters program, 39.6
percent majored in engineering, 14.3 percent in social science, 8.7 percent in science,
8.1 percent in the humanities, 7.3 percent in education, and 5.2 percent in agriculture.
Among 67,000 recipients of masters degrees in March 2003, 14.3 percent pursued a
doctoral degree and 64.5 percent entered the work force. Among those who went to
work, 59.5 percent became technical workers, 8.8 percent became teachers, and 4.7
percent became science researchers (Monbukagakush 2004a).
In 2003, 18,000 people (28% female students) entered Ph.D. courses. Among 71,000
Ph.D. students, 27.9 percent majored in medicine and dentistry, 18.5 percent in
engineering, 10.4 percent in the humanities, 10.4 percent in social science, 8.7 percent
in science, and 6.1 percent in agriculture, and 21.1 percent were (working) adults.
Among 15,000 Ph.D. recipients, 54.4 percent of them went to work as teachers
(28.8%); health and medical workers (27.5%); science researchers (20.7%); and
technical workers (14.1%) (Monbukagakush 2004a).
Table 5.1

Majors of Undergraduate, M.A., and Ph.D.


Undergraduate (%)
(Percentage of female students
in 2000)

M.A. students

Ph.D. students


16.3% (67.1%)



Social Science

39.0% (27.2%)




3.5% (25.3%)




17.8% (10.0%)




2.8% (40.3%)



Medicine and

2.5% (33.2%)




1.6% (40.0%)



Home economics

5.5% (95.1%)











Note: Home economics majors in Masters courses and PhD courses

are included in Others.
(Source: Monbukagakush 2004a; Monbush 2000b)
Junior Colleges

Under the transformation of higher education in 1949, the prewar specialized training
colleges that did not become four-year universities became junior colleges. In 1950,
more than 15,000 students were attending 149 junior colleges. By 1964, the
government recognized the junior college system. By 1965, the number of junior
colleges had doubled and the number of junior college students was ten times greater
than in 1950 (Ban 1998:242).
Junior colleges have taught so-called womens subjects such as home economics,
humanities, and education to an overwhelming number of women, 90 percent of the
student body. Therefore, junior colleges are frequently called schools for brides
where young women hope to improve their marriage prospects. In 2003, 525 junior

colleges (88.2% of which were private) provided instruction in education (25.6%);

home economics (22.5%); humanities (15.1%); social science (13.4%); and public
health (9.7%) for 250,000 students (88.0% female) mostly between the ages of 18 to
20 (Monbukagakush 2004a). The popularity of public health programs is growing,
in response to the aging of Japanese society.
Among 119,000 junior college graduates in March 2003, 59.7 percent obtained a fulltime job, 11.1 percent transferred to four-year colleges, 8.4 percent found temporary
jobs, and 19.4 percent neither obtained a job or returned to school. The employment
rate was 59.7 percent in 2003 because of the recession. Many junior college graduates
work as Office Ladies (OL) in private companies before marrying or bearing
children. They obtained a job in fields such as clerical (26.7%), sales (10.5%), and
professional and technical (51.2%), including jobs in health care/medical (16.9%) and
education (mainly at preschool/kindergarten) (10.5%)(Monbukagakush 2004a).
The number of junior college students fell from 525,000 in 1992 to 250,062 in 2002
(Monbukagakush 2002a, Monbukagakush 2004a). The decrease has caused great
concern among private junior colleges that rely upon tuition fees. Junior colleges
have lost popularity to four-year colleges and specialized training colleges.
Admission into four-year colleges has become more accessible as the number of 18year-olds decline. Specialized training colleges that teach marketable technical skills
provide better employment opportunities than do junior colleges.
In the 1980s, far more female high school students entered junior colleges than fouryear colleges. Since 1995, female students have shown a preference for four-year
colleges (Chnichi Shinbun May 15, 1999, evening edition). In 1990, only 18.7
percent of female students applied to a four-year college, while in 1997, 30.1 percent
of them did (Okushima 1998:110-111).
Several prestigious junior womens colleges have been integrated into four-year
colleges. In 2001, 54.8 percent of private junior colleges could not meet their
admissions quotas. Fifty junior colleges did not even meet half of their quotas (AS
July 6, 2001). Since 1991, junior colleges have begun to accept part-time students,
recognize units from other institutions, expand the transfer system, and establish an
associates degree for junior college graduates (Ban 1998:242)

Five-Year Colleges of Technology (Kt Senmon Gakk)

In 1962, five-year colleges of technology (kt senmon gakk) were established to

produce technicians. In 2003, 63 five-year colleges of technology, including 55
national ones, had 58,000 students enrolled after middle schools. More than 80
percent of the student population is male (Monbukagakush 2004a). Entrance into a
five-year college of technology has been competitive because many graduates obtain
jobs in large companies. Many incoming students are high-achievers who prefer fiveyear colleges of technology to second best academic high schools. The best students
usually attend elite academic high schools rather than five-year colleges of
Among 10,000 graduates in 2003, 39.2 percent (cf., 14.7% in 1992) transferred to
four-year colleges. Graduates of five-year colleges of technology also worked in
manufacturing (48.5%), service (18.8%), telecommunication (8.6%), construction
(8.0%), and public service (4.7%). Nearly all graduates (87.2%) obtained technical
positions (Monbukagakush 2002a, Monbukagakush 2004a).
Employment of College Graduates

In 1997, the 1987 regulation that set October 1 as an official starting date for offering
employment to graduates was repealed because many companies issued unofficial job
offers to prospective graduates much earlier than the official starting date of
recruitment. Some companies recruit employees all year around. Prospective recruits
collect information about job openings from the Internet, information magazines and
classified ads, the schools career placement office, alumni and professors, as well as
from family and friends. Then they send in an application and take an exam or
interview at the company. After several interviews, they receive an unofficial job
offer. They choose one company, and sign an employment contract.
Employment in large corporations is very competitive because these positions promise
job security, better pay, and more generous benefits. Educational credentials from
prestigious universities help in securing job offers from large corporations.
Corporations with 1,000 employees or more advertised 106,000 new jobs in March
2000 to 218,000 eager college seniors. In contrast, medium and small-sized
corporations sought 301,000 new employees, but only 194,000 college seniors were
interested in those jobs (Keizai Kikakuch 1999:61). Employers select applicants

primarily based on their educational credentials, namely the rank of the college they
graduated from. Therefore, graduates from prestigious colleges are more likely to be
matched with prestigious large corporations, while graduates from less selective
colleges are more likely to obtain employment in smaller companies. Employers
regard educational credentials, along with age, sex, and social origin as the most
effective means of measuring and evaluating job applicants. Employers seek potential
rather than specific skills because most corporations have in-house training for new
hires. According to the 1998 Recruit Co. survey, corporations hire an employee based
on personality (81%); future potential (71.6%); enthusiasm (71.1%); aptitude test
scores (41.1%); personality test scores (35.9%); language skills (24.9%); academic
major (24.5%); and GPA (23.5%) (Keizai Kikakuch 1999:62-63).
Employers use school connections and alumni networks to recruit recent graduates of
prestigious universities. Many large corporations have already established
institutional networks with particular schools, and reserve a quota for graduates from
designated schools. It is well known that many science and engineering majors in
prestigious universities obtain jobs through recommendations by the faculty and the
departments, which have institutional connections with certain corporations.
The 1981 Survey on Occupational Mobility and History found that Japanese males in
large companies were most likely recruited through school connections (Brinton and
Kariya 1998:192). From a 1987 case study of male humanities and social science
majors, a company recruited their new employees from designated schools, through
alumni recruiters, and by judging their educational credentials (Takeuchi 1995:121153).
Educational credentials count for recruitment and entry-level training. However, they
do not have much effect on the later stages of peoples careers. An analysis of
employment records in a large finance and insurance company shows that college
credentials have no significant effect on the probability of reaching lower or middle
management, because almost everybody is automatically promoted on the basis of
seniority. The standing of the college only begins to have an effect on promotions to
upper-level jobs such as the department head (buch) twenty years after college
graduation. However, job performance and productivity, not a 20-year-old diploma,
most likely determines the promotion (Ishida, Spilerman and Su 1997:874, 879).

In addition to educational credentials and school networks, nepotism is common.

Many applicants use a personal network among family, friends, and/or acquaintances
to obtain employment in private companies and even in public organizations. Even
the appointment of civil servants and public teachers is a closed system, and the
scores of written exams are not part of the public record.
Female college graduates have a much harder time than male college graduates
obtaining a full-time job, especially during economic downturns. Most female college
students major in humanities and social science, and do not have marketable technical
and vocational skills. Teaching jobs used to be the most popular career among female
college graduates. However, in 1995, only 7.6 percent of college-educated women
obtained teaching positions (Tanaka 1997:136).
Many female students seek employment in private corporations, where they face
confront statistical discrimination (Thurow 1975). Company records show that
female workers tended to quit their jobs earlier than male workers, mainly because of
marriage or childbirth. Because of their family commitments, married women or
mothers cannot work overtime or accept transfers as easily as male workers.
According to the 1995 SSM survey, only 31.8 percent of college-educated female
employees who had worked before marriage, with the exception of teachers, remained
in the work force when their youngest child were born (Tanaka 1997:135).
The 1997 amendment to the 1985 Equal Employment Opportunity Act prohibits
discrimination against women in recruitment, hiring, assignments, and promotions.
Employers who violate the law face legal penalties. The law promotes positive
action to narrow the gender gap between male and female workers. Even with antidiscrimination laws, equality in recruitment and working conditions of female
employees has come very slowly.
Specialized Training Colleges (Sensh Gakk)

In 1976, specialized training colleges (sensh gakk) that offer vocational and
technical training in skills were upgraded from miscellaneous schools (kakushu
gakk) and granted formal recognition. Specialized training colleges have three
types: general-program courses open to the public, advanced-program courses for
middle-school graduates, and specialized-program courses for high school graduates
(called senmon gakk). Specialized training colleges have to provide at least one year

or more of course work, and 800 or more class units, and have 40 or more regular
students in order to keep their formal school status (Monbush 1999b:167). Most
specialized training colleges serve high school graduates. Others also offer courses
for middle-school graduates, and general courses for the public. In 2003,
approximately 786,000 students attended 3,439 specialized training colleges (91%
private) (Monbukagakush 2004a).
Specialized training colleges provide practical vocational and technical training for
high school graduates and adults. Recently, not only 18-year-olds, but also adults,
including college graduates, are attending in specialized training colleges in order to
gain skills for career advancement. Specialized training colleges became open to
applicants without high school diploma. High school graduates who attend
specialized training colleges come from the middle- and low-ranked academic high
schools, and vocational high schools. Many have given up on attending a four-year
college or failed to enter a four-year college. Some students have chosen to attend
specialized training colleges to become fashion designers, artists, hairdressers, cooks,
and dieticians. In 2003, new students in specialized courses (338,000) included new
high school graduates (71.2%) and college graduates (7.7%). The students take
courses in medical studies (26.8%), humanities and liberal arts (21.1%), engineering
(16.5%), public health (11.7%), commerce and business (10.3%), education and social
welfare (8.5%), home economics (4.8%), and agriculture (0.3%)(Monbukagakush
Despite the tight job market, the employment rate is better for graduates of specialized
training colleges than for graduates of junior colleges and lower-ranked four-year
colleges. In 1999, the rate of employment was 91.8 percent (Monbush 1999b:307).
In 1997, 18,800 college students attended courses in specialized training colleges, a
large increase from the 2,600 college students who attended courses in 1988, probably
because technical skills and certificates from specialized training colleges were more
marketable (Agata 2000:127).
Since the 1991 reform, units earned in specialized training colleges can be transferred
to colleges. Since 1995, the title of technical associate (senmonshi) have been
granted to graduates of specialized training colleges. Beginning in April 1999,
graduates of these institutions can transfer to four-year colleges. In 2003, 1,800
transfer students were admitted to four-year colleges (Monbukagakush 2004a).

The promotion of the transfer system from junior colleges and specialized training
colleges into four-year colleges gives late bloomers a chance to attend four-year
colleges and helps ease fears of examination hell. If selective four-year colleges
have a quota for transferred students from junior colleges and specialized training
colleges, similar to the transfer system from community colleges to four-year colleges
in the United States, many students can attend junior colleges or specialized training
colleges, study hard and earn good grades, and then transfer to four-year colleges.
In the United States, the transfer system provides abundant opportunities for
community college students to transfer into prestigious universities. In 1990, 47.1
percent of community college students completed 12 units or more within four years,
which is the requirement for transfer into a four-year university, and 21.8 percent
transferred to four-year colleges. Among those who received a bachelors degree in
1994, 15.5 percent started in community college (Phillippe 2000). In the fall of 2000,
more than 30 percent of high school graduates in California attended community
colleges, and 8 percent were enrolled in the University of California system.
According to state regulations, the University of California must accept the top oneeighth of graduating high school seniors, California State University takes the rest of
the top one-third, and community colleges take the remainder (Los Angeles Times
June 16, 2000).




Lifelong education (shgai kyiku) includes education at school, at home, and in

social settings.2 Before the introduction of lifelong education in the 1990s, lifelong
learning meant social education (shakai kyiku) where local governments provided
community-based enrichment classes for residents. Social education (shakai kyiku),
sometimes called adult education (seijin kyiku) or continuing education (keizoku
kyiku), differs from formal school education and covers all kinds of learning
activities from English conversation and computer classes to singing and aerobics
classes. Now lifelong education (shgai kyiku) usually refers to all continuing
education for adults, including social education in community centers and private
cultural centers, and recurrent education in formal schools.
Under the 1947 Social Education Law, the Japanese government has promoted
community-based social education in local halls and centers. The 1951 revision of the

law created positions for social education specialists in local administrations. In the
1950s and 1960s, local residents constructed community centers all over Japan. The
1971 report of the Central Council of Education emphasized the importance of
lifelong education. Social education for all residents, including the elderly and
disabled, has also been promoted at the community level (Nihon Shakai 1988:396406). Internationally, UNESCO has promoted lifelong/continuing education
worldwide since 1965. Since the 1970s, the Organization for Economic Cooperation
and Development (OECD) has promoted recurrent education for vocational training.
In 1988, in order to implement the recommendations of the National Council on
Educational Reform (Rinkyshin), the MOE established the Lifelong Learning
Bureau. In 1990, the Lifelong Learning Promotion Law was enacted, and the
Lifelong Learning Council was established as an advisory body to the MOE. The
government endorses social education programs, and provides scholarships for adult
participants who are interested in vocational training.
More adults have discovered the value of lifelong education and the importance of
improving their vocational skills and keeping up with high technology, information,
and internationalization. Furthermore, more adults, especially the elderly, have time
and wherewithal to enjoy lifelong education and recreation.
In Japan, most programs for social education are for personal enrichment, and not
career development. According to a 1992 survey, social education consists of health
and sports (23.7%), music and arts (23.2%), vocational knowledge and skills (9.9%),
home economics (8.5%), and literature and history (6.3%) (Monbush 1996:11).
Local governments and private educational organizations provide cultural education
and recreation for personal enrichment and health education. On the other hand,
colleges, specialized training colleges, and public human resources development
facilities offer career development courses for adults who want to advance in their
careers. Correspondence courses from colleges also provide a variety of courses from
cultural education to vocational development.
According to a 1999 national survey, the main organizers of classes and lectures for
social education are civic centers, prefectural and local public centers, municipal
boards of education, lifelong-education centers, social-education corporations, youth
centers, and womens centers. The majority of classes and lectures provided by the

boards of education, civic centers, and lifelong-education centers relate to arts and
culture as well as sports and recreation. The most common classes and lectures
provided by the prefectural and local governments are on home education and home
life (38.9%). Only a small percentage of classes and lectures are related to
vocational and technical training courses: only 2.4 percent of classes and lectures by
the boards of education, 1.8 percent by civic centers, 2.9 percent by the cultural
centers, and 4.5 percent by the prefectural and local public centers (Monbush
2000c). Lifelong learning participants spent an average of 1,021,000 yen per year for
graduate schools, 959,000 yen for colleges, 865,000 yen for specialized training
colleges, 271,000 yen for correspondence courses from colleges, 248,000 yen for
lifelong-education centers, 156,000 yen for private correspondence courses, 145,000
yen for the University of the Air, which is a public correspondence university, and
80,000 yen for community center courses, according to a 1996 survey (Keizai
Kikakuch 1999:70).


The local government makes community centers, sports facilities, and schools
available for residents to use for classes and sports. The local government offers
public lectures and classes to all residents for very low or no fees. Most classes take
place during the day. Community organizations such as womens associations and
senior citizens associations also offer cultural education classes and lectures in
community centers. In response to residents demands, the local government now
sponsors basic vocational training and certification courses, such as introductory
courses in computer science.
Participants in local and community classes are generally well-educated homemakers
and retirees who have time to take classes during the day. Urban areas have many
more facilities for lifelong education than rural areas. Local governments need to
provide more evening and weekend classes for working adults, and build more
branches in rural areas.
Local governments need to provide outreach programs for lifelong education to
socially and educationally disadvantaged people. Low-income residents with little
education need lifelong education for upward social or professional mobility.
However, those who need this practical training most are also the ones that are least
likely to take advantage of it (Miyasaka 1991:53). Moreover, the local government

needs to inform disabled people of the benefits of lifelong education. Some local
governments offer classes for disabled youths, where they learn social skills,
vocational skills, and have an opportunity to communicate with non-disabled people
(Nihon Shakai 1988:408-409).
As lifelong education flourishes, more and more private lifelong-education centers
(so-called Cultural Centers) and private educational/health organizations provide
classes and seminars for recreation and cultural education. In 1995, 1,559,000
students participated in 723 Cultural Centers (Monbush 1999b:263). The contents
of the courses are similar to those of community courses provided by local
governments at community centers. However, these courses are much more
expensive. In order to compete with community classes, private lifelong education
centers offer more evening classes for working adults. Many homemakers and
retirees take in daytime classes, and many young working people enrolled in evening
classes. But middle-aged married people who are busy working and raising children
have a hard time participating in these classes.
Lifelong Education in Marugame City

In response to the 1990 Lifelong Learning Promotion Law, the Committee for the
Promotion for Lifelong Education, consisting of community leaders and teachers was
formed under the chairmanship of the mayor of Marugame City (population 80,000)
in 1993.3 The Committee conducted a survey, and proposed the Action Plan for
Lifelong Education in Marugame. According to the 1992 survey of 20- to 74-year-old
Marugame residents, almost one-third (31.8%) of residents had participated in classes,
public lectures or activity groups for social education in the previous two years.
These classes were related to hobbies and arts (43.9%), sports (20.9%), skills and
technology (18.2%) and home economics (16.2%). Forty-two percent of participants
attended classes, lectures and/or conferences sponsored by the local or prefectural
government, 20 percent attended classes sponsored by private institutions, another 20
percent attended club activities, and 20 percent studied through an individual tutor.
Those who did not attend said they were too busy. The respondents stated that they
would like to take sports classes (37.4%), health management courses (35.5%),
courses in drawing, calligraphy, crafting, handcrafts, and photography (24.4%), in
cooking, needlework, and making kimonos (23.7%), and in gardening, including
bonsai (20.5%). They learned about social education programs through local or
prefectural bulletins, newspapers, posters, and flyers (Marugame-shi 1993).

Since the late 1960s, the Marugame Central Community Center in downtown
Marugame has operated community-based classes for social education. Course
offerings include calligraphy, flower arrangement, handcrafting, Chinese poetry,
cooking, sign language, caregiver training, Braille, dancing, exercise, computer
training and English conversation. Children may take calligraphy, English
conversation, and crafting classes. These classes meet for two hours a week. Most
classes cost 200 to 400 yen, with computer classes costing about 2,500 yen for four
Most courses meet during the day, but some courses are offered in the evenings and
on Saturdays. In the spring semester of 1998, 341 residents signed up for classes.
The majority of participants are homemakers and people in their 60s and older. The
lecturers are experts in arts and music and, like volunteers, teach for only minimal
compensation. After completing courses, some people join dance clubs, crafting
clubs, English conversation clubs, and haiku clubs. In 1998, fifty-six voluntary clubs
were registered in the Central Community Center, and met in community centers and
in members homes. These classes are open to anyone who lives or works in
Classes for lifelong learning have also been provided in branch community centers in
eleven community districts in Marugame. These districts correspond to the
elementary school districts. Each district has a community center where
neighborhood associations, womens associations and the associations for senior
citizens meet. The centers organize classes for social education for senior citizens and
women. For example, the associations for senior citizens organize classes and
activities such as cooking, health care, and playing with elementary school students.
It is more convenient for residents, especially the elderly, to take classes in local
district community centers rather than in the downtown Central Community Center. I
observed one class for the elderly in the nearby Jsei community center in March
1998. We saw a movie about Marugame castle while having tea. The class was very
much like a social meeting.
The Central Community Center of Marugame also operates a municipal college for
seniors, called the Hrai College, to encourage their participation in lifelong
learning and to build solidarity and friendships. Residents who are 60 years of age or
older are eligible to enroll. The Marugame Central Community Center holds classes a

few hours each day during the week. The students attend required lectures nine times
a year and as many elective classes as they want. Electives include local history, folk
songs, drawing, flower arrangement, calligraphy, planting, tea ceremony, handcrafts,
haiku, health exercise, needle work, and origami. Elective classes meet once a week
and cost 1,500 yen for nine months.
I observed a class on local history in March of 1998. The class of 40 to 45 students
toured historical sites in Marugame. One 75-year-old woman told me that she had
taken this class for seven years, and that most of her classmates had been taking this
class for a long time. The Hrai College gives the elderly not only an opportunity to
learn but also to make friends. They start taking these classes in their early 60s and
many re-enroll each year.
In addition to public classes, there is one major lifelong-education center in
Marugame, which has been operated since 1991 by the nationwide Social Insurance
Health Project Foundation. The Center teaches about preventive health care, and
provides medical checkups and free professional health consultations. The healthy
lifestyle courses include swimming, yoga, and aerobics. The Center also provides
classes on calligraphy, woodblock printing, tea ceremony, flower arrangement, choir,
folk songs, and English conversation. In 1997, 2,748 people attended these classes.
Most of the students are in their 40s and 50s who take classes to learn and to
socialize. The classes on flower arrangement and care for the elderly offer
certification upon completion. In 1998, the Center opened a playground for small
children and their mothers.
The Cultural Center sponsored by the Shikoku Newspaper Company also offers
classes for lifelong education. These classes meet for two hours a week, and cost
about 2,000 to 4,000 yen per month.


As the government has promoted recurrent education, the number of non-traditional

students has been increasing. Many adult workers feel it necessary for their career
advancement to keep up with the rapid changes in high technology. Also, the
recession has sent many unemployed people back to school to obtain technical skills
and certificates. Furthermore, the increasing number of retirees that have the time and
money to attend colleges for their pleasure adds to the population of non-traditional

students. Many colleges have been aggressively recruiting these non-traditional

students for their own survival because the drastically decreasing numbers of young
people in Japan has caused many private colleges to fall into debt or be on the verge
of bankruptcy.
Since the 1990s, many colleges have provided more night courses, correspondence
courses, public lecture courses, part-time courses, and an audit system for nontraditional students. In 2003, 143 colleges provided night courses for 110,000
students, and 21 colleges had night graduate schools. In 2003, 235,000 students,
including 14,000 graduate students, enrolled in correspondence courses at thirty-five
colleges. One-third (32.6%) of 191,000 undergraduates majored in social science, and
15.8 percent in education. Two-thirds (65.8%) of 25,000 students in correspondence
courses at junior colleges majored in education and 26.0 percent in social science
(Monbukagakush 2004a).
Since April 1985, the University of the Air, a public correspondence university, began
to take students through open admission, and since 1998 the classes have been
broadcasted nationwide via satellite. Starting in April 2002, the university provides
the courses for masters degrees. The 89,000 number student body (38% part-time
students) in the second semester of 2002 consisted of 21.3 percent in their 20s, 27.7
percent in their 30s, and 19.8 percent in their 40s. The students included company
employees, homemakers, the unemployed, civil servants, the self-employed, teachers,
and farmers (Naikakufu 2003a:115).
In 2003, 12.4 percent of students studying for their masters degree (20,000) and 21.1
percent of Ph.D. students (15,000) were (working) adults who returned to school
(Monbukagakush 2004a). A night graduate school system was established in 1990,
and 21 night graduate schools operate in metropolitan areas. In addition, graduate
schools started to offer correspondence courses in 1998. In 2003, 14,000 graduate
students studied education, humanities and other subjects from 15 graduate schools
(Monbukagakush 2004a).
Adult students are more likely to come from more privileged backgrounds. Career
development through job training in corporations is usually open to male workers.
Only large established companies send their employees to graduate schools for offthe-job training. This creates insufficient opportunities for the career development of

women, and for workers in medium and small-sized companies (Yano 1990:149150). According to a 1994 survey, the respondents hoped for expanded subsidies and
tax deductions for recurrent education (39.9%), classes on Saturdays and Sundays
(30.4%), longer part-time courses (16.7%), night classes (16.4%) and satellite classes
(10.9%) to make it easier for working adults to participate (Monbush 1996:110).
Since December 1998, the government has subsidized workers who take employmentrelated classes. More than 400,000 workers have used the system. The budget for
2001 was 35 billion yen. Since December 1998, the system of Tuition Scholarships
for Middle-aged Workers has covered half of tuition expenses (up to 100,000 yen)
for people 40 years of age or older. Since April 2000, the government has subsidized
80 percent of tuition for workers who return to school or take correspondence
courses. It raised the maximum scholarship to 300,000 yen, not only for classes that
are useful for re-employment, but also for classes in cultural enrichment. It also stated
that introductory and basic level lectures are not eligible, but elementary English
conversation is eligible. Workers who have contributed to the Employment
Insurance Pension for five years or more are eligible for these scholarships. Even if
they lose their jobs, but have begun the courses within one year of losing their jobs,
they can still receive subsidies. Afterwards, they must look for employment at the
Public Employment Placement Center (Hello Work) within a month after
completion. Those who just started working, part-time workers, and contract workers
are ineligible. Critics points out that the effectiveness of these classes is unproven
(AS April 16, 2000; AS June 23, 2001).
In the United States, part-time students represented 42.5 percent of 14,300,000
postsecondary enrollments in 1996 (NCES 2000). Community colleges play an
important role in recurrent education. Community colleges provide instruction in
general education and vocational training through an open admission system,
affordable tuition, and a transfer system to four-year colleges. They also offer classes
on evenings and weekends. In 1996-97, 9.3 million students took classes for credit,
and about 5 million people took non-credit classes. In 1997, 46 percent of students
were 25 years old or older, and 63.3 percent were part-time students (Phillippe 2000).


For vocational training, specialized training colleges under the jurisdiction of the
MOE, as well as human resources development facilities and polytechnic colleges

under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, have gained
popularity with adult students. Many job seekers have returned to these schools to
obtain new technical and vocational credential certificates. Among new students in
the professional course in specialized training colleges in 2003, 7.7 percent (26,000)
were returnee students who have a degree from a college or a five-year college of
technology (Monbukagakush 2004a).
The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare supervises the newly established
polytechnic junior colleges and four-year colleges, which provide two-year
specialized courses and/or two-year practical training courses for both adults and
recent high school graduates. Many polytechnic colleges have a small campus with
several hundred students. They teach people who are studying to become mid-level
technicians in civil, mechanical, electrical, and systems engineering. In addition, they
offer vocational training seminars for working adults and the general public. In 2002,
2,280 students studied in polytechnic junior colleges, and 35,040 students were
enrolled in polytechnic colleges (Naikakufu 2003a:129). The graduates of
polytechnic colleges have a very high rate of employment, thanks to the high demand
for technical workers.
The Employment and Human Resources Development Organization of Japan under
the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare operates 60 Centers for the Promotion of
the Development of Vocational Skills, which provide vocational training seminars and
courses for adults who are unemployed, looking for another career, or learning new
technical skills for career advancement. The Service Center for the Development of
Vocational Skills in each prefecture provides free consultation for the development of
vocational skills. The Lifelong Human Resources Development Center (The Ability
Garden) was established in 1997 for the development of vocational skills for whitecollar workers. The Ability Garden conducts research on vocational development,
provides satellite courses for vocational development, and operates an online network
for information and communication.
Public human resources development facilities run by the prefectural governments and
the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare provide one- to two-year courses for
middle school graduates, and three-month to two-year courses for high school
graduates and adults. Kagawa prefecture runs two prefectural vocational schools in
Takamatsu and Marugame. They offer vocational training, based on the Law for the

Promotion of the Development of Vocational Abilities and Skills. They have one-year
courses for middle school graduates, one-year or two-year courses for high school
graduates, and three-, six-, and twelve-month courses for adults who are looking for a
career or are planning to change careers.
As a more convenient and inexpensive way to learn vocational skills, evening high
schools and correspondence high schools are also open to adults who want to learn
liberal arts and vocational skills. Some evening high schools also provide short-term
public lecture courses for people who want to learn computer skills and other
vocational skills.
Higher education is now universal education. In April 2003, almost half of all new
high school graduates went to colleges, and another 19 percent continued on to
specialized training colleges. Almost half of all colleges provide remedial courses in
high school subjects. Following the 1991 recommendation of the College Council,
many colleges began to use syllabi, evaluation sheets, and transfer systems. They also
expanded graduate programs, and accepted more non-traditional students, as did
colleges in the United States.
Due to the drastically decreasing number of 18-year-olds, many private colleges have
been struggling to remain solvent. Many colleges relaxed their admissions criteria for
part-time and adult students in order to increase the number of fee-paying students.
More than half of private junior colleges fail to meet their quotas because of their
decreasing popularity among female students, who comprise 90 percent of their
student body. The expansion of the transfer system from junior colleges to four-year
colleges, like community colleges in the United States, may help junior colleges to
attract more late bloomers who plan to transfer to a good four-year college.
As a result of the economic downturn, slightly more than half of college graduates
obtained full-time jobs in 2003, down from 81 percent in 1991. More than one-fifth
of graduates neither found a job nor returned to school, and 4.6 percent obtained only
temporary jobs. Employment in large corporations is very competitive. Graduates
from prestigious universities may use their school connections and alumni networks to
obtain job offers. Many applicants use a personal network among their family,

friends, and acquaintances to open doors for them in private companies and public
Since the 1990s, more and more colleges have started to offer more night courses,
correspondence courses, public lecture courses, part-time courses, and audit systems
for non-traditional students. They are responding to the greater demand for recurrent
education as well as to economic necessity. However, non-traditional students
comprise only a very small percentage of the college student population. A few
homemakers and retirees return to school to pursue a higher degree, and only a few
workers from large corporations and the government are allowed the time to take
graduate courses. Newly established night graduate schools provide flexible
schedules for working people. Many adults who are looking for a job or for career
advancement attend specialized training colleges and public vocational schools out of
economic or professional necessity.
Since the 1960s and 1970s, local governments have provided residents with
inexpensive classes in community centers for recreation, sports, and cultural
education. Participants take enrichment classes during the day. As lifelong education
grows in popularity and the number of the elderly increases, many private lifelongeducation centers, called cultural centers, and health care centers offer day, night,
and weekend classes in recreation, sports, cultural education, and basic vocational
skills. In addition to homemakers and retirees, people who work during the daytime
can attend evening and weekend classes. The local government needs to provide
more outreach programs for low-income and disadvantaged families who need the
most lifelong education but are least likely to take advantage of it.
1. Works in English on college education in Japan and its prospects are summarized
in Kitamura (1991), Teichler (1998), Dore and Sako (1998), and McVeigh (2002).
The role of the institutional network in the recruitment process of college graduates to
work is discussed in Brinton and Kariya (1998), the ethnography of junior college
female students is presented in McVeigh (1997), and students views of college
education as shown in questionnaires are discussed in Lee-Cunin (2004). A
comparative study of the role of college credentials in the recruitment and promotion
of workers in Japan and the United States is analyzed by Ishida, Spilerman and Su
(1997). In the Japanese literature, the restructuring of colleges has been much

discussed in recent years (e.g., Okushima et al. 1998; Saeki et al. 1998; Amano 1999;
Nakamura 2000).
2. Lifelong education (shgai kyiku) has been much discussed in recent years, as
the government launched a large-scale program of lifelong education in the 1990s. In
Japanese, the history of social education (shakai kyiku) up to the 1980s is reviewed
in Nihon Shakai (1988), and lifelong education in higher education is discussed along
with the restructuring of college education in Amano (1996), Fujitsuka (1994), and
Okushima et al. (1998).
3. This case study is based on my March 1998 classroom observation and interviews
with the teachers and administrators in Marugame city hall, a municipal center, a
community center, and a lifelong education center.


Contents of This Chapter

1. 6-1

2. 6-2

3. 6-3


1. 6-1-1


2. 6-1-2


3. 6-1-3


4. 6-1-4



1. 6-2-1


2. 6-2-2




Careers in education are very popular in Japan and college graduates vie for the few
available teaching positions. Teaching jobs guarantee lifelong income and relatively
high occupational prestige. This chapter will describe and discuss Japanese teachers,
analyzing their profiles, qualifications, the profession, and the occupational culture.
In addition, this chapter will compare Japanese and American teachers.




The number of elementary school teachers, middle school teachers, and high school
teachers has been decreasing, in light of the declining birthrate.1 The number of
newly appointed elementary school teachers in 2000 was 6,000, slightly more than
one-third of the 16,200 teachers appointed in 1991. The number of newly appointed
middle school teachers in 2000 was 5,100, down from 12,000 in 1991. The number of
newly appointed high school teachers in 2000 was 6,500, a little more than two-thirds
of the 8,600 teachers appointed in 1991. Therefore, the average age of teachers has
been rising (Monbukagakush 2003a).
However, starting in April 2002, the number of new elementary school teachers was
greatly increased, because elementary schools have started to assign two classroom
teachers in the lower grades, and divide a class into two for main subjects. In a few
years, the number of new middle school teachers will also see an increase (AS
October 14, 2001).
In 2003, 62.7 percent of elementary school teachers, 40.9 percent of middle school
teachers, and 27.1 percent of high school teachers were female (Monbukagakush
2004a). Teaching is a very popular career among college-educated women, because it
is one of a few professions which offer pay equity, and allow women who have
children to be committed to their family and childcare responsibilities. In 1960, 46
percent of college-educated women accepted a teaching job, while in 1995 only 7.6
percent did so (Tanaka 1997:136). This is due to the growing number of female
college graduates and the shrinking number of job openings in schools.
The number of female principals and vice-principals has increased rapidly, especially
in elementary schools. Despite the efforts of feminists, a large gender gap remains in

school administration. In 2001, only 16.5 percent of elementary school principals

were female. The comparable figures for middle and high schools were 3.9 percent
and 4.0 percent respectively (Monbukagakush 2003a). Many female teachers, in
fact, decline managerial or administrative positions because they would rather remain
in the classroom teachers, focus on their family responsibilities, or lack the confidence
to be an administrator (Okano and Tsuchiya 1999:187).
Table 6.1

Teacher Profiles in 2001



Percentage of Female

Percentage of Female
Principals (Vice-Principals)





16.5% (22.4%)

Middle School




3.9% (7.7%)

High School




4.0% (4.4%)

(Source: Monbukagakush 2003a)



Before the educational reform of 1947, most teachers were trained in normal schools.
The first normal school was founded in 1872 when the School Law regulated fouryear compulsory elementary education for the first time. In 1897, normal schools,
womens normal schools, and higher normal schools were established. Elementary
school teachers required four years of training from normal schools or womens
normal schools. Middle school teachers had three more years of training in higher
normal schools after graduating from normal schools. Tokyo and Hiroshima teachers
colleges provided advanced studies in education for graduates of higher normal
schools. The training period in normal schools was expanded to five years for higher
elementary graduates and to two years for students who graduated from middle
school. In 1943, normal schools were upgraded to professional schools, and required
a degree from a middle school and three more years of training.
In the reform of 1949, normal schools were incorporated into the university system.
National universities were established in each prefecture, and included education
departments for producing elementary and middle school teachers in their hometown

prefectures. Education for teachers included specialized preparation in education and

in the liberal arts. Education departments in 45 national universities and seven
teachers colleges have provided training for elementary and middle school teachers.
However, responding to the drop in demand for new teachers, the MOE plans to
integrate the departments of education in adjacent national universities (AS November
23, 2001). The majority of high school teachers are not education majors, but took
degrees in fields like mathematics and history.
Under an open license system, teaching certificates are granted to anyone who
completes the required courses necessary for the teaching certificate in junior or fouryear colleges. The prefectural board of education grants a teaching certificate to those
who meet the certification requirements. Anyone who has a teaching certificate is
eligible to take a prefectural examination to become a teacher.
The prefectural board of education hires new teachers through written examination
and interviews. The prefectural examination includes a written examination,
swimming examination, and a test of musical abilities for elementary school teachers,
and specialized subject examinations for middle and high school teachers. Interviews
and presentations gained in importance. The board of education appoints teachers
who are recommended by the superintendent. The confidentiality and the closed
nature of the selection procedure have fostered suspicions of nepotism and
favoritism. Rumors often circulate that the children of teachers and local authorities
may receive special favors so that they pass the prefectural examination. The
selection process should be more open to the public.
In 1988, the National Council on Educational Reform recommended the deregulation
of the recruitment system. A one-year course to obtain a teaching certificate became
available to adults who wanted to become teachers. Special certificates for temporary
teachers were made available to those without teaching certificates, but have the
necessary knowledge and skills. Most prefectures establish the age limit to take the
prefectural examination. The age limit should be abolished, and the recruitment of
full-time faculty teachers should be open to anybody with qualifications. Adults with
experience outside of academia could give students different and worthwhile
perspectives. Students could also have an opportunity to learn from someone who has
practical experience in the world outside of academia.

Japanese citizenship is required of those who wish to become full-time faculty.

Activists for the rights of Korean residents in Japan have fought hard for the abolition
of nationality clauses for civil servants. In 1991, the MOE finally notified the
prefectural administration that the article on nationality should be abolished from the
prefectural examination for public school teachers and that the prefectural
administration could conditionally employ permanent residents as permanent
teachers. They are excluded from the positions of homeroom teachers, supervisors,
vice-principals, or principals.
Passing a prefectural examination is very competitive because of the scarcity of
teaching positions. A new public school teacher had to pass prefectural examinations
whose passing rate was one out of every 8.3 (5.3 for elementary school teachers, 11.8
for middle school teachers, and 13.9 times for high school teachers) in 2003. New
college graduates comprised only 24.7 percent of all new teachers in 2003
(Monbukagakush 2004e).
The education departments of the national university have produced the largest
number of elementary and middle teachers since 1947. More than half (55.5%) of
graduates from education departments at the national universities became teachers in
2003. It has increased since 32 percent, the smallest percentage on record in 1999
(AS December 14 2004). Since the 2002-3 school year, the number of new
elementary school teachers has increased and will continue to increase because of the
promotion of 20-student classes for some subjects in elementary and middle schools.
The competition has been exacerbated by the recent popularity of teaching jobs in this
sluggish economic climate. Public teachers have a stable income for life and good
pensions. Jobs in the public sector are more attractive than those in private sectors.
Many private companies are fighting for their survival, and many large corporations
no longer guarantee a job for life. Furthermore, teachers enjoy more respect and
occupational prestige than most white-collar workers. Teachers are addressed by
honorifics such as sensei, the same as medical doctors, politicians, and professors.
According to the 1995 Social Stratification and Social Mobility Survey (SSM), the
occupational prestige score of elementary school teachers, 63.6, is higher than that of
bank employees (56.4), section chiefs of municipal administrations (56.9), but a little
lower than automobile engineers (66.3) (Tsuzuki 2000:40)

New teachers who have passed extremely competitive prefectural exams are highly
qualified for the positions that they hope to hold. They are graduates of national
universities or selective private universities. According to a survey, teachers choose
their careers through influence from their parents and former teachers, by reading
books about teaching, and/or by watching television series about teachers (Yamasaki
An overwhelming majority of teachers are graduates from four-year colleges with
bachelors degrees. Most teachers do not have a masters degree, but the number of
teachers with masters degrees has been increasing. After the 1998 reform, students
who have a masters degree have received a teaching certificate superior to the
existing first-class certificate, and have fast-tracked to managerial positions. Due to
the competition for teaching positions, many applicants who failed a prefectural
examination enroll in masters courses for a superior certificate so that they may
improve their odds of passing the prefectural examination.
Once they have passed the prefectural examination, teachers are assigned to schools
by the prefectural board of education. After completing a one-year internship, they
are granted tenure for life. The prefectural board of education rotates teachers from
school to school every three to five years in order to provide a consistent quality of
education to all students. Teachers salaries are determined on the basis of their
seniority and managerial positions. There are few regional discrepancies in teachers
salaries because the MOE subsidizes the educational expenses of the prefectures. The
MOE plans to entrust each prefectural administration with more authority on deciding
a salary system for teachers. Since 2006, the government plans to permit the local
administration hire teachers in their jurisdiction.
Few teachers face dismissal because of criminal or administrative misconduct.
Among 3,966 public teachers who received some occupational citation or warning,
including 98 dismissals, in the 2000-1 school year, 141 teachers were charged with
obscenity, 428 teachers were charged with physical punishment, and 265 teachers
were charged in matters concerning the Hinomaru (national flag) and Kimigayo
(anthem) (AS December 27, 2001).



Teachers have been teaching students five days a week since April 2002. In most
cases, they often go to school during summer, winter, and spring vacations, and take
some days off when they can. They teach fewer hours than American teachers, but
spend more time on paperwork and extracurricular clubs. Most teachers report that
they are burned out by their heavy workloads. According to a survey taken by the
Zenky (All Japan Teachers and Staffs Union), teachers worked an average of 55
hours a week, 11 hours more than the required 44. On average, teachers spent 10
hours and 36 minutes a day at school, arriving at school at 7:49 a.m. and leaving at
6:25 p.m. Forty-four percent of teachers took fewer than 10 days off even during the
forty-day summer holiday. Male middle and high school teachers were more likely
than female teachers to supervise after-school extracurricular sports clubs, spending
an average of 2 hours and 41 minutes a week, while female teachers were more likely
to supervise non-sports clubs, spending on average 54 minutes a week. Furthermore,
male teachers spent more time on school administration and paperwork than female
teachers (Okano and Tsuchiya 1999:141, 152, 179). However, since a four percent
salary increase for overtime work is paid to all teachers, whether they worked
overtime or not, these extra hours are more likely to be considered unpaid work.
According to the survey, more than 90 percent of teachers reported that they were
busy or extremely busy. Elementary and middle school teachers spend a great
deal of time on paperwork, school events, meetings, and extracurricular clubs. Many
teachers think that teaching requires self-sacrifice, dedication and stress. They also
feel that they deserve to have higher salaries and respect from society. However,
teachers reported that they loved spending time with children (Kudomi 1994a:244247). According to the Zenky survey, 58 percent of teachers had considered quitting,
and the majority of them cited health problems caused by overwork as one reason
(Okano and Tsuchiya 1999:152).
Teachers are responsible for guidance and counseling because most schools do not
have school psychologists and counselors. The teachers in the student guidance
committee are in charge of disciplining students with the cooperation of their
homeroom teacher, a nurse-teacher, and the supervising teacher of their
extracurricular club at school. Since 1995, the MOE has begun to deploy school
counselors to school in order to supervise troubled students. Although there are now
more school counselors than ever before, there is still less than one counselor per

school. It is important to have school counselors to deal with bullying, school refusal
syndrome, and misconduct because school counselors deal with psychological
problems, and have different perspectives from teachers.
Smaller classes and the team-teaching system can reduce teacher workloads. The 30student class proposal has been rejected by the MOE because of the expense. Instead,
since April 2001, the MOE has allowed schools to create 20-student study groups for
Japanese language arts, mathematics, and science in elementary schools, and English,
mathematics, and science in middle schools.
In 1993, the MOE established team-teaching system in order to pay closer attention to
individual students, and to reduce teachers workloads. From 1993 to 2000 the MOE
increased the number of teachers to approximately 15,900. In the 2001-2 school year,
46 percent of public elementary schools and 74 percent of public middle schools
provided team-taught classes, especially in mathematics. Starting in the 2001-2
school year, the MOE increased the number of teachers to 22,500 over five years in
order to provide small study groups of 20 students for elementary and middle school
classes. The prefectures can employ several temporary teachers instead of one regular
teacher for the same amount of money (AS July 9, 2002; Monbukagakush
2003b:126-127). In 2001, the MOE began to subsidize 50,000 supplementary
teachers who would be recruited over three years among the general public, including
people without teaching certificates and retired teachers. These instructors would
teach computer skills or other practical subjects for approximately 30 hours a week,
forming team-teaching groups with regular teachers. Schools also invite retired
teachers or local residents to come in and teach a few days a week as paid volunteers
(AS August 4, 2001; Monbukagakush 2003b:62-63). It is a good idea for schools to
recruit classroom aides and volunteers from the community. This can be implemented
with relatively small budgetary outlays because of the large number of educated
homemakers who are willing to work as teachers aides.
The prefectural government employs and pays public school teachers. The national
government covers the educational expenses of prefectures in order to provide
uniform salaries to all public teachers in the nation. The Japan Teachers Union (JTU)
fought vigorously for better pay through nationwide strikes in the late 1960s, and in
1971 won a uniform 4 percent increase to all teachers for overtime work. In 1974, the
government increased salaries for teachers. Since then, all elementary and secondary

teachers have been paid at least 10 percent more than civil servants in the same length
of service, in order to attract more highly qualified people. All teachers are paid a
basic salary based on the length of their tenure, in addition to fringe benefits. At
retirement, teachers are paid a lump sum that amounts to more than two years of their
salary. Teachers with 40 years of service also receive an annual pension of 70 percent
of the last years salary for the rest of their lives.
The National Commission on Educational Reform proposes special bonuses for
teachers who have brought about good results from their students, which is against the
principle of educator egalitarianism sought by the JTU and the Zenky. Therefore,
whether or not special bonuses will be introduced remains to be seen. In the United
States, some states have provided cash bonuses for teachers who have improved the
performance of their students on standardized tests. Governor Gray Davis of
California promised awards of $25,000 to the 1,000 teachers whose students test
scores rose the most. An additional 3,750 employees will receive $10,000 each, and
7,500 will get $5,000 each under the testing-and-accountability program (Los Angeles
Times October 10, 2001).
The National Council on Educational Reform (Rinkyshin) has recommended
upgrading in-service training to make classroom teachers more effective. The inservice training for teachers includes an education program, in-house workshops,
voluntary in-service workshops, and two-year masters programs at teachers
colleges. In-service training helps teachers develop their pedagogical skills by
working with other teachers. Teachers can now have a one to twelve-month
internship in a private company or social welfare facility. Since April 2001, teachers
can take a leave of absence in order to complete a masters program.
Municipal boards of education, teachers associations, and unions arrange national,
prefectural, and municipal workshops for teachers to discuss pedagogy. Each school
provides in-house teachers workshops. Many teachers are interested in improving
their teaching skills in voluntary study groups. Furthermore, teachers themselves
organize pedagogical workshops. For example, Dwa teachers of Buraku children
attend national and prefectural Dwa Teachers Conferences, in addition to municipal
workshops and meetings (See Chapter 9). They also publish their own pedagogical



Many teachers spend their spare time at school and outside of school with other
teachers. Many teachers have spouses, parents, and siblings who are also teachers.
According to a survey of elementary and middle school teachers, 60 percent of
teachers are married to other teachers or former teachers, and 65.6 percent of teachers
have relatives who are also teachers (Kudomi 1994a:187-188). Teachers interact with
each other in the teachers lounge during the recess and daily teachers conference. In
the lounge, all desks are placed together according to grades or academic subjects.
Some middle and high schools have a small teachers room for each academic subject,
and teachers stay there when they have free time. They have morning and afternoon
meetings in the teachers lounge to discuss daily school events and student behavior.
During recess, they discuss troubled students, teaching methods and contents, school
events, and class management. Though it is good to exchange ideas, in Japan the
pressure to cooperate with other teachers is high. Teachers sometimes socialize with
their colleagues on the weekend and after school. The majority of schools have
informal groups formed by young teachers, female teachers, drinking buddies, and
homeroom teachers from the same grade. In addition, many schools have sports
groups, and groups of experienced teachers that form social clubs.
Teachers as well as parents admire hard-working teachers who are enthusiastic and
dedicated to their students. Therefore, many teachers feel pressured to dedicate more
time to their students in order to earn good reputations from their colleagues and the
parents. A vast majority of teachers claimed to be extremely busy. Those who have
burned out no longer enjoy their work. Female teachers participate in extracurricular
clubs less frequently than male teachers, but they often have to balance their teaching
with their family responsibilities. They spend most Sundays catching up on
housework. In contrast, male teachers watch TV or engage in hobbies, or go to school
to supervise extracurricular activities on Sunday (Kudomi 1994a:193, 244, 278-279).
Female teachers spend 2 hours and 25 minutes on housework and child rearing a day
while male teachers spend 45 minutes a day (Okano and Tsuchiya 1999:179). The
Saturday break since April 2002 has helped teachers relax more.
Each teacher has his or her own life style, teaching principles, and work ethic. They
have different attitudes, union activities, teaching principles, and academic interests.
Sat categorizes teachers as public servants, workers, technocrats, and reflective
practitioners. Before the end of World War II, teachers were public servants who

served the country and the emperor, and the teaching profession was a sacred
profession. The image of teachers as public servants persists to this day. The
Japan Teachers Union (JTU) regarded teachers as a proletarian workforce and
fought for better working conditions for teachers in the 1960s. Teachers as workers
created the image of salaried teachers. Salaried teachers teach only for the
paycheck, try to avoid overtime, and do not belong to unions or supervise
extracurricular clubs. Many female teachers became salaried teachers because of
their family responsibilities. Technocrat teachers promote their professional
pedagogy based on academic theory and technology. Reflective practitioners
improve their teaching skills and abilities through teaching practices and reflection
through informal relationships with other teachers and through study groups (Sat
1994:30-31, 38-39).
Until the 1990s, the Japan Teachers Union (JTU), led by socialists and communists,
were instrumental in countering the conservative MOE. In the 1990s, the JTU made a
historic compromise with the MOE. The JTU was one of the largest left-wing unions
that had belonged to the Shy (General Council of Trade Unions). In 1989, when
Shy was absorbed into the more moderate Reng (Japanese Trade Union
Confederation), the JTU also joined the Reng. In 2004, the JTU had 310,000
members, 29.9 percent of all teachers, and 18.9 percent of new teachers joined the
JTU (Monbukagakush 2004g). The influence of the JTU varies by prefecture.
The second largest national union is All Japan Teachers and Staffs Union (Zenky),
which had 7.6 percent of all teachers in 2004 (Monbukagakush 2004g). Former JTU
members who opposed the JTUs compromise with the MOE, mainly supporters of
the Japan Communist Party (JCP), split from the JTU and formed the Zenky in
1991. The Zenky belongs to the National Confederation of Trade Unions
(Zenrren), which cooperates with the JCP. The Zenky does not agree with the
JTUs partnership with the MOE, and follows the traditional oppositional stance of the
JTU. The Zenky campaigns for 30-student classes, and opposes militarism, with the
old motto: Never send our students to war!
The Japan High School Teachers Union (Nikkso) was formed in 1950, and split from
the JTU in 1956 because they preferred political neutrality and less confrontational
approaches, and were dissatisfied with the JTUs focus on primary education.

Another large union is the National Teachers Federation of Japan (Zennichikyren),

which was formed in 1984 and includes the association that originally split from the
JTU in 1957. The Zennichikyren takes a moderate and apolitical position, but tends
to lean towards the conservative end of the political spectrum.


In 1947, the Japan Teachers Union (JTU) was founded on the ideals of egalitarianism,
grass roots democracy, and peace, the same principles supported by the postwar labor
movement. The JTU admired the postwar educational reforms enacted by the GHQ,
such as child-centered progressive education, the publicly elected board of education,
and the decentralization of education. However, the JTU was disappointed by the
resurgence of militarism and conservatism during the Cold War. In the late 1940s, the
GHQ purged socialist and communist teachers.
Peace education is the corner stone of the JTU platform. In 1951, the JTU adopted the
slogan Never send our students to war again! Teachers and the general public were
deeply hurt by the devastation of World War II, and were very sensitive about wartime
military deployment and patriotism. Many teachers regretted having shared in the
ultra-nationalistic and patriotic education, which had encouraged their students to die
for the Emperor. The JTUs commitment to peace education and anti-militarism arose
from this profound sense of professional guilt.
After Japans independence in 1952, the MOE tried to rescind the GHQs liberal
educational reforms, and reassert its control over education. In 1958, 86 percent of all
educators belonged to the JTU (Monbukagakush 2004g), and the JTU wielded
tremendous influence. In the 1952 school board elections, JTU candidates won 35
percent of the seats on prefectural school boards and 30 percent of the seats on
municipal boards of education (Duke 1978:257). Worried about the influence of
leftist teachers over Japanese children, the MOE counterattacked.
In 1956, the MOE replaced the elected boards of education with appointed boards of
education and prefectural superintendents approved by the MOE, in order to remove
the JTU members. In 1958, the MOE made its Course of Study legally binding, and
required teachers to follow it. The JTU, which sought autonomy and egalitarianism
for teachers, fought against these changes under the slogan Opposition, Smash, and

Stop. The JTU regarded teachers as workers, and cited the class struggle in their
1956 and 1961 platforms (Ishikawa 1985:237-244).
The MOE shifted its emphasis from child-centered education to planned education in
its 1958 Course of Study. After 1955, progressive child-centered education declined
as critics attributed the falling educational achievements of children to the childcentered education. Instead, history and mathematics teachers advocated subjectoriented and planned study (keit gakush) for the improvement of academic
achievement. The 1958 and 1968 Courses of Study emphasized systematic
education. At the same time, however, the JTU praised egalitarian and democratic
child-centered education.
In 1958, the MOE reintroduced moral education (dtoku). The pre-war moral
education (shshin), which molded Japanese children into the emperors soldiers, had
been prohibited by the GHQ. The JTU accused the MOE of reviving wartime
patriotism and nationalism. However, moral education, which is more like character
and value education, is not as nationalistic or patriotic as the liberals had feared.
In fall 1956, the Ehime prefectural board of education started a Teacher Performance
Assessment Program. In 1958, the MOE and most prefectural boards of education
started to implement a Teacher Performance Assessment Program. Under this
program, principals observed and evaluated teaching techniques, attitudes, and work
ethic, and used the evaluations for the promotion and rotation. The JTU feared that
the Program would undermine egalitarian cooperation. The JTU vowed to fight the
implementation of the Program through nationwide campaigns and strikes. In
December 1958, more than 440,000 teachers in 40 prefectures protested the Program
with the support of over two million labor union members of the Shy (General
Council of Trade Unions) (Okano and Tsuchiya 1999:38). More than 62,000 JTU
members were punished, and 70 teachers were dismissed (Nihon Kyshokuin
1989:10). In 1969, the Supreme Court acquitted all Tokyo JTU teachers who had led
strikes against the Program, and recognized the legality of strikes by teachers who
were using their paid leaves (Kimura 1996:193). The Program has been used
nationwide, but most prefectural boards of education have not used it for promotion.
Another JTU fight was against the mandatory National Scholastic Test in 1961. The
National Scholastic Test was required by the MOE and conducted in elementary and

middle schools from 1956 to 1966, and in high schools from 1956 to 1962. At the
beginning, the Test was assigned to only a portion of students. However, in 1961, the
MOE decided to test all eighth and ninth graders. The JTU was adamantly opposed to
the Test, fearing that it would bring excessive rivalry and hierarchy among schools
and prefectures. Many teachers were punished, and filed suit. The Test was
eventually abandoned in 1969.
The JTU has won better working conditions and salaries for teachers. In 1971, the
JTU obtained a 4 percent salary increase for overtime work for all teachers. This
increase for all teachers, whether they worked overtime or not, was meant to maintain
professional solidarity. Since 1974, the JTU has earned public teachers the right to be
paid at least 10 percent more than other public servants. That guaranteed teachers
relatively higher salaries and occupational prestige. Female union members were at
the forefront of the crusade for maternity and childcare leave. In 1955, they argued
for and won a system of substitution that allowed them to take a 16-week maternity
leave without worrying about their homeroom classes. They also succeeded in
implementing a year childcare leave for teachers, nurses, and nursery caregivers in
1975 (Nikkyso 1977). That led to the 1995 Child Care and Family Care Leave Law,
which guarantees parental and childcare leave for all workers with a child under one
year of age.
The JTU has participated in peace movements and liberal political activities, despite
legal prohibitions against public teachers engaging in political activities. The JTU,
with the JSP (Japan Socialist Party; since 1996, the Social Democratic Party of Japan),
the JCP, unionists, and citizens groups were in the vanguard of the peace movement,
and demonstrated against the 1960 and 1970 U.S.-Japan Security Treaties,
rearmament legislation, the Vietnam War, nuclear and hydrogen bomb testing, and the
legalization of the national flag and anthem during the 1960s and 1970s (Nihon
Kyshokuin 1989).
The JTU opposed the required flying of the national flag, the Hinomaru and singing
the anthem, the Kimigayo, in the school ceremonies in 1975 because both were
symbols of Japans aggression in World War II. Furthermore, the JTU actively
participated in the political movements of the Shy (General Council of Trade
Unions) and the JSP against conservative LDP policies, such as the law for the
Yasukuni Shrine in 1974 and the legalization of the usage of the emperors name for

designating the year in 1978. The JTU supported the 32-year-long Ienaga Textbook
Authorization Suits (1965-1997) against the MOE, in a coalition of leftist individuals
and groups.
Since the 1960s and 1970s, before the government launched comprehensive human
rights education for minority children in the early 1990s, the JTU had been actively
fighting for the rights of children in poverty, Buraku children, Korean children, and
disabled children. In the 1960s, the movement for free textbooks, free tuition, and
free school lunches led by the JTU and the Buraku Liberation League (BLL)
convinced the government to pay basic educational costs in elementary and middle
schools (Zenkoku 1999). At its 1961 convention, the JTU declared, A high school
education for everyone who wants one, and demanded that the government build
new high schools (Nihon Kyshokuin 1989:12). In 1975, the JTU participated in the
liberation movement of the BLL whose leaders were also affiliated with the Japan
Socialist Party. The JTU, along with the government, the BLL and Zendky
(National Dwa Educators Association), has supported remedial education for
Buraku children. In addition, the JTU, with Korean parents and Korean associations,
have helped to promote ethnic education for Korean students in Japanese schools.
In 1975, the government introduced a system of middle-level supervising teachers
(shunin). The JTU was afraid that creating middle-management positions without
union affiliations would weaken the solidarity of union teachers. After nationwide
strikes by union teachers, in 1975 the government compromised so that the shunin
system would not be regarded as managerial without union affiliation (Miyake
1994:69-70). Middle-level supervising teachers (shunin) in elementary schools
generally include a curriculum coordinator, a chief teacher for each grade, and a chief
teacher for student guidance. In addition to these supervising teachers, middle schools
and high schools usually have a chief teacher for each subject department and a chief
teacher for guidance for further education or employment. The supervising teachers
are paid an additional 4 percent of their annual salary on the top of the basic salaries.
The principal appoints a shunin after the approval of the principals recommendation
by the board of education. However, once teachers became vice-principals or
principals, they have to resign their union membership.
From the inception of the JTU, internal tensions between the pro-JSP faction and the
pro-JCP faction in the JTU were a consistent problem at the national level until the

withdrawal of pro-JCP faction in 1991. The JSP faction supported strikes, as one of
the most effective strategies of union workers, while the JCP faction was
unenthusiastic about strikes. By 1962, Socialists had won the majority at the national
level of the organization. At the prefectural level, most prefectures had two teachers
unions affiliated with the JTU: one for elementary and middle school teachers and the
other for high school teachers. At the school level, JTU teachers and non-union
teachers avoided ideological battles, and compromised on practical matters.


In 1989, the JTU joined the Reng when its parent union federation, Shy was
absorbed into the Reng. The Reng, which had been formed by the private sector
unions, sought more conciliatory approaches than the socialist-dominated Shy
(comprised mainly of public sector unions). As a result, in 1991, pro-JCP union
members, a non-mainstream faction, left the JTU, and established another national
teachers union, the Zenky. The Zenky belongs to the National Confederation of
Trade Unions (Zenrren) and is affiliated with the JCP. At the prefectural level, JTU
members voted on what directions to take, and the dissidents created an alternative
union. The JTU had 48.5 percent of educational personnel as members in 1987. After
the split of the Zenky from the JTU, in 1992, 35 percent of teachers belonged to the
JTU, 11 percent to the Zenky and 13 percent to other teachers unions, while 41
percent did not belong to any union. Some prefectures had strong ties to the JTU,
some had with the Zenky or other unions. For example, 85 percent of teachers
belonged to the JTU, and other 15 percent did not belong to any teachers union at all
in Fukui prefecture, while 46 percent of teachers belonged to the Zenky, 11 percent
to other unions, and only one percent to the JTU in Kyoto prefecture. In Ehime
prefecture, 62 percent of teachers belonged to other unions and only 1 percent to the
JTU and another 1 percent to the Zenky (Aspinall 2001:48, 60-61). In 2004, 29.9
percent of all teachers belonged to the JTU and 7.6 percent belonged to the Zenky
(Monbukagakush 2004g).
In 1989, the MOE implemented a mandatory one-year probationary internship
program for all new teachers under the supervision of experienced or retired teachers,
in order to improve the quality of instruction and to undermine the authority of the
unions. The JTU, the JSP and the JCP opposed this program because new teachers
would miss the opportunity to join unions while they were under the direct
supervision of a principal and the board of education in the first year. However, the

JTU could not block the internship program because of the JSPs weak political
stance, declining membership in the JTU, and internal conflict within the union
(Miyake 1994:71). It is very possible that new teachers would hesitate to join the
union for fear that their union membership might pose an obstacle to being offered
permanent teaching positions following their internships.
In 1990, after the political power of the JTU had declined, the JTU decided to
abandon its long-standing radical stance in favor of a more conciliatory approach
under the new slogan, Participation, Proposition, and Improvement. In its 1990
platform, the JTU avoided mentioning controversial subjects such as the Hinomaru
(national flag) and the Kimigayo (anthem), internships, and the shunin system.
In 1995, the JTU reconciled with the MOE, and joined in the educational policymaking process of the MOE. This change in the JTU followed a historical
compromise of the JSP to the LDP in 1994. The JSP formed a coalition government
with the LDP under Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama of the JSP, and dropped its
opposition to the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty and the Japan Self-Defense Force.
When the JTU declared its partnership with the MOE, it modified all oppositional
positions, such as the forced use of the Hinomaru and the Kimigayo, the internship
program for new teachers, and the shunin system. The JTU participated in policymaking agencies, such as the influential Central Education Council of the MOE in
1996. It became hard for the JTU to keep its previous role as an influential critic of
the MOE once the two began to collaborate. However, the JTU has a chance to affect
the educational policies more pragmatically and efficiently by cooperating with the
The declining number of JTU members threatens the survival of the JTU, although the
JTU remains the most popular teachers unions. The factionalism among union
leaders in the 1980s alienated many ordinary teachers who were more concerned with
their day-to-day professional responsibilities than politics. The ideological classbased approach does not attract young, non-political teachers.
In light of the collapse of the Soviet Union, socialism, communism, and even
unionism have lost their appeal to most Japanese people. All unions are plagued with
declining membership; union members comprised only 19.6 percent of the workforce
in 2003 (Kseirdsh 2003a). Most teachers are not affiliated with any political

parties, and are more involved with daily schoolwork. Since teachers have already
won relatively good salaries, secure pensions, maternity and childcare leave, better
working conditions are less of an issue than in previous years. However, teachers still
need to fight for the educational environment and for better working conditions. The
JTU and other teachers unions need to devise more practical plans and proposals in
order to regain their popularity among new teachers. Otherwise, few teachers will pay
the monthly union dues of 10,000 yen.
In the United States an estimated 3.4 million elementary and secondary school
teachers were engaged in classroom instruction in the fall of 2002 (NCES 2004a).
The average age for both American and Japanese teachers is rising, and currently the
average teacher is over 40 years old. In the United States, the average age of full-time
teachers is rising as the large pool of teachers hired in the mid-1970s has aged. In the
spring of 2001, 79.0 percent of public school teachers were women, and their median
age was 46. The median number of years of teaching experience was 14 years.
Teachers were 84.3 percent whites, 7.6 percent blacks, 5.6 percent Hispanics, 1.6
percent Asian/Pacific Islanders and 0.9 percent American Indian/Alaska Natives in
1999-2000, while the student body in public elementary and secondary schools
consisted of 61.2 percent whites, 17.2 percent blacks, 16.3 percent Hispanics, 4.1
percent Asian/Pacific Islanders, and 1.2 percent American Indians/Alaskan Natives in
the fall of 2000 (NCES 2003a). In Japan in 2001, 61.6 percent of elementary school
teachers were women, but less than half of middle school teachers (39.5%) and onefourth of high school teachers (25.2%) were female (Monbukagakush 2003a).
Educational qualifications of teachers are one of most important determinants of the
quality of the instruction that they deliver. Almost all teachers in the United States
and Japan have at least a bachelors degree. In 2001, 56.0 percent of all American
public school teachers had a masters or specialist degree, and 0.8 percent had a
doctoral degree (NCES 2004a).
Only a small percentage of Japanese teachers have any graduate degree. More new
teachers have masters degrees. Until recently, only students who sought careers in
colleges and research institutes went to graduate school. Currently, more graduate
courses are available to a growing number of college graduates and people who have
been out of school for years. Also, since 1989, students with a masters degree can

receive the highest class of teaching certificate, and have a better chance at passing
competitive prefectural examinations.
Becoming a teacher is far more difficult in Japan than in the United States. Teaching
jobs are one of most popular choices among college graduates in Japan. A new public
school teacher had to pass prefectural examinations whose passing rate was one out of
every 8.3 in 2003 (Monbukagakush 2004e).
Becoming a teacher in the United States is relatively easy because of the shortage of
teachers, and the unpopularity of teaching jobs. About 55,000 teachers were expected
to retire in 2001. More teachers will be needed to meet increasing enrollment a total
of 2.2 million new teachers by 2010 (TIME April 9 2001). Most public school
teachers in the United States had state certificates, or advanced professional
certificates. However, because of the nationwide teacher shortage, more new teachers
hold temporary certificates, emergency certificates, or waivers, especially in schools
with high minority enrollments and with many children living in poverty. Many
teachers can go into the classroom with an emergency or temporary state certification,
or a state test of basic skills. For example, more than 42,000 teachers in California
who lack full credentials account for 14 percent of the workforce; they are
concentrated in the lowest-performing schools with many minority children from
impoverished or low-income families (Los Angeles Times December 12, 2001).
The teaching profession cannot attract top students because of low income and low
occupational prestige, in contrast with other white-collar jobs such as engineering.
The occupational prestige score of public school teachers (Score 80) is lower than that
of civil engineers (Score 86) (Treiman 1977:318-329). Among college-bound seniors
in California in 1997, the SAT scores of those who intended to major in education
were the lowest (949) among the academic majors, lower than students planning to
major in languages and literature (1141) or mathematics (1149) (Los Angeles Times
May 19, 1998). Teachers tend not to remain long in the profession because of the low
salary and the demanding nature of the work. According to the California Teachers
Association, 20 percent of new teachers quit within three years, and half of them quit
within five years (Los Angeles Times January 7, 2000).
Teachers salaries in the United States are lower than those of any other white-collar
professionals. The average salary for public school teachers reached $44,604 in 2001-

2002. After adjustment for inflation, teachers' salaries increased 2 percent between
1991-1992 and 2001-2002 (NCES 2003a). Many teachers take summer jobs or teach
summer sessions. Wage increase for teachers in the United States is an important
means for attracting and retaining qualified teachers. Approximately one-third of
American teachers moonlight in jobs that are unrelated to education (Sat and
McLaughlin 1992:362), while Japanese public teachers are legally forbidden to do any
other type of paid work. Japanese teachers are not well paid at the beginning of their
careers, but their salaries are paid every month, and are automatically increased every
year. Middle-aged teachers can enjoy a comfortable professional lifestyle.
In the United States, prospective teachers are encouraged to earn degrees in academic
subjects as well as in education. Among high school teachers, 90 percent of
mathematics teachers, 94 percent of science teachers, and 96 percent of teachers in
English, social studies, and foreign languages have an undergraduate or graduate
major or minor in their main teaching field (NCES 1999).
In Japan, most elementary and middle school teachers have a bachelors degree from
the Department of Education, which has a subsection for each subject. Middle school
teachers usually teach a subject in which they majored in the subsection of the
Department of Education. Almost all high school teachers teach a subject in which
they majored.
Both American and Japanese teachers claim that one of their main reasons in
becoming a teacher is because they liked working with children. Four out of five
American teachers said that the desire to work with young people was the most
important reason for going into the profession (Wray 1999:229). Many Japanese
teachers think that the teaching job requires much self-sacrifice and dedication, but
that teaching is fun and it is worthwhile to spend time with children (Kudomi
American teachers have more classroom teaching hours than Japanese teachers, but
they teach smaller classes, often with classroom aides. The average number of
students per class is higher in Japan, though that number has been decreasing. In
2001, the average number of students per class was 27.3 in elementary classes and
32.7 in middle school classes, compared to 21.1 in public elementary schools and 23.6
in public secondary schools in the 1999-2000 school year in the United States. In

2000, the ratio of students to teachers was 18.1 students per teacher in elementary
schools, 15.9 in middle school, and 15.5 in high schools in Japan, compared to 16.3 in
public elementary schools, and 16.6 in public secondary schools in the United States
in the fall of 2001 (Monbukagakush 2002a; NCES 2004a).
In the United States, teachers aides entered classrooms more than 40 years ago. In
1999, there were more than 500,000 full-time para-educators. They are not only
engaged in record keeping, preparing materials, and monitoring lunch rooms and
study halls, but also in instructing students. Under the supervision of teachers,
teachers aides tutor individual students or small groups of students during classes,
help teachers evaluate the students, and even participate in program planning (Pickett
1999). In 2001, the MOE introduced the teachers aides, and started to hire 50,000
temporary teachers without the requirement of teaching certificates for the next three
years to deploy at least one teachers aide in each school.
American teachers teach the same subjects to the same grades every year. American
teachers tend to stay in the same school as long as they wish, and only transfer to
other schools by their own accord. On the other hand, Japanese teachers are rotated to
different grades every year, and in general, they teach all three grades in middle and
high schools every three years. In elementary schools, teachers teach two to three
grades in the rotation. All public teachers are transferred to another school in the
same school district every three to five years.
According to cross-cultural surveys taken in 1989 and 1991, Japanese teachers spend
at least 20 more hours a week at school than their American counterparts, because
they have to deal with administrative paper work, counseling work, and
extracurricular activities (Sat and McLaughlin 1992). American teachers do not have
to take on administrative, counseling, or extracurricular work. Japanese teachers visit
the home of students at the beginning of each school year, and supervise student
behavior and extracurricular activities, even during summer vacation and on
weekends. Many male teachers in Japanese middle and high schools supervise
extracurricular clubs after school and on weekends. Many teachers in charge of sports
teams do not go home until 7:00 to 9:00 at night. Even outside of school, teachers are
held responsible for behavioral problems and the delinquency of students. The police
inform schools as well as parents when they have to take a student into custody. In

the United States, the behavior of children is considered the parents responsibility,
not the responsibility of the teachers.
Japanese teachers regularly and voluntarily spend more time on professional
development. Japanese teachers participate in municipal and prefectural workshops,
in-service training and meetings, and informal study groups. Teachers themselves
form many associations for their teaching interests and subjects, and publish their own
pedagogical journals.
Almost all American teachers have participated in at least one formal professional
development activity and one teacher-cooperation activity. Teachers were more likely
to participate in professional development on topics that emphasized curriculum and
pedagogical issues, including new state or district curricula, the use of technology in
classroom, and new teaching methods (NCES 1999). However, American teachers
report little involvement in professional organizations, and spend little of their
personal time on professional development (Sat and McLaughlin 1992).
American teachers spend most of their time in their own classrooms, and do not
interact much with other teachers, as they lack a common space for socializing during
recess (Sat and McLaughlin 1992:364). Japanese teachers discuss problem students,
teaching and school events with each other and prepare for their classes in the
teachers lounge during recess.
According to a cross-cultural survey of high school teachers in 1989 and 1992,
American principals have more influence and authority than Japanese principals do.
American teachers were more likely to claim that the advice and support from their
principals has improved their classroom management and the resolution of problems.
In contrast, Japanese teachers rely more on their colleagues. Japanese teachers also
believe that they have more influence than principals over school policy (Ito
In the United States, there are two large teachers unions: the National Education
Association (with 2.7 million members) and the American Federation of Teachers
(with 875,000 members), as of 2004. In Japan, there are two main teachers unions:
the JTU (with 29.9% of public teachers) and the All Japan Teachers and Staffs Union
(Zenky) (with 7.6%), as of 2003 (Monbukagakush 2004g).

One of the main determinants of educational quality is the competence of the teacher.
The high quality of Japanese education owes much to highly qualified teachers.
Teaching jobs attract many college graduates because teachers have higher
occupational prestige, higher salaries, and generous pensions. Furthermore, teaching
is one of the few occupations where people can apply what they have learned in
college. Moreover, teaching is one of few professions in which women can build
lifelong careers, and simultaneously keep their family commitments. This is why
teaching jobs are very competitive, and only one out of every five to eight applicants
will eventually become a teacher. The majority of teachers work for almost forty
years, until they retire at the age of 60.
Almost all teachers report that they are always busy, and spend much of their time on
paperwork and extracurricular clubs. Smaller class sizes for English, mathematics,
and science, more team-teaching, and additional teachers have been proposed by the
Ministry of Education (MOE) in order to ease the workload of teachers. If schools
take on classroom aides and volunteer teachers, teachers would be more effective in
the classroom and after school, without massive increases to the educational budget.
The Japan Teachers Union (JTU) is composed mostly of leftist unionists who have
fought the conservative MOE for control of the educational system since 1947. There
is no question that the JTU has promoted peace education, student-centered education,
teacher autonomy, higher salaries, and education for minorities, the poor, and lowachievers. However, after losing its political power, the JTU needed to adopt a more
moderate strategy. JTU members who opposed the compromise with the MOE left
the JTU, and formed the All Japan Teachers and Staffs Union (Zenky) in 1991. The
JTU finally compromised with the MOE in 1995. Even after adopting more
conciliatory approaches to the MOE, the JTU is still struggling to attract young
Both American and Japanese teachers are growing older, with the average teacher now
over 40 years old. Japanese teachers have larger classes without classroom aides than
do American teachers; however, they will have smaller classes soon. Unlike
American teachers, Japanese teachers spend much more time dealing with paper
work, counseling, and student activities. Despite demanding work, the majority of

both American and Japanese teachers entered the profession because of a love for
1. There are many English-language works on Japanese teachers concerning teacher
profiles (Okano and Tsuchiya 1999), teacher education (Shimahara 1991; Shimahara
1995b; Shimahara and Sakai 1995; Shimahara 2002), the history of the JTU (Japan
Teachers Union) movements and conflicts with the MOE (Duke 1973; Thurston
1973; Rohlen 1984; Ota 1989; Miyake 1994; Aspinall 2001), and comparisons of
teachers in Japan and the United States (Sat and McLaughlin 1992; Wray 1999). In
Japanese, teacher profiles and their cultures are analyzed through sociological data
(Kudomi 1990; Inagaki and Kudomi 1994) and interviews (Moriguchi 1999).
Information on the JTU and union activities are published by the JTU in Nikkyso
Fujinbu (1977); Nihon Kyshokuin (1989); Nikkyso (1995). Information on the JTU
leaders (Iwai 1994; Kimura 1996), and critics (Ishikawa 1985) can be also found.



Contents of This Chapter

1. 7-1


1. 7-1-1


1. International-Understanding Education in Ume Elementary


2. Sister School Programs

2. 7-2

2. 7-1-2


3. 7-1-3




1. 7-2-1


2. 7-2-2


Responding to the globalization of the Japanese economy and its economic prosperity
in the mid-1980s, the government has supported international-understanding
education, foreign language education, and international exchange programs, in
addition to education for Japanese students living overseas and Japanese returnee
children. This chapter will analyze how schools have developed internationalunderstanding and foreign language education, and how the foreign-exchange
programs have worked for foreign students in Japan. Furthermore, it will discuss
supplementary Japanese education for Japanese children living abroad, their
acculturation process, and remedial education for returnee children in Japan.
Responding to the increasing international exchange of goods, people, and
information in the 1980s, Prime Minister Nakasone declared his intent to transform
Japan into an international state (kokusai kokka), and the term kokusaika
(internationalization) became popular among all sectors of society.1 During the
period of economic prosperity and a strong yen, more Japanese people than ever went
abroad for travel, study, and work, while an unprecedented number of foreigners came

to Japan. Many Japanese have friends and relatives who live abroad, and have people
from other countries as neighbors and co-workers.
In its 1987 report, the National Council on Education Reform (Rinkyshin)
recommended the internationalization of education. It recommended the promotion of
1) international-understanding education, 2) foreign language education, 3)
international exchange in education, culture, and sports, 4) foreign student exchanges,
5) Japanese language programs, and 6) education for Japanese students living
overseas and Japanese returnee children (Monbush 1989:59).
The 1989 Course of Study for 1992-2001 cited international-understanding education
as a means of following the Rinkyshins 1987 recommendation. The government
promoted 1) international-understanding education to prepare students for the twentyfirst century, 2) international communication in education, culture, and sports, and 3)
international cooperation and contributions for training people in developing countries
through UNESCO, the OECD and other non-governmental organizations. The
Central Education Committee proposed in 1996 that the government should help
students 1) acquire broader perspectives and understandings of different cultures, 2)
establish a Japanese national identity, and 3) have basic skills in foreign languages
(Monbush 1996:408-410).


International-understanding education began as an initiative of UNESCO. Since

1969, UNESCO has endorsed the Associated Schools Project in Education for
International Understanding, and in 1974 issued The Recommendation Concerning
Education for International Understanding, Co-operation and Peace and Education
Relating to Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (UNESCO 1969; 1974). In
Japan, the 1974 report of the Central Education Committee supported the basic aims
of international exchange of education, academics, and cultures. However, it was
only after the 1987 report of the Rinkyshin that the MOE implemented nationwide
international-understanding education in order to instruct students on becoming a new
Japanese citizen with international perspectives and experiences for the 21st century.
The MOE subsidizes public funds for government-designated schools for the
promotion of international-understanding education.

Students learn about foreign cultures in their social science classrooms. Starting in
2002, international-understanding education has been also taught in a new subject,
integrated study (sgtekina gakush no jikan). English-conversation lessons in
elementary schools, taught as a part of integrated study, is regarded as an important
part for international-understanding education.
Students become more familiar with foreign cultures when they are directly involved
with them, for example, by cooking foods from other lands, and playing with the toys
that are popular in other countries. Students learn foreign languages more quickly by
speaking with and writing letters to people who already are fluent in that language.
Assistant Language Teachers (ALTs) in middle schools and high schools are native
English-speaking teachers who teach students about their native countries, in the
course of teaching English conversation. Foreign students and resident foreigners can
be invited to schools. Japanese returnees from overseas can discuss their experiences
abroad. Using e-mails and the Internet, students can research foreign countries, and
communicate with people living in any country in the world. Some cities have
established relationships with schools in their sister cities so that students can
correspond through e-mails and letters.
Elementary schools teach children about foreign countries and cultures through
special school events, and fund-raisers for schools in developing countries, and
through regular social studies classes. International-understanding education is
currently taught through a few school-specific events, except in social studies
courses. More programs and classes on foreign culture have been taught since
integrated study was introduced in April 2002. Third to sixth graders have three unithours a week for integrated study, which can be allocated for internationalunderstanding education.
Currently, many schools are able to transform vacant classrooms into computer labs,
and an international-exchange room. The international-exchange room can be a
center for international-understanding education, and can be used for special events or
for study. Some schools have a student committee for the international-exchange
program. For example, in 1998, Hachinohe Elementary Schools committee for
international exchange consisted of ten fourth- to sixth-graders, who were in charge of

arranging a special classroom for international exchange, and organizing a school

event for international exchange.
The majority of schools organize a special school event for the international exchange
program once or twice a year. ALTs are often invited to speak about their homelands.
Foreigners living in Japan, returnees, or former participants in the Japan Overseas
Volunteers Program are also invited to speak. The students sing songs, play games in
English, and see pictures or slides.
Most schools collect donations for humanitarian organizations such as UNESCO,
UNICEF, and the Red Cross. A student council collects used telephone cards,
postcards, and stamps for UNESCO and UNICEF. The student council in Jken
Elementary School in Marugame collected 10 yen from each student, used pencil
cases, notebooks, pictures and stationery. They collected seven boxes of items, and
sent them to elementary schools in China.
International-Understanding Education in Ume Elementary School

Ume Elementary School in Marugame was designated as an Associated School for

Research on the Education of Foreign Students for the 1998-9 and 1999-2000 school
years.2 The school of 700 students has had foreign students since 1994, and in 1999
the school had six students from Peru, one student from Brazil, and one student from
China.3 This school sponsors more programs and events for internationalunderstanding education than other schools because it has both foreign students and
the state funding for international-understanding programs.
In 1997, the school converted an unused room into an international exchange room,
called Amigo & Amiga. This room is a small museum of the world, with pictures,
clothes, stamps, books, money, toys, and musical instruments, in addition to a small
library. It has a large section on Peru because the school has had Peruvian students
since 1994. This room is open to all students who are interested in learning about
other countries, and is also used for the annual World Orientation event.
For World Orientation, all students assemble in the international exchange room and
form groups. Each group is assigned a set of questions about the world, and competes
with other groups by solving the questions together. The monthly school newsletter,
Buenos Tardes, is devoted to foreign students and their countries, and provides
general information about the world. One teacher, who had taught at a Japanese daily

school in Thailand for three years, writes articles about Thailand. This school paper is
read not only by the students, but also by their parents, who learn about their
childrens classmates from other countries.
In the 1998-9 school year, the school hosted several special events for international
understanding, and provided many opportunities for foreign students to talk about
their homelands. First graders learned greetings in different languages, including
Spanish from one of the Peruvian students. Second graders listened to a guest
speakers talk about his life and experiences in Brazil. Third graders learned
childrens songs from all over the world, including an Andean folksong and a
Peruvian folkdance. Fourth graders played with Peruvian toys, and taught first
graders how to play with these toys. Fifth graders learned how to cook Peruvian
foods from the mother of one of the Peruvian students. A British teacher, the
Coordinator for International Relations (CIR), was invited to talk about England, and
played a game with the sixth graders.
One teacher brought notebooks that the students had made or donated to elementary
school students in Nepal, and showed a video of Nepalese students using these
notebooks. In 1998, students collected 72 pairs of shoes, 36 balls of yarn, and 316
telephone cards to be sent to children in Nepal.
Middle schools teach international understanding through regular classes, such as
Chinese poetry in Japanese language arts, geography, history, civics, and English.
Many middle schools have an Assistant Language Teacher (ALT), a native-English
speaker who regularly teaches English conversation as well as foreign cultures in
English classes. For most students, one of the few foreigners they see regularly is
their ALT for English classes. Also, with free access to the Internet, providing
students an international-understanding education becomes easier.
High schools teach about foreign cultures and world studies in English, history,
geography, political science and economics, contemporary society, and Japanese
language arts classes. The students learn about the interdependence of the global
system, the environment, and human rights from international perspectives. Many
high schools have student clubs for English conversation and international exchange.
In addition, some high schools have field trips abroad, and foreign student programs.
Recently, some high schools offer international studies courses. Jsei High School in

Marugame has an international studies course. The school offers a three-week homestay program in Canada, the United States, or England every year. They also have an
English conversation club, an English club, and a Chinese club.4
Sister School Programs

The sister school program is one of the best ways to establish relationships with
students in other countries. Many Japanese cities currently have sister cities. About
twenty middle school students in Marugame take a 10-day trip to San Sebastian,
Marugames sister city in Spain every summer. Many cities in Japan have sister cities
abroad. However, only a few have established sister school programs. The students
in sister schools exchange letters and gifts. Nowadays the Internet and e-mails make
it easier than ever to communicate over long distances. Sister school programs should
be given a larger role in teaching international understanding.
Since 1993, Hachinohe City in Aomori Prefecture has been the sister city of Federal
Way, Washington. Six elementary schools and one middle school found sister schools
in Federal Way.5 Sanj Elementary School became the sister school of Lake Grove
Elementary School in 1993. Sanj Elementary School sent students letters, pictures,
stationery, videos of the school and the city, calendars, comic books, toys, newspapers
and other items to Lake Grove Elementary School. Lake Grove sent student letters,
Christmas cards, popular magazines, school papers, music tapes, popular toys and
other items.
Meanwhile, both schools display these gifts in their international exchange
classrooms, and created a student committee for international exchange. The two
schools decided to hold simultaneous environmental awareness events for their
communities. On October 28-29, 1994, Lake Grove Elementary School students
participated in a community clean-up, while their counterparts at Sanj Elementary
School collected aluminum cans for recycling and had an all-student meeting called
the SL Fureai (bringing Sanj and Lake Grove together) Meeting. At Sanj
Elementary School, students invited two native English speakers to give a talk,
counted the number of cans that the students had collected, watched a slide show, and
played a game. Through the cultural exchanges, the students had direct exposure to
different cultures, and they learned how to communicate with students on the other
side of the world.



Almost all students take six years of English in middle school and high school.
Nevertheless, Japanese people have a reputation as poor English speakers. English
language education emphasizes reading and writing, and underestimates the
importance of spoken proficiency. Realizing the importance of conversational skills
in international society, the government launched the Japan Exchange and Teaching
(JET) Program in 1987 to invite native speakers of English as foreign language
assistant teachers.
The JET Program has Assistant Language Teachers (ALTs), Coordinators of
International Relations (CIRs), and Sports Exchange Advisors. More than 90 percent
of all participants of the JET programs are ALTs. CIRs are placed in prefectural or
municipal administrations to assist with international activities. ALTs team-teach
English conversation with Japanese English teachers. In July 2001, 5,583 ALTs,
mostly English-speaking, were teaching in secondary schools (Monbukagakush
ALTs teach students about their own culture and help students speak better English.
They talk about their own countries in class, during recess, and in clubs. In
Marugame, not all middle schools have their own ALT yet, but two ALTs are in charge
of three large middle schools and several small ones. ALTs also go to elementary
schools for a special event on the international exchanges once a year or once a
trimester. The ALT in Nishi Middle School made a video about his house and
hometown in the United States, and showed it to the class. He also set up a mailbox
where the students posted questions for him, and posted several articles on his school
bulletin board. He gave a quiz on the United States, using a map of the United States
when I observed his class on February 26, 1998.
In Marugame, each high school has one full-time ALT to teach English conversation
classes and to supervise the English club. The presence of ALTs in schools and the
community gives students the opportunity to become better acquainted with people
from other countries. In a provincial town like Marugame, ALTs are among the few
foreigners with whom the students can converse. Furthermore, ALTs can talk about
Japan when they return home, where they can introduce Japanese culture. Some ALTs

have created student exchange programs in their hometown, and invite Japanese
students to the United States through their home-stay program. The JET Program has
been successful in promoting foreign language proficiency and international
Since April 2000, even before the implementation of the 1998 Course of Study in
2002, elementary school have taught integrated study, and ALTs can be dispatched
to elementary schools to teach English conversation. The municipal board of
education in Marugame hired a temporary instructor who supervises English clubs in
three elementary schools. Students in the fourth to the sixth grades can choose a club
consisting of either sports, hobbies, arts, or study at the beginning of the trimester, and
the club meets for one unit-hour a week.
Furthermore, the introduction of English audio comprehension tests in the entrance
examination for high schools and colleges has helped students and teachers sharpen
their English conversational skills. For foreign language classes in high schools, a
new subject, Oral communications A, B, C was added in the 1999 Course of Study
for 2003 onward.


The MOE promotes international exchange programs for students, teachers,

researchers, artists, and athletes. Approximately 5,000 teachers from primary and
secondary schools visited overseas schools in 1995 (Monbush 1996:416). In 2000,
the MOE sent English-language teachers from middle and high schools to universities
in English-speaking countries to improve their skills (Monbush 2000a:291). The
number of Japanese citizens studying overseas has grown rapidly to 76,000 in 69
countries (Monbukagakush 2003b:407).
The number of foreign students has steadily climbed since 1983 (10,428 foreign
students in 1983), when the Japanese government launched a large-scale campaign to
bring the number of foreign students to 100,000 by 2001. The number of foreign
students has reached 109,508 in 2003. Most of them came from Asia (e.g., China
64.7%; Korea 14.5%). The Japanese government or their native countries sponsored
one-fifth of all foreign students. The percentage of foreign students to all college
students is still as low as 3.0 percent (in 2003), compared with 6.6 percent in the
United States (in 2001) (Monbukagakush 2004b:373-377). In 2002, the MOE

created an exam for students wishing to study in Japan that they can take in their own
countries. The MOE has also made the doctoral degree completion process easier, in
order to increase the number of foreign students.
Since the relaxation of student visa requirements in 1984, many pre-college students
(shgakusei), mostly from China, have come to Japan to study the Japanese language.
They could legally work four hours a day (28 hours a week) to pay their educational
expenses. However, after 1986, many Chinese migrant workers obtained pre-college
student visas to work illegally in Japan (Ito 1995:208). In 1988, almost half of the
students illegally overstayed their visas after graduating from Japanese language
schools. In 1998, two-thirds of the 30,700 pre-college students came from China and
one-fourth from South Korea (Komai 2001:58).
The government reinstated visa requirements in 1989 and 1992, and the Immigration
Control Bureau now requires a financial statement from each applicant for a precollege student visa. According to a 1991 survey of Chinese pre-college students by
the Tokyo Government, 93 percent went to Japanese language schools, and 65.1
percent worked part-time jobs. Estimating from their earnings, many worked an
average of 35.4 hours a week. Seventy-one percent of these students planned to
continue studying at a college or other educational institution. They often worked as
waiters or waitress (61.2%), in factories, construction, cleaning (22.8%), and 56.6
percent found jobs through friends (Komai 2001:58-59). In 2003, 50,473 foreigners
were registered as pre-college students (77.0% were Chinese and 13.0% were
Koreans) (Hmush 2004a).
Foreign students often have difficulty in obtaining a guarantor, finding an apartment,
making Japanese friends, and finding a job. They need a guarantor when they apply
for a visa, sign a lease, enter a university, and apply for scholarships or tuition
waivers. Since 1984, Japanese language schools have been allowed to be a guarantor
for its students to enter Japan, and that caused a huge growth in their enrollment. The
guarantor is without any financial obligation or sanction, and sometimes is known as
the contact person. Some critics have questioned the significance of the guarantor
system, and have suggested abolishing it (Suhara 1996:9-34).
Foreign students who are supported by their families and/or by themselves are often
very busy working part-time jobs since the cost of living and college expenses are

very high, and scholarships are few. Foreign students encounter prejudice and
discrimination, despite human rights education and initiatives. Furthermore, not only
is it difficult to obtain a Ph.D. in humanities and social science, but Japanese diplomas
are not yet recognized abroad, and Japanese companies are not very enthusiastic about
hiring foreign students.
Japan is not attractive to foreigners, because of the high cost of living, the language
barrier, and the poor job prospects, especially after the collapse of the bubble
economy in 1991. More scholarships and work-study programs for foreign
undergraduates are needed. Host-family programs and community-based international
events can promote friendships between Japanese and foreign students.
The number of foreigners learning Japanese grew in the late 1980s and early 1990s
when many Japanese companies went abroad to establish subsidiaries, and many
foreign workers and students arrived. Recently, the overseas Japanese language boom
has been waning because of Japans low economy.
According to a 2003 survey by the Japan Foundation, the number of foreigners
studying Japanese overseas amounted to 2.36 million (Kokusai Kry 2004), while in
Japan, 125,597 foreigners were studying Japanese in 2003 (Hmush 2004a). Foreign
students learn Japanese in universities, colleges, and language schools. Foreign
workers learn Japanese at local community centers, with teachers supplied by the
municipal administrations and voluntary or private organizations. Local governments
offer free language lessons taught by volunteers from the community. Japanese
primary and secondary schools also make Japanese language education available to
foreign children such as Nikkei (Japanese migrants/Japanese descendants of foreign
nationality) children, and the descendants of Chinese returnees.


As the number of Japanese children living abroad increased in the 1960s, the Japanese
government started to subsidize their education.6 The MOE sent Japanese teachers to
Japanese schools in Taipei in 1962. In the 1960s and 1970s, many overseas families
came from upper and upper-middle classes who worked for large companies and the
government. The majority of them eventually returned to Japan. Therefore, the

purpose of overseas Japanese schools is to help children keep up with schoolwork,

and to help them adjust to the Japanese educational system upon their return.
Since the mid-1980s, the number of overseas children has rapidly increased,
particularly after many Japanese companies started to expand their operations in
foreign countries and to dispatch their employees to their overseas subsidies. By April
2003, the number of Japanese children enrolled in overseas schools amounted to
20,848 in North America, 16,184 in Asia, 10,564 in Europe, 2,524 in Oceania, 1,273
in Central and South America, 496 in the Middle East, and 573 in Africa. Among
52,462 Japanese children living overseas, 31.2 percent attend daily Japanese schools,
31.0 percent attend local daily schools and supplementary Japanese schools on
Saturdays or after school, while another third 37.8 percent attend only local daily
schools (Monbukagakush 2004b:370-371).
Overseas companies and associations founded the Japan Overseas Educational
Foundation in 1971. With support from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and MOE, the
Japan Overseas Educational Foundation subsidizes daily and supplementary Japanese
schools. In the 2003-4 school year, 1,339 Japanese elementary and middle school
teachers were sent to daily and supplementary Japanese schools (Monbukagakush
2004b:370). The Japan Overseas Educational Foundation employs local teachers for
supplementary schools, and the MOE provides free textbooks for all overseas
children, and free correspondence courses for all children except for those who are
already attending Japanese daily schools.
There were 82 Japanese daily schools, concentrated in Asia, the Middle East and
South America in April 2003. In these schools, Japanese teachers sent from Japan
follow the same curriculum that is taught in Japan. In addition, 188 supplementary
schools operated in the cities with large Japanese population in April 2003. The
majority of children in North America and one-third of children in Europe attend local
schools during the week, and attend Japanese supplementary schools on Saturdays or
after school. Furthermore, the Japanese School Foundations have established 13
Japanese private schools in some major cities (Monbukagakush 2004b:371). The
majority of children in Africa, Oceania, and one-third of children in Europe attend
only local schools (Monbush 2000a:293).

With the rapid increase of overseas families in the 1980s and 1990s, not only elite
families but also ordinary families have been employed overseas. The educational
performance of those children depends on family background and their own effort.
Most mothers are homemakers while abroad, and pay close attention to their
childrens education. Therefore, children living abroad usually have a favorable
educational environment at home, in terms of socioeconomic status and the
educational level of their parents, compared to the average Japanese child in Japan.
Children living overseas take some time to adapt to foreign languages and cultures.
The degree of adaptation of Japanese children to foreign cultures is affected by the
age and personality of the child, the length of time abroad, the kind of schools
attended, the language spoken at home, and their parents adjustment to the culture.
Minoura proposes that the age of children and their length of stay explain the
intercultural adaptability of Japanese children living in the United States (Minoura
1984; 1990). The study followed interviews with 72 children in 1978. Minoura
categorizes five stages of adaptability: 1) initially, the child does not notice any
differences; 2) the child notices differences in behavior but does not or cannot behave
like Americans; 3) the childs cognition and behavior become American, but his or her
emotions remain Japanese; 4) the childs emotions are neither explicitly Japanese and
American; and 5) the childs cognition, behavior and emotions become American.
More than 90 percent of children who came to the United States before the age of
nine, and stayed there for four years or more are most likely to be Americanized,
either falling into Category 4 or Category 5. Younger children who came to the
United States, and who stayed longer find cognitive, behavioral and emotional
adjustment easier. Older children, those who came to the United States between the
ages of 11 and 15 generally undergo an initial period of adjustment, but gradually
adapt. These children tend to fall into Category 3. The children who came to the
United States at the age of 14 years old or older generally have the most difficult
adjustment, and belong to Category 2. It usually takes three to four years for
teenagers to learn the English language, and at least a six-year stay to become fluent
and to understand American social relations (Minoura 1990:72-88).
In 1990, the Research Group for Intercultural Education conducted a major survey of
Japanese children living overseas. According to the survey, the children spoke

Japanese at home, but those who attended local schools on weekdays may use the
foreign language with their siblings. Children in Japanese daily schools usually take
five years to adapt to the local culture and to make friends, while children in Japanese
supplementary schools take three years. The age of the child, the length of stay, and
the degree of their mothers adaptation affect the degree of the childrens acculturation
(Ibunka 1990).
Eighty-five percent of children in Japanese daily schools were born in Japan, and 99
percent speak Japanese at home. Three-fourths of children were satisfied with
Japanese daily schools, and understood the classes. Sixty percent reported that they
played only with Japanese children. The longer they stayed overseas, the more likely
the children had local friends. Children who lived in North America, Australia and
New Zealand were more fully integrated into local cultures than those living in Asia,
the Middle East, Africa, Eastern Europe and South America.
After five years, they tend to have greater interest in community social activities.
Their mothers friendships and their involvement in the community influence their
childrens assimilation to a greater extent than does the length of stay. Sixty percent
of mothers let their children learn about their new environment, but mostly through
books and the media, and not by direct contact with residents. One-third of mothers
encourage their children to make friends in the community.
However, regional discrepancies persist. Children living in Europe, the Pacific, and
South America are more likely to try to learn a native language than are those in the
Middle East, Africa, and Asia; they are also more likely to make friends in the Pacific,
North America, and South America than in the Middle East, Africa, Eastern Europe,
Europe and Asia. The social networks that children create in the countries where they
live influence their level of satisfaction, and give them have positive attitudes toward
Japanese culture.
The length of stay and the age of the child affect the childs adjustment. Those
children who attend local schools during the week adapt to local culture far more
easily than those who attend Japanese schools. It usually takes three years to
understand the classes in local schools, to build a social network, and to adapt local
cultural practices.

More than 80 percent of children who have lived overseas for at least three years
understand most of what their teachers and friends say. Forty percent of those who
have been abroad for less than three years report that they understand most of what is
being said. Older children are more likely to have difficulty understanding their
classes. One-third of middle school students reported that their classes were difficult,
regardless of the duration of their stay. Some enroll in cram schools (15%), join
volunteer activities (15%), sports and cultural clubs (53%), and play with friends
(48%) after school.
Ninety percent of mothers speak to their children in Japanese at home; 79 percent of
children speak to their mother in Japanese. Those children who left Japan when they
were young are less inclined to speak Japanese. For children who left Japan before
the age of five, 42 percent speak only in Japanese, and eight percent of them speak
only the foreign language at home. In contrast, 81 percent of children who left Japan
at the age of 11 or older speak only Japanese at home. After five years, 16 percent of
children speak both Japanese and the local language at home. After seven years, 7.4
percent of children speak only a foreign language at home. The majority of middle
school students (79%) who have been overseas for less than three years speak only
Japanese at home (Ibunka 1990).
In the United States and its territories, there are three public daily Japanese schools in
New York City, Chicago and Guam Island. In addition to the four private daily
Japanese schools, there are 29 supplementary Japanese schools in major metropolitan
areas and 47 small-sized ones. Japanese children, except in the New York, Chicago
and Guam schools, attend local schools. Many children in large cities also attend
supplementary Japanese schools on Saturdays. Japanese students who have just
entered the United States are usually classified as Limited English Proficient (LEP)
children. They are usually placed in the English as Second Language (ESL) classes.
Japanese first, second, and third graders usually spend two or three years in ESL
classes, while those in the fourth, fifth and sixth grades take four years to graduate
from ESL classes. They are pulled from academic classes to learn English, while
taking regular classes in arts, music, and physical education. Sometimes, an ESL
teacher or teachers aide attends a regular class with the children to help them. Some
states provide bilingual education for Japanese children. In 1995, the Torrance school
district in California had 1,143 children whose native language was Japanese,

including 639 LEP Japanese children. The district hired six bilingual teachers and 12
teachers aides to give English instruction to these children (Sat 1997:114-119).


Returnee children (kikokushijo) are defined as children who lived overseas for one
year or more, and have returned to Japan within three years. In the 2002-3 school
year, 10,767 Japanese children returned to Japan after a long-term overseas stay
(Monbukagakush 2004a). The majority of children who are living abroad because of
a parents job will return to Japan. These elementary and middle school returnees are
usually admitted into the same grade in Japanese schools. If they have trouble in
Japanese language, they may be temporarily placed into a lower grade.
Re-adaptation to Japanese culture and school is particularly difficult for those who
lived overseas for many years. The children who were enrolled in local schools
sometimes show lower academic achievement, especially in Japanese language arts
and social studies. Cultural conflicts and misunderstandings can also pose challenges
for returnee children.
In the 1970s and early 1980s, Japanese returnees were regarded as culturally and
academically handicapped children who needed remedial education. The 1962
survey by the MOE found that Japanese returnees lagged far behind in academic
subjects and that almost half of them re-entered Japanese schools one grade level
behind that of their age group. In 1965, the MOE established a special class for
returnees in one middle school affiliated with Tokyo Gakugei University. Since 1967,
the MOE has funded government-designated schools to research for the best way to
educate returnee children.
The 1974 survey by the MOE found that students who attended local schools during
the week and lived overseas for a long time performed less well academically than did
those who attended Japanese daily schools. The Central Council of Education in 1974
recommended subsidies for Japanese daily schools, for supplemental Japanese schools
overseas, and for Japanese schools in Japan that admit returnees. Responding to the
increasing number of returnees, a high school affiliated with the International
Christian University, Gysei International High School, and Dshisha International
High School were established. Since 1978, the Center Schools for the Education of

Returnees received research funds. Researchers are developing curricula and teaching
materials that are best suited to the needs of these children.
The focus of the research on education for children living overseas and returnees
shifted from remedial education in the 1970s and the early 1980s to intercultural
education in the late 1980s. In the 1990s, the education of returnee children
emphasized the preservation of their international perspectives, rather than their readaptation. In 1987, the National Council on Education Reform (Rinkyshin)
submitted the report, Measures for children living overseas and returnees, and
measures for Japanese schools on opening up to the international community. The
report recommended that the government should develop 1) international
perspectives, 2) a quota system for admission into high schools and colleges, 3) a
credit transfer system, 4) a system of school counselors and teachers for Japanese
language education, and 5) an international school for Japanese students and
returnees. In order to implement the recommendations, the 1989 Course of Study
states, for those returnee children, [teachers] help them adapt to Japanese school life
and guide them to make use of their experiences from abroad. The returnees are
expected to be a Japanese national with an internationalized perspective, and to be an
international person for the 21st century.
During the internationalization boom of the 1980s, the rhetoric about returnees in
popular magazines changed, and in 1986 the returnees were described both as a new
bilingual brand of kid and as a rootless minority (Sat 1997:230). Goodman argues
that returnee children are privileged, not marginal, and that they constitute a new
elite with the international skills and perspectives from their experiences in foreign
countries (Goodman 1990).
Returnee children perform less well on entrance examinations because of their time
abroad. Their parents, who are often employees of large companies, successfully
lobbied for a special quota for college admission and public subsidies for remedial
education for their children. Many prestigious colleges, public and private, have a
special admission quota for the returnees who came back to Japan within two to three
years. They are considered special students with an unusual background, and
therefore, they are eligible for special admission. They usually take a foreign
language exam, write an essay, and are interviewed. Some parents deliberately choose
to remain overseas in order to give this advantage to their children. It raises the

question of fairness because other Japanese students have to go through examination

hell to enter high-ranked universities. The quota for returnee children is acceptable,
as long as it is not abused.
Remedial education for returnee children is necessary because many have a hard time
becoming accustomed to life in Japan. The number of children who require Japanese
language education reached a record high of 2,886 in 1,239 schools in 2003
(Monbukagakush 2004c). Many returnee children attend schools that have special
programs for them. Many schools in metropolitan areas have a tradition of accepting
Japanese returnees, and many of them were formerly government-designated schools
for returnee children.
Returnee children living in metropolitan areas have a better chance to attend schools
specializing in remedial education. However, the majority of returnee children return
to public elementary, middle, and high schools, and do not receive much special help.
In recent years, many returnee children have been found to have adequate Japanese
language skills because of tutoring from their parents. Instead, they struggle with the
unfamiliar subject such as calligraphy and the vaulting horse in physical education.
The MOE provides teachers in schools that accept returnees with educational
guidance, workshops, and information about overseas schools. The MOE also
subsidizes private schools that accept returnees. Teachers of returnee children have
described them as positive, assertive, outgoing, articulate, individualistic, versatile,
independent, and creative. On a less positive note, these students are described as
uncooperative, self-centered, arrogant, moody, and unmotivated (Minoura 1996; Sat
1997:195). Teachers seem to see returnee children as more western than Japanese in
attitude. Such a perception may arise from a stereotype. Returnee children have
individual characteristics, but their cultural experiences shape their way of thinking
and personality. Teachers should refrain from stereotyping these students and arrive at
an understanding of their experiences. Learning about the cultures of their students
can help teachers understand them better.
Since the mid-1980s, the government has sponsored the internationalization of Japan,
and its educational system. The 1989 Course of Study for 1992-2001 makes provision
for international-understanding education, as proposed by the National Council on

Education Reform (Rinkyshin), in order to instill an international understanding in

the rising generation of Japanese children. In practice, students learn about foreign
cultures and countries mainly through textbook-centered pedagogy in social science
classes, and rarely have direct access to people from other countries. Many
international exchange activities are usually one-time school events, such as
presentations or games led by people from abroad.
Since April 2002, international issues have been one topic within integrated study.
School teaches international cultures through debates, research, role-plays, and
presentations. The MOE recommends English conversation classes as part of
integrated study in elementary schools. The expansion of sister school programs and
of Assistant Language Teachers programs will improve the students language
proficiency and international understanding. In these programs, students write letters
or send e-mails to students in sister schools or converse with foreign teachers in
With the overseas expansion of Japanese companies since the mid-1980s, the number
of children living overseas reached 50,000 by 2001. The majority of them will
eventually return to Japan. Among those children, one-third attend daily Japanese
schools and another one-third attend supplementary Japanese schools on Saturdays or
after school. It seems that the children in Japanese schools may take about five years
and the children in Japanese supplementary schools take about three years to become
accustomed to life in a different country. The age of the child, the length of the time
abroad, and the mothers adaptation to the new culture affect the extent to which the
child assimilates.
Japanese returnee children (10,767 in the 2002-3 school year) receive remedial
education in order to adapt to Japanese schools and culture. Those who live in
metropolitan areas are more likely to attend schools specializing in remedial education
for returnee children. In 1987, the National Council on Education Reform
(Rinkyshin) recommended special education for returnee children in order for them
to develop international perspectives. In the 1990s, education for returnee children
emphasized preserving their international perspectives. Many prestigious colleges
have an admissions quota for the returnees who returned to Japan within two to three
years from their stay overseas.

1. The internationalization of education (Ehara 1992; Lincicome 1993; Hood 2001)
and the JET program (McConnell 2000) are discussed in English. The theories and
practices for international-understanding education are collected in the Kokusai rikai
kyiku jiten (The Encyclopedia of International-Understanding Education) (Ishizaka
1993). The introduction of intercultural education in Japan is summarized in Ebuchi
1997 and Tanaka et al. 1990.
2. This case study is based on class visits and interviews with teachers in Ume
elementary school on February 21, 2001, in addition to a school report on
international-understanding education, and school bulletins. See also Case Study 10.1
Foreign Students in Ume Elementary School.
3. Since the 1990 revised Immigration Control Law, Japanese descendants have
been allowed to stay and work in Japan unconditionally. In 1998, Japanese
descendants from South America (e.g., 179 Peruvians and 215 Brazilians) constituted
the majority of the 870 foreigners living in Marugame (Marugame-shi 1999). Since
the 1990s, several elementary schools in Marugame have admitted students from
South America.
4. Interviews with an English teacher and a principal at Jsei High School were
conducted on March 17, 1998.
5. The information about the sister-school system in Hachinohe City is provided
through personal communication and a report by the principal of Hachinohe
Elementary School in January 1998.
6. Research on Japanese children living overseas and returnee children is based
upon intercultural education, acculturation, and identity, through ethnographic studies
and interviews (Sat 1997; Minoura 1984; 1990; 1996; Kajita 1997; Minami 2000).
White studied the adaptation of returnee children through interviews (White 1988)
and Goodman described the education of returnee children through his ethnological
study (Goodman 1990).


Contents of This Chapter

1. 8-1


1. 8-1-1


1. Special Schools
2. Yuri Special School for Mentally Retarded Children
3. Special Classes for Children with Disabilities
4. A Special Class for Children with Disabilities in Ume Elementary

5. Regular Classes with Special Aids in the Resource Room

6. Higher Education for Children with Disabilities
2. 8-1-2
2. 8-2



1. 8-2-1


2. 8-2-2


3. 8-2-3


Children with disabilities attend special schools, special classes in mainstream
schools, or regular classrooms with special assistance. Recently, the educational
rights of children with disabilities have been accorded more recognition under the
promotion of human rights and integrated education. Children in special education
have many more opportunities than ever before to interact with children in regular
classes, in exchange programs, and in integrated classes. However, the integrated
education is not obligatory and local governments can refuse to admit children with

disabilities, citing inadequate accommodations and staff. This chapter will discuss
special education for children with disabilities.




Children with disabilities are children whose daily life or life in society is
substantially limited over the long term due to a physical disability, mental
retardation, or mental disability (Article 2 of the 1970 Fundamental Law for People
With Disabilities).1 Learning disabilities (LD) have not been yet recognized as
disabilities. Most children with disabilities live at home with their parents or
guardians and attend special schools, special classes or regular schools. The welfare
of children with disabilities is protected under the Child Welfare Law. All people with
physical and mental disabilities have been issued an identification handbook.
Appliances, allowances, and tax exemptions are determined according to the severity
of disability.
The government provides a Special Child-Rearing Allowance and income-based
benefits for the guardians of the children with disabilities. Parents caring for children
with severe disabilities under 20 years old receive a Special Child-Rearing Allowance
(50,900 yen a month for children with profound disabilities, and 33,900 yen a month
for children with severe disabilities). Parents caring for children with severe
disabilities received an additional 14,430 yen a month as a Disabled Child-Rearing
Allowance (Naikakufu 2004b).
According to a 2001 survey, 81,900 children with physical disabilities were living at
home. The ratio of those children to all children under 18 years old was 3.6 children
per 1,000. Nearly 60 percent of the children had orthopedic disabilities, 17.3 percent
had internal organ disorders, 18.6 percent had hearing impairments or speech
impediments, 5.9 percent had visual impairments, and 7.3 percent had multiple
disabilities. Almost two-thirds (63.9%) had profound and severe disabilities. The
largest percentage, 37.6 percent, of disabilities were of undetermined origin, 17.3
percent were the result of complications during birth, 14.8 percent were illnesses, 11.2
percent were unknown, and 2.4 percent were from accidents. The remaining 16.7
percent were others. About half of these children can perform daily chores, such as
eating meals (64.7%), going to the toilet (50.3%), taking a bath (47.0%), and dressing
themselves (52.6%). Most of them can tossing about in bed (82.1%) and moving

around in the house (72.8%). About half of them (56.3%) need help when they go
outside. Their parents, usually their mothers, help them when necessary
(Kseirdsh 2002). In 2000, 8,115 physically disabled children under 18 years old
were residents in assisted-living facilities. According to 2002 surveys, among
103,000 mentally retarded children under 18 years old, 94,000 lived at home and
9,000 lived in assisted-living facilities (Naikakufu 2004b). Mental retardation here is
applied to people diagnosed with Downs Syndrome or severe conditions, not to
people with learning disabilities.
Recently, the right of children with disabilities to be educated has been formally
acknowledged, as the Japanese government supports human rights, normalization,
integrated education, and inclusion of people with disabilities. In 1993, the
government revised the 1970 Fundamental Law of People with Disabilities, and
enacted the New Long-Term Program for Government Measures for Persons with
Disabilities (1993-2002) under pressure from advocates for the disabled. The 1994
U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child and other domestic laws guaranteed the
right for all children without restriction to a free public education.
Since 1993, the government has introduced a system of integrated education for
children with mild disabilities. However, not all such children who seek integrated
education have access to regular schools. Many mainstream schools lack adequate
facilities and services for children with disabilities. School facilities are not barrierfree for children with wheel chairs or other mobility problems. To decide which
schools in their jurisdiction should make the renovations and accommodations for
students with disabilities, each municipal board of education now appoint a
Committee of Advisors for the Schooling for Disabled Children, consisting of
teachers, physicians, and psychologists. The Committee advises parents on the best
interests of the child, and makes recommendations to the board as to the kind of
school that disabled children should attend. The board of education makes the final
decision, and can legally deny access to the mainstream schools, citing inadequate
accommodation and staff. Regular schools have no obligation to accommodate all
children with disabilities.
To date, the system of classroom aides and paraprofessionals for integrated education
has not been fully developed. Therefore, only a small portion of disabled children
attend regular classes. For example, six blind children entered the regular public

school system for the first time in 1975. More than 100 cases of integrated education
for blind children had been reported by 1993. Since 1984, the Tokyo government has
allowed blind children to take high school entrance examinations in Braille, and
provides free Braille textbooks (Sin 1993).
The legalization of integrated education has created more accessibility for disabled
children who wish to attend regular schools. The government should direct municipal
boards of education to provide integrated education and services for all children with
disabilities, if parents request the services, as in the 1975 Individuals with Disabilities
Education Act in the United States. As a part of the movement for the rights of
disabled people, the United States Supreme Court ruled in 1972 that public schools be
prohibited from denying education to children with disabilities (Pennsylvania
Association for Retarded Children v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania).
Public schools in the United States are required to be barrier-free under the 1968
Architectural Barriers Act. The landmark law for special education, the 1975
Individuals With Disabilities Education Act and its amendments mandate that
everyone with disabilities between the ages of three and 21 shall receive a free,
appropriate public education. If a public school lacks the services, the school district
must pay for the child to attend a private school approved by the state. The Supreme
Court ruled in March 1999 that public schools must pay for in-class nursing care for
severely disabled children. Schools may hire paraprofessionals or aides to provide the
Since 1988, schools in the United States have found the inclusion of disabled children
in the regular education classroom to be the least restrictive environment for an
increasing number of students with disabilities. In 2000-1 school year, 95.8 percent of
disabled persons 6 to 21 years old receiving education service for the disabled
attended regular school. Among them, 46.5 percent spent at least 80 percent of the
day in a regular classroom, 29.3 percent spent 40 to 79 percent, and 19.5 percent spent
less than 40 percent of the day in a regular classroom. Three percent spent time in
separate facilities, 0.7 percent were in residential facilities, and 0.5 percent were at
home or in a hospital (NCES 2004a).
The Japanese government provides free elementary and middle school education for
all children with disabilities under the School Education Law. In 2003, there were

172,000 students, 1.6 percent of the student population, who received special
education in elementary and middle schools (Naikakufu 2004b). In 2001, among
56,900 school age children with physical disabilities, 39.4 percent attended regular
schools, 38.5 percent attended special schools, 18.3 percent were in special classes of
regular schools, and 4.7 percent stayed at home (Kseirdsh 2002). Many mentally
retarded children attend special classes in regular schools, and some children with
epilepsy or children under medication may also go to special schools for mentally
retarded children. Regular classes are considered unsuitable for mentally retarded
children. They fare better in special classes or special schools for mentally retarded
children (Takayama 2000). The purpose of special education is to help children with
disabilities to develop their individual abilities so that they become capable of living
independently when they are adults. These children are taught in classes of six to
eight, and the instruction is tailored to their needs.
Special Schools

There are three types of schools for children with disabilities: 1) schools for children
with visual impairments (mgakk); 2) schools for children with hearing impairments
(rgakk); and 3) schools for children with orthopedic disabilities, mentally retarded
children and sickly children (ygo gakk). Each prefecture has at least one of each
type of special school. Special schools include preschools, elementary schools,
middle schools, and residential high schools. The schools for children with visual or
hearing impairments have two- or three-year vocational training programs after high
school. The 1954 Law for the Promotion of School Attendance at Special Schools
guarantees public subsidies for educational equipment, lunches, and transportation for
its students. In 2003, 3,900 students attend 71 schools for children with visual
impairment, 6,700 students attend 106 schools for children with hearing impairments,
and 85,900 students attend 818 schools for children with physical and mental
disabilities, and sickly children. Almost all middle school graduates from special
schools went on to high school, mostly the high school section of special schools
(Naikakufu 2004b).
The curriculum for children with physical disabilities and sickly children includes
training courses for independent activities, in addition to a curriculum that is similar to
that of regular schools. In the independent-activities courses, children with visual
impairments learn to read Braille and to walk, children with hearing impairments
learn how to listen and pronounce words, while children with physical disabilities

have physical therapy. Classes in special schools are limited to six students for
elementary and middle schools, to eight students with two teachers for high school,
and to three students with physical and mental disabilities (Smuch 2000a:350-351).
Since 1979, special education teachers have visited the homes and bedsides of
elementary, middle school students, and since 2000, high school students
(Monbukagakush 2001b). In 2003, 1,447 elementary, 803 middle school, and 1,038
high school students received this visitation education (Naikakufu 2004b). If a child
stays in the hospital, he or she receives correspondence education.
Prefectural special schools for children with visual impairments provide education
from preschool to high school. Since the 1923 imperial ordinance, each prefecture
has to have at least one special school for children with visual and hearing
impairments. Since 1948, children with visual or hearing impairments have the right
to attend special schools, special classes, or mainstream schools for nine years of
compulsory education. Students learn academic subjects in Braille. Children with
weak vision use corrective lenses and teaching materials in large print. High school
education has vocational-track courses for tuning pianos, public health and therapy,
acupuncture, acupressure, and massage, in addition to the general high school
courses. These schools have three years of special vocational courses after high
school, and more than one third of all high school graduates enroll in these programs
(Monbukagakush 2004a).
Children with hearing impairments can attend preschool, elementary, middle, and high
schools, and special vocational courses in each prefecture. In addition to academic
courses, high schools have courses to train students for careers as hairdressers, dental
technicians, printing technicians, and cleaners. One third of all children enroll in twoyear special vocational courses after graduating from high school (Monbukagakush
Special schools for children with disabilities provide special education for children
with physical disabilities, mentally retarded children, and sickly children. During the
Taish period (1912-1926), special classes for mentally retarded children were taught
in regular elementary schools. By 1935, 209 special classes for sickly children were
established, and 14 special classes for children with physical disabilities were
provided before 1945 (Monbush 1992:87-88). Not until 1979 did children with

physical and mental disabilities finally have the right to complete compulsory
Some special schools are designed for children with physical disabilities, mentally
retarded children, or for sickly children. Many special schools take both physical
disabled and mentally retarded children together because many children have both
physical and mental disabilities. Most of children with mild and moderate degrees of
physical disabilities or mental retardation prefer attending special classes for children
with disabilities (ygo gakky) in regular elementary and middle schools in their
communities because it is much more convenient for their parents to take them to
nearby schools, and children have more interaction with friends in their
neighborhoods after school. Therefore, the majority of elementary and middle school
students in special schools have severe disabilities. Most children who graduate from
special classes in regular middle schools attend high school in special schools for
physically and mentally disabled children.
For mentally retarded children, subject matter can be arranged in accordance with
their individual cognitive abilities. In 1962, the Course of Study outlined its first
educational guideline for children with IQs between 50 and 60, in order to help them
lead independent adult lives (Monbush 1991:14-15). As the number of children with
severe mental retardation grew, a new course, called the Course of Daily Living
(seikatsuka) was created in the 1970 Course of Study. This course teaches children
how to handle their daily chores, such as going to a toilet, eating, and changing
Since 1972, the Course of Study has set guidelines for high school education for
mentally retarded children. The goal of high school education for these children is to
teach reading, writing, listening, counting, and shopping. High school education
includes one or more vocational subjects, one special course designed by the school, a
comprehensive learning course, and a training course for independent activities. In
addition, there are elective foreign language and information science courses.
Vocational courses teach sewing, cleaning, handicrafts, cooking, interior design, home
care, planting, animal husbandry, food processing, ceramics, wood working, metal
working, stone working, weaving, printing, the management of commodities, sales,
cleaning, and clerical work (Monbush 1999c).

Special education teachers design a curriculum that considers the individual needs of
students. They may consult informally with parents and/or medical professionals, but
they are not required to confer with parents or medical professionals as in the United
States. The legalization of the individualized education program (IEP) modeled on
that of the United States is desirable, because the IEP has made appropriate instruction
available for individual special-education students in the United States. The IEP,
created by a team of teachers, parents, professionals, and if possible, children, helps
teachers create an appropriate instruction plan by considering the advice of parents
and of professionals.
The parent-approved IEP of the United States is legally mandated by the 1975
Individuals With Disabilities Education Act. A child-study team is formed to develop
an IEP (which is not legally binding) and must renew the IEP at least annually. The
team consists of the childs teacher(s), a representative from the local school district,
the childs parents or guardians, school psychologists and therapists, and the children
themselves, when appropriate (Heward and Cavanaugh 1997:312-313). In practice,
parents are seldom provided an opportunity to meet with the entire team, despite the
theoretical importance of their input (Meyer, Harry and Sapon-Shevin 1997:339).
In actual special education classes, the instruction seldom follows the IEP (Heward
and Cavanaugh 1997:314). Furthermore, many schools and districts cannot afford to
provide the classroom aides, specialized materials, and extra services that are
mandated by law to their special-education students. Nearly one in three specialeducation teachers in California lacks full credentials, and many special-education
teachers are not trained as special-education teachers (Los Angeles Times December
12, 1999). Teachers with low expectations tend to underestimate the abilities of
students and to deliver an inferior quality of teaching. Though there are obvious flaws
in the system, the basic IEP model can be adapted into the Japanese educational
Yuri Special School for Mentally Retarded Children

In April 2000, the Yuri Special School for mentally retarded children, established in
1985, had 33 students, 21 teachers, and one nurse teacher in the elementary school
department, as well as 30 students and 21 teachers in the middle school department.2
The high school department had 59 students and 30 teachers, two non-faculty
teachers, and three assistant teachers. Two middle school students and one high

school student who have difficulty attending school have a home study program with
two visiting teachers. Most of the teachers are special-education specialists. Small
class sizes and a 1:1.6 teacher-student ratio keep teachers attentive to the needs of
individual students. For children with profound disabilities, the ratio of teachers to
students can be no more than 1:3.
The total of 122 students includes 29 children with autism, 17 with epilepsy, and 12
with Downs syndrome. Most children in the elementary- and middle-school
departments have severe retardation because children with mild retardation usually
attend special classes for disabled children in the regular elementary and middle
schools in their communities. About half of all high school students are graduates
from the special classes for disabled children in the regular middle schools.
The school emphasizes physical education and sports to develop healthy bodies and
minds. All middle and high school students jog around the school grounds or adjacent
mountain roads every morning. In 2001, they won first prize in a long-distance relay
race in the prefectural contest of special schools for disabled children. That raised the
self-esteem and confidence of these students. The school also assists middle and high
school students in taking public transportation, instead of school buses.
All students have a class on guidance for daily life in the first period of every school
day. Elementary school students usually have two hours for guidance for daily life,
one hour for daily life activities, one hour for physical education, and one hour for
language/counting/independent activities every day, in addition to music and plays
once or twice a week. Independent activities are taught in the language and counting
courses, and moral education is a component of all school activities and courses. The
middle school department allocates seven hours a week to guidance for daily life,
six hours to daily life activities, six hours to vocational training workshops, two
hours each for Japanese language arts, mathematics, music, arts, and home economics,
three hours for physical education, and one hour for special activities. The high
school department dedicates three hours to guidance for daily life, three hours for
daily life activities, nine hours for vocational-training workshops, two hours each
for Japanese language arts, mathematics, music, arts, home economics, and
vocational-training courses, five hours for physical education, and two hours for
special activities.

All students are divided into homeroom classes, according to their grade level. Each
homeroom class has a small number of students and several homeroom teachers.
Teachers provide instruction on the basis of their abilities. Teachers record the daily
activities of these students in a journal for their parents. The school does not have a
mandatory child-study group for the individualized educational plan. Homeroom
teachers usually design an educational plan for individual students and then
informally solicit the parents comments. For children with physical and mental
disabilities, the teacher creates a detailed individualized educational plan that
incorporates the requests from the parents. The teachers obtain medical advice from
physicians and psychiatrists. However, in practice, the doctors usually do not have
the time for consultations. Scheduled meetings of teachers, parents, medical
professionals, counselors, and psychologists can allow teachers to refine their
understanding of the complexity of mental disabilities, and to design an appropriate
educational plan for each student.

The school values vocational-training courses, which show students how to become
self-sufficient. Middle school students have three-hour vocational-training courses on
Mondays and Thursdays, and high school students have three-hour vocational-training
courses on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Middle school students are divided
into groups for gardening, sewing and light work, and high school students are
divided into groups for gardening, sewing, wood-crafting, pottery-making, textilemaking, and light work. The students, except for the twelfth-graders, are rotated
every six months into a different workshop. High school seniors choose a single
workshop for a year. The teachers treat the students as employees and give them a
glimpse of life in the working world. The students learn to take responsibility, to be
patient, and to cooperate. When I visited the workshops, I found the students to be
very quiet and diligent workers.
The school arranges two-to-three-week long internships for high school juniors and
seniors in June and November. The teacher responsible for job placement finds local
employers who are willing to take these internees for job training. The school asks
these employers to assign a mentor for the internees and to make them feel welcome
during their breaks. The students usually go to an internship with their teachers and
occasionally with their parents. The internship system helps students to acquire work
experience in actual workplaces.

Because of the prolonged recession, teachers have had a harder time finding jobs for
their students. More students have obtained jobs in the service industry than in
manufacturing. Among 20 graduates in March 2000, 11 obtained jobs in
supermarkets, food-processing plants, factories, a janitorial company, a hospital, and
at a family store. Five students went on to work at daily workshops for disabled
people, three students went to institutions for disabled people, and one student went to
a vocational-training center. The teachers visit the students during spring and summer
vacations for three years after their graduation, in order to make sure that the students
are becoming accustomed to their new lives. The school provides a lifetime
consulting for all graduates so that they can always go to the school for assistance in
job placement.
Recently, exchange programs between special schools and regular schools have been
promoted as a part of human rights education. Yuris middle school department has an
exchange program with a special class in a neighboring middle school. Also, nearby
fourth graders visited the Yuri special school three times in one trimester as part of
their integrated study class. The students played with the disabled students, and
became friends. The students in the special school enjoyed making new friends, and
the parents were also favorably impressed by the exchange programs. The teacher I
interviewed said that the exchange program was a success. Moreover, there is a
parents association at the school, and volunteer groups are active in organizing
special activities for disabled children.
Special Classes for Children with Disabilities

Special classes for children with disabilities (shgaiji gakky) in mainstream

elementary and middle schools are formed for children who have mild physical or
mental disabilities. Most of the students have mild mental retardation and emotional
disturbance, and others have physical disabilities, health problems, speech
impediments, and hearing or visual impairment. Parents and the municipal board of
education decide whether children with mild disabilities attend regular classes, special
classes in regular school, or special schools. In 2003, 59,400 students attended 21,400
special classes in regular elementary schools, while 26,500 attended 9,500 special
classes in regular middle schools. Most of them (87.3%) went to high schools after
graduation (Naikakufu 2004b).

Children with disabilities are taught from the same curriculum as regular schools, but
have special courses based on their individual abilities. For example, the children
with amblyopia in the class for disabled children learn how to use the equipment that
they need, learn to improve their eyesight, and also study general academic subjects.
Exchange programs between disabled children in special-education programs and
children in regular classes have been recently promoted as part of human rights
education. Interaction with disabled children helps children learn tolerance and
acceptance of people with disabilities, and to eliminate prejudice and discrimination.
It takes time for able-bodied children to become accustomed to children with
disabilities. However, children must have direct contact with disabled children in
order to understand and respect them. The exchange programs also help disabled
children meet and befriend other students. However, despite the support of the board
of education and the government, these exchange programs are more like annual
special events, and the children have little time to build friendships with each other.
For teacher training, the government enacted the Special Law for Social Welfare
Experience and Caring in 1997 in order to acquaint teachers with the human rights of
disabled children. The Law requires one week of practical training in special schools
or in social welfare facilities in order for elementary and middle school teachers to
obtain their teaching credentials.
A Special Class for Children with Disabilities in Ume Elementary School

Ume Elementary School has three special classes for disabled children: mentally
retarded children (seven students and two teachers), emotionally disturbed children
(three students and one teacher) and physically disabled children (one student and one
teacher) in two separate classrooms.3 In one classroom, a teacher delivers instruction
to three emotionally disturbed children individually in an informal manner. In a
corner, another teacher speaks to one child with cerebral palsy on a tatami-mat. In
another classroom, two teachers are responsible for seven mentally retarded children.
These students attend regular arts and music classes as often as possible in order to
have contact with the students in the mainstream classes. They also participate in
exchange programs with special-education students from other elementary schools.
There are 45 special-education students in Marugames elementary schools. All of
them meet four times a year to make artwork for the annual Marugame Castle
Festival, go to the beach, visit an amusement park, and participate in a graduation

party. When I observed their classes, the students were practicing songs, and learning
sign language for the upcoming graduation party. These students are well cared for by
their teachers in small classes.
Special education teachers design their lesson plans for individual students, and then
informally talk to the parents. They do not have formal meetings with parents or
specialists to discuss individualized education programs. Not all special-education
teachers in mainstream schools are experts in special education, unlike their
counterparts in special schools. Many of these teachers have been transferred from
regular classes. They participate in workshops and conferences, sponsored by the
Marugame board of education. Their specialized training is developed through onthe-job teaching special-education students in mainstream schools. Teachers training
workshops, regular communication between teachers and parents, and advice from
medical professionals and psychiatrists make the teaching methods of specialeducation teachers more effective.
Regular Classes with Special Aids in the Resource Room

Advocates for the rights of disabled children have lobbied for the inclusion of
disabled children in regular schools. Since 1993, the government has begun to
integrate children with mild disabilities into regular classrooms. Children with mild
disabilities are placed in regular homeroom classes and learn general subjects. These
disabled children also have access to a resource room, special classes, or special
schools, depending on the severity of their disabilities. For example, children with
hearing difficulties in the regular class attend the special class for hearing-impaired
children where they learn how to speak, listen, and use a hearing aid. Special
supplementary lessons cannot exceed more than eight unit-hours a week (Zenkoku
2000:7). The number of these children reached 33,700 (including 930 middle school
students) in 2003. These children had been diagnosed with speech impediments
(82.4%), emotional disturbances (12.4%), hearing difficulties (4.7%), and amblyopia
(0.5%) (Naikakufu 2004b).
Higher Education for Children with Disabilities

In 2003, a half of all students with visual or hearing impairments entered two- or
three-year vocational courses in special schools, colleges, or specialized training
colleges. Only 1.5% of 11,500 graduates from schools for children with physical and

mental disabilities were admitted to colleges, including specialized training colleges

(Naikakufu 2004b).
According to the 1986-1989 survey of four-year universities, colleges accept students
with physical disabilities through affirmative action measures (2.4%), with some
conditions (6.6%), according to the same criteria as other students (50.9%), and
depending on the degree of disabilities (29.2%), while 7.5 percent of them
categorically reject students with physical disabilities. In many cases, the disabled
students consult the admissions office at the university and the department before
taking the entrance examination. Private, large-scale denominational colleges, and
those that have a tradition of accepting students with physical disabilities, tend to have
a higher rate of acceptance of students with physical disabilities than do public, smallscale nondenominational colleges, and those that have never admitted disabled
students. Also, the departments of humanities and social sciences are more likely to
take students with physical disabilities than are other departments (Shgaisha
1992:80-81, 109).


People with disabilities are legally guaranteed equal employment opportunity. The
1993 revision to the 1970 Fundamental Law of People with Disabilities was amended
as follows: [People with Disabilities] are guaranteed to have an opportunity to
participate in all kinds of social, economic and cultural activities as members of
society. In addition, people with disabilities are eligible for a special employment
quota. The 1960 Law for the Employment Promotion of People with Disabilities and
its revisions stipulate that public and private employers hire a certain percentage of
people with disabilities. Employers who do not meet this requirement are liable to be
fined, and employers who do meet the requirement receive subsidies. The revised
Law of 1997 requires public organizations to meet a 2.1 percent quota, and obligates
private corporations of 56 full-time employees and more to meet a 1.8 percent quota
for people with physical and mental disabilities. People with mental disabilities were,
for the first time, included in the quota system. In June 2003, 2.19 to 2.49 percent of
state, prefectural and municipal employees and 1.47 percent of employees in private
companies were people with disabilities. Regular employees with severe disabilities
are counted twice. Employers have to report the number of disabled workers to the
Public Employment Security Office annually. The Office identifies companies that

have failed to meet their quota and releases the information to the public. Almost 60
percent of private companies failed to meet the 1.8 percent quota (Naikakufu 2004b).
Companies with 301 or more employees that do not meet the quota requirements have
to pay a fine of 50,000 yen a month to the Levy and Grant System for each person that
is short of the quota. The funds collected by the System are used for the payment of
rewards, 27,000 yen a month per disabled employee to the companies with 301 or
more employees that exceeded their quota, and 21,000 yen a month per disabled
employee to the companies with fewer than 301 employees. The funds also provide
grant money to companies with disabled employees in order to make the facilities
accessible to those employees and to provide them with assistants (Naikakufu 2004b).
However, employers are not legally obligated to make their facilities accessible to
people with disabilities. Such accommodation may be prohibitively expensive,
especially in small- and medium-size companies where most disabled people work.
The funds from the Levy and Grant System and public subsidies help these companies
the necessary renovations that make their facilities accessible.
In the United States, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) demands that
businesses provide their employees and customers with disabilities with reasonable
accommodations. The business does not have to change its existing facilities to
make them ADA-accessible. However, when the business builds or expands a new
facility, it must make its entrances, exits, and restrooms accessible to people with
disabilities. Unlike the Japanese system, there is not a quota system for people with
disabilities in the employment recruitment process; however, the Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission (EEOC) prohibits discrimination in hiring on the basis of
The Public Employment Security Offices and the Regional Employment Centers for
People with Disabilities provide employment counseling, vocational training, and
employment rehabilitation measures for all disabled adults and children. They learn
in vocational training schools for disabled people and the Centers for the
Development of Abilities and Skills.
In 2003, 11.9 percent of the graduates of special schools for children with visual
impairments, 25.5 percent of the graduates of special schools for children with hearing
impairments, and 19.3 percent of the graduates of special schools for children with

physical and mental disabilities entered the workforce (Naikakufu 2004b). The rate of
employment for high school graduates from special schools has always been low, and
the recession has only made their employment more difficult. Even those who have
obtained certificates to work in massage, acupuncture, and moxibustion through
vocational courses in special schools have trouble passing the national examinations
because these occupations have become more popular among those without
Responding to the low rate of employment, high school sections plan to introduce
more vocational courses. The MOE added courses in information science to the
Course of Study in 1999. Follow-up service for job hunting is necessary to provide
children with disabilities with the opportunity to find a job. For example, the
municipal government of Kunitachi City provides after-care classes for disabled high
school graduates who have not obtained a job. They learn vocational skills,
participate in exchange programs, and join a network of youths with disabilities
(Nihon Shakai 1988:407).
According to a 2001 survey, 42 percent of people with physical disabilities from ages
15 to 64 are employed. They work as full-time employees (17%), self-employed
workers (8%), family workers (2%), board members of a company or an organization
(4%), temporary workers (3%), home workers (1%), workers at a vocational aid
center (1%), and workers at a workshop (1%). Among mentally retarded people from
15 to 64 years old, half of them (49%) work as full-time employees (12%), temporary
workers (5%), self-employed workers (0.4%), family workers (2%), workers at a
workshop (15%), and workers at a vocational aid center (12%)(Kseirdsho 2003a).
According to a 2003 survey, 41 percent of people with mental disabilities between 20
and 64 years old work as full-time workers (10%), temporary workers (9%), selfemployed workers (4%), family workers (4%), board members of a company or an
organization (3%), home workers (0.2%), workers at a vocational aid center (6%), and
workers at a company with vocational training (3%) (Kseirdsho 2003b).


The MOE plans to provide nation-wide special education for children with learning
disabilities, based on the United States model of special education for LD children. A

MOE-sponsored research group of specialists and principals submitted a preliminary

report about screening and teaching LD children on July 2, 1999 (Monbush 1999d).
The report defines LD children as children who have extreme difficulties in hearing,
speaking, reading, writing, counting, and reasoning, even though they have average or
above average intelligence.
In the United States, the 1975 Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (Public
Law 94-142) recognized learning disabilities as a disability, and stated that LD
children have the right to receive special education and special services as a free and
appropriate part of public education, after amending the original Education for All
Handicapped Children Act. Learning Disorders are diagnosed when the
individuals achievement on individually administered, standardized tests in reading,
mathematics, or written expression is substantially below that expected for age,
schooling, and level of intelligence (APA 1994:46).
Learning disabilities are believed to result from a problem in the central nervous
system. Learning disabilities are not caused by visual, hearing, mental, or emotional
problems, or by environmental factors. Nevertheless, some learning disabilities
resemble mental disabilities, autism, and communication disabilities. For example,
emotional disturbances such as attention deficit disorder and autism often coexist with
learning disabilities.
In the United States, 15 to 20 percent of children with learning disabilities have been
diagnosed with attention deficit disorder (ADD), while 45 to 50 percent of the
children with ADD have trouble reading. According to the American Psychiatric
Association (1994), Estimates of the prevalence of Learning Disorders range from 2
to 10 percent depending on the nature of ascertainment and the definition applied.
Approximately 5 percent of students in public schools in the United States are
identified as having a Learning Disorder (APA 1994:47). Among children 3 to 21
years old in federally-supported programs for the disabled in 2000-01 (6,293,000),
45.2 percent were children with learning disabilities, consisting of 6 percent of public
school students (NCES 2003a).
The MOE-sponsored Report proposes screening for a LD child, modeled on the
screening methods for LD children in the United States (Monbush 1999d). The
Report proposes that an in-school committee of the principal, vice-principal, and a

homeroom teacher, possibly including outside professionals, be formed when the

homeroom teacher recognizes learning difficulties in a student or when parents inform
the school that their child has learning difficulties. The in-school committee decides
whether or not to see a professional evaluation in collaboration with the parents. The
child has learning disabilities if
1) The child has the average or above average IQ and average or above average
educational achievement in one and more academic subjects;
2) The child does not need the type of care required by children with disabilities.
Also, the learning difficulties cannot be caused by environmental factors. However,
children with physical and mental disabilities and children from disadvantaged
environments may also have learning disabilities.
3) The second or third grader is at least a year behind, and the fourth grader or older
is at least two years behind in Japanese language arts or mathematics. He or she may
also be behind in hearing, speaking, reading, writing, counting, or reasoning abilities,
based on his or her school records, classroom attitudes, homework, notes, and
attitudes at home.
The in-school committee weighs these criteria and ensures that the learning
disabilities persist for at least one trimester. The committee needs parental permission
before requesting a professional evaluation. The committee can ask permission from
the parents after any initial refusal, if the committee finds that the child still needs
special education. When behavioral and interpersonal problems also occur, the inschool committee studies the behavioral history, home environment, and attitudes of
the child. The in-school committee trusts the professional team to decide whether or
not the child needs special education. The professional team consists of specialists, a
special-education teacher, a homeroom teacher, psychologists, and physicians. The
professional team decides whether the student has learning disabilities, and decides on
the kind of pedagogy is most appropriate for the child (Monbush 1999d).


According to the criteria that the Report suggests, children with learning disabilities
are indistinguishable from children with low educational achievement, the so-called
ochikobore and slow learners without any discernible medical issues that could
indicate central nervous system problems. There have been always students who lag

behind academically when they take more demanding classes. In elementary school,
slow learners are usually behind in arithmetic, and in middle school in mathematics
and English. Most slow-learners come from dysfunctional environmental factors or
from homes that do not place a priority upon learning. A regression analysis of
educational attainment confirmed that parents education, occupation, and household
income have a strong influence upon their childrens educational performance (e.g.,
Aramaki 2000). Many children from poorer families with low socioeconomic status
and relatively uneducated parents miss opportunities to learn effective study habits
and to value education.
Elementary and middle schools did not have ability-grouped classes until 2002, when
the MOE implemented a program of special education classes in English,
mathematics, and science for advanced elementary and middle school students. All
children, including high achievers and slow learners, usually learn the same lessons
in the same classrooms. Discrepancies in educational achievement begin to appear as
early as the first or second grade. Some elementary schools have a homeroom teacher
who helps students catch up with assignments after school.4 However, most slow
learners in elementary and middle schools do not receive much special attention.
Low-achievers in middle schools are more likely to have behavioral problems.
Teachers in the student guidance programs monitor them closely in order to modify
their conduct. However, few teachers can help them catch up with their class work.
The students who enter middle school at an academic disadvantage have a hard time
catching up, and sitting still in a class where they have no comprehension of the
course material. According to the 1987 survey, almost 60 percent of middle school
teachers said that it is too difficult to help the students who are already behind to catch
up with their classmates (Kudomi 1994b:329).
It is believed that the heavy workloads for high school entrance examinations make
slow-learners fall even farther behind. According to a 1978 survey, middle school
teachers blamed problems upon excessive content in academic subjects, lecture-style
classes, and unmotivated or inept students (Kitao and Kajita 1984). Worried about the
students who were overloaded with schoolwork and the increasing number of children
who were struggling in their classes, the 1977 Course of Study lightened the academic
burden of students. However, it did not help reduce the students stress and workload

because they still had to undergo examination hell. Therefore, the number of slow
learners has remained constant.
Researchers in the United States note the ambiguity between LD children and lowachievers caused by unsupportive homes. Screening methods in the United States
have recently been criticized as flawed because of arbitrary and biased methods.
Schools classify children with LD through IQ tests and reading comprehension. If the
IQ test scores are significantly higher than reading scores, the students are designated
as LD (Los Angeles Times December 12, 1999). Many students are incorrectly
labeled as LD because they were not properly taught how to read. According to the
survey, only 15 percent of LD students meet the clinical definition, and most LD
students were poor children with low achievement and low scores on in tests that
measured cognitive ability (Meyer, Harry and Sapon-Shevin 1997:337). Minority and
disadvantaged children are over-represented in special education because of poverty,
educational disadvantage, the lack of early education, and culturally biased IQ tests
(Agbenyega and Jiggetts 1999).
The discrepancies between intelligence and school performance emerge when students
are in the third or fourth grade. LD children receive special treatment from
professionals through special-education funding. However, labeling stigmatizes LD
children as slow children, and LD children are equipped with less-qualified teachers
and lower expectations. LD children have less self-esteem and little educational
aspiration because they are underestimated by their teachers and ridiculed by their
peers (Heward and Cavanaugh 1997:305-306).
The majority of LD children cannot integrate into mainstream classrooms, and face
constant obstacles to education and employment. Fewer than 10 percent of LD
students return from special education to mainstream classrooms, and 75 percent of
third graders with LD continue to have trouble reading through high school. Recent
studies have shown, however, that if LD students received regular, intensive
instruction in reading and basic phonics beginning in kindergarten, their reading
problems would be reduced or corrected (Los Angeles Times December 12, 1999).
Remedial programs such as Head Start help to prevent these children from being
placed in special education.

Labeling Japanese children as LD may be more detrimental than beneficial. Giving

elementary- and middle-school children such a label definitely stigmatizes them in the
eyes of their teachers and peers because of the absence of ability grouping. Since the
criteria and screening methods for identifying LD children are questioned by leading
studies in the United States, and the distinction between LD children and slow
learners from disadvantaged families is blurry, labeling Japanese children as LD
children may be unnecessary. However, it is necessary to provide remedial education
for students who are lagging behind in their classes.


The Report proposed remedial education for LD children (Monbush 1999d). LD

children need to have supplementary lessons for particular subjects in which they are
having difficulty. The National Institute for Special Education has shown that
supplementary materials, incremental teaching methods, team-teaching, and tutoring
help LD children master the subjects in which they are behind. Each LD child will be
given personalized educational plan based on his or her needs. These students can be
taught in the regular classroom with special attention from a homeroom teacher, or by
a team of teachers. Under the team-teaching system introduced in 1993, two or more
teachers share a class by dividing students into small groups or by tutoring individual
students who need extra attention.
When LD children need tutoring, a team teacher helps them in the class or meets
privately with them. LD children can also attend after-school tutorials from a
homeroom teacher or from part-time teachers. These tutorials can be open to all
children, not only those with LD. LD children may go to the resource room to have
special education, similar to that offered to children with mild physical and emotional
disabilities. The deployment of specialists to teach LD children and advise teachers is
also possible. If children with physical disabilities also have learning disabilities, they
may enroll in special schools. If children with attention deficit disorder, emotional
problems, or communication disabilities also have learning disabilities, they can be
enrolled either in a special class for children with emotional disabilities in the regular
schools or in a regular class with special aids in the resource room (Monbush
The Report acknowledges that LD children and slow children need remedial
instruction to catch up with their classes, and proposes opening supplementary lessons

for LD children to other low-achievers (Monbush 1999d). The proposed special

education for LD children should take the form of remedial education for all lowachievers, but without labeling any children as LD. Not only supplementary lessons,
but also additional teaching aids for LD children should be made available to all lowachieving children. Tutoring should start as early as the first grade, the first indication
that a student is not performing at grade level. Homeroom teachers, subject teachers,
classroom aides, part-time teachers and volunteers can provide this tutoring in afterschool classes, regular classes and private sessions. Furthermore, schools should
make an appeal for people from the community to come forward and volunteer as
classroom aides or part-time teachers. Finally, teachers and tutors should
communicate a sense of confidence in their students abilities so that the students will
believe in their own ability to learn. Teachers need to see these students as more than
a set of academic abilities or disabilities. Teachers should likewise encourage their
parents to make a greater emotional investment in their childrens education.
Many low achievers, including LD children, go to low-ranked academic or vocational
high schools, evening high schools, correspondence high schools, and vocationaltraining schools. Others enter the workforce. Therefore, it is important for them to
realize their potential in high school. These high schools need to emphasize
vocational training, and provide the necessary remedial courses, because most of these
students plan to seek employment following graduation.
An ID handbook for people with disabilities does not yet exist for LD children
because learning disabilities have not yet been recognized as disabilities. Therefore,
LD children are not eligible for employment under the quotas for people with
disabilities, nor are they qualified for special benefits. LD children and other slow
learners generally find dead-end jobs in small firms as unskilled or semi-skilled
workers. Breaking the vicious cycle of low achievement can be accomplished
through early remedial education, and practical vocational training.
Children with disabilities can receive instruction in special schools, special classes in
mainstream schools, or in specially equipped regular classrooms. Recently, the
Japanese government has promoted integrated education for children with
disabilities. Since 1993, children with mild disabilities, such as communication
disabilities, learn general subjects in regular classrooms, and occasionally take

supplementary lessons in a resource room. However, the municipal boards of

education can legally deny access to children with disabilities, citing inadequate
school facilities and staff. A mandate for integrated education, like the 1975
Individuals With Disabilities Education Act in the United States, would open up
access to education for disabled children who wish to attend regular schools. The
Grant and Levy System, a mandatory quota system for the employment of people with
disabilities, has improved the employment of people with disabilities since 1960.
Public and private employers who do not meet these quotas are fined.
The Ministry of Education plans to implement special education for LD children,
modeled on special education for LD children in the United States. The criteria of
diagnosing LD children have been challenged by studies in the United States, and
there is no clear distinction between LD children and slow learners from
disadvantaged families. Early remedial education gives disadvantaged children better
learning habits and keeps them performing at grade level.
1. The Disabilities Information Resource provides information in English on the
Internet. Goldberg reports on the observation of special education cases in Tokyo
(Goldberg 1989).
2. This case study is based on classroom observations, and interviews with teachers
in Yuri Special School on February 27, 2001, in addition to examination of school
brochures and documents provided by teachers.
3. This case study is based on my classroom observation of special classes and my
interviews with special education teachers in Ume Elementary School on February 21,
4. Some schools provide after-school tutoring for low-achievers. One elementary
school teacher said homeroom teachers in her school tutor struggling students after
school and during recess. When she has time, she tutors two boys from her 16-student
second grade class from 3:00 to 4:00 three times a week and during recess (Interview
on December 26, 2000).



Contents of This Chapter

1. 9-1


1. 9-1-1


2. 9-1-2


1. Ethnic Education

2. 9-2

3. 9-3


1. 9-2-1


2. 9-2-2



1. 9-3-1


1. Education for Buraku Children Until the 1960s

2. Affirmative Action For Buraku Children
3. Buraku Awareness Education
4. Education for Buraku Children in Marugame
2. 9-3-2


Minority children include socially discriminated-against Buraku children, indigenous
Ainu children, ethnic minority Korean children, and ethnic or linguistic minority
children of newcomers (such as Nikkei children, Chinese returnee children, and
refugee children). These children are more likely to have substandard academic
performance, and to endure prejudice and discrimination.
Thanks to minority and human-rights movements, the Japanese government is now
more committed than ever to seeing that minority children receive as good an
education as Japanese children do. The government provides scholarships,
affirmative action, and remedial education. Minority and foreign children also have
access to tutoring and to lessons about their cultural history and heritage. This chapter
will describe education for Buraku and Ainu children. The next chapter will discuss
education for Korean, Nikkei, Chinese returnee children, and refugee children.





Education specialists, anthropologists, and sociologists have discussed the various

causes of the limited achievement of minority students. They explain the lower
achievement of minority students with theories about stratification, reproduction,
cultural deficit, and the segmented labor market (Jacob and Jordan 1993; Bourdieu
1986; Ogbu 1993; Rubinson and Browne 1994).
The stratification, reproduction and conflict theories argue that the class backgrounds
of student determine their educational achievement, attainment, and aspiration, and
that schools operated by the dominant class merely reproduce social stratification
favorable for the dominant class. The stratification theory uses statistical means to
determine which independent variables (such as family backgrounds, IQ, or peer and
school characteristics) affect the educational achievement of minority students on a
macro-level (Jacob and Jordan 1993). Lower socioeconomic and educational
attainment of the parents of minority students, combined with an inferior school
environment can explain the lower educational attainment of minority students.
Reproduction theory argues that the variables of cultural capital, the habitus of
children, such as education, knowledge, and hobbies, affect their performance in
school. Cultural capital is transmitted by parents through early socialization at home,
and can be measured by the parents education, their investment in childrens
education, and the childrens educational environment (Bourdieu 1986). Thus,
minority students shortage of cultural capital is seen as one cause of their lower
educational achievement.
The cultural conflict theory argues that the cultural mismatch between middle-class
white teachers in the United States and non-white students, for example, causes
miscommunication, lowered expectations, and misunderstandings between teachers
and minority students (Jacob and Jordan 1993:5-6). However, critics argue that these
theories are too deterministic and underestimate the decision-making process and
interaction among students, parents, and teachers (Rubinson and Ralph 1986:279-80).
The interpretive theory, based on ethnographical evidence, argues that not only does
the role of teachers affect the academic performance of children, but that classroom
dynamics also play a role, through the interaction between teachers and students,

curriculum analysis, teaching methods, as well as teachers characters and classroom

management (Takeuchi 1995:31-39).
On the other hand, the segment labor market theory argues that the glass ceiling in the
labor market discourages minority students from seeking higher education. This
theory also blames the lack of role models (Ogbu 1978, 1993).
Lower rates of high school and college enrollment are noted for Buraku children, Ainu
children, Korean children, Nikkei children, Chinese returnee children, and Vietnamese
refugee children. The poor academic performance of minority children may be caused
by: 1) family poverty, 2) the low educational attainment of their parents; 3) parents
who do not value education as a vehicle for upward social mobility; 4) the lack of role
models at home and in the community; 5) cultural conflicts and low expectations from
teachers; 6) employment discrimination; and 7) language difficulties.
The Japanese government helps minority children through affirmative action and
outreach programs intended to overcome educational discrepancies. Since 1969, the
government has supported large-scale affirmative action measures to improve the
social and economic conditions of Buraku people, and since 1974, the Hokkaido
Administration has enacted social welfare measures to do the same for the Ainu. The
government provides scholarships specifically for Buraku and Ainu children. Giving
minority parents some economic relief helps to create better homes for their children.
The government, in cooperation with community-based educational organizations,
supports remedial education for all minority children. The government has hired extra
teachers to offer instruction in academic subjects, ethnic studies, and Japanese
language, according to the needs of minority children. Additional teachers for Buraku
children, in cooperation with Buraku parents and community leaders, teach
supplementary lessons in academic subjects, and give guidance for Buraku children in
person on a daily basis. Additional Japanese language teachers, native-language
teachers and counselors are provided for children who need Japanese language
education. These teachers provide cultural capital for minority children through
encouragement and assistance. By working closely and intensively with these
children, the teachers arrive at a fuller understanding of these childrens homes and

The government has introduced anti-discriminatory measures and outreach programs

for minority people in the working world. For example, employers are prohibited
from asking about the job applicants family registry or their parents occupations,
which may reveal Buraku identity. The government also supports vocational training
for Buraku children. As a result of these programs, the educational attainment and
achievement of minority children has been approaching the national average.


The Japanese government promotes extensive human rights education (jinken kyiku)
to teach about minority cultures and history in schools and in the community. Human
rights education in Japan is similar to multicultural education in the United States,
which encourages students to learn about minorities from their perspectives, and aims
to promote tolerance and acceptance. The term tabunka kyiku (multicultural
education) appeared in Japan in the 1990s when an unprecedented number of foreign
children entered Japanese schools.
Minority groups who have suffered inequality and discrimination include the Ainu and
the Okinawans as indigenous national minorities, foreign nationals as ethnic
minorities, and Buraku people as socially discriminated descendants of former
outcastes. Other disadvantaged minority groups include women, children, the elderly,
and the disabled (Hmush 1997b). A national poll of 1993 shows that the general
public are most concerned about the human rights of children (82.4%), followed by
the disabled (69.2%), foreigners living in Japan (45.4%), the Buraku (36.1%), and the
Ainu (18.6%) (Buraku 1997:149).
Human rights education started in 1969 as Dwa education for the elimination of
discrimination against the Buraku. After the ratification of the U.N. Human Rights
Covenants in 1979, and of the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees in 1981,
the government has become more sensitive to the rights of minority people and
resident foreigners in Japan. The government launched a human rights awareness
campaign and declared 1995-2004 as the Decade of Human Rights Education. The
government ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial
Discrimination in 1995, and enacted the Law of Promotion of Measures for Human
Rights Protection in 1996. Symposia, conferences, and lectures are held across Japan
during Human Rights Week December 4-10 in schools and in the communities.

Human rights education in schools is primarily taught as part of the social science
curriculum. After successful efforts by minority activists, the social science textbooks
now describe the histories and cultures of minority peoples in their own words. Many
schools have their own human rights meetings during the Human Rights Week, and
study issues pertaining to the rights of minority peoples through films, lectures,
performances, and essay writing.
Ethnic Education

The government has shown its support for ethnic education by ratifying the Human
Rights Covenants in 1979, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1994.
Article 30 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child stipulates the rights of
minority children to learn their culture and language: In those States in which ethnic,
religious or linguistic minorities or persons of indigenous origin exist, a child
belonging to such a minority or who is indigenous shall not be denied the right, in
community with other members of his or her group, to enjoy his or her own culture, to
profess and practice his or her own religion, or to use his or her own language.
Many children attend ethnic classes in schools and community centers. Buraku
children learn about their history and culture through their local Buraku Childrens
Associations. Japanese schools, which many Korean children attend, may provide
extracurricular Korean ethnic classes with Korean teachers for Korean children.
Nikkei children may attend native-language/bilingual classes where a native-speaking
teacher educates them about their language and culture in schools or community
centers. Ainu children may attend community-based Ainu language classes.
The Ainu are an indigenous population of 24,000-50,000, living mainly in Hokkaido,
Japans northernmost island of four main islands.1 They have been almost completely
assimilated into Japanese society through intermarriage and a century of government
policy. Many Ainu pass as Japanese. From as early as the fourteenth century, the
Ainu have made their lives through hunting, gathering, and fishing in the mountains
and rivers in Hokkaido, the Kurile Islands and the southern Sakhalin. Hokkaido was
conquered by the Meiji government in the late nineteenth century.
Under the 1899 Hokkaido Former Natives Protection Law, the Meiji government
forced the Ainu to assimilate, prohibited them from hunting and fishing, and

confiscated their lands. Under state-sponsored assimilationist policies, the Ainu lost
their language and their traditional lifestyle. Discrimination and poverty relegated
them to the lowest ranks of Japanese society. It was not until the 1970s that young
Ainu activists launched an ethnic and cultural revival movement, and promoted Ainu
ethnic pride and identity. Kayano Shigeru founded a nursery school in 1982 to teach
Ainu language in his hometown, Nibutani (Kayano 1994:160). Twelve Ainu language
schools have opened, and Ainu language courses are offered in some universities
(Siddle 1996:186-187). Ainu language textbooks, magazines, and dictionaries have
been also published.
The Ainu then have become an internationally recognized indigenous population. In
1997, the government enacted the New Ainu Law to preserve Ainu culture and
heritage, and to educate the Japanese people about Ainu culture.


From 1872, Ainu children in Hokkaido have attended Japanese schools under the
assimilation policies of the government. The enrollment rate of Ainu children in
school was much lower than that of Japanese children. In the 1880s and 1890s, John
Batchelor and other foreign ministers built several private schools for Ainu children.
Ainu schools were officially established under the 1899 Hokkaido Former Primitives
Protection Law, and the 1901 Regulations for the Education of Former Aboriginal
Children. By 1910, more than 90 percent of Ainu children were attending elementary
school (Ogawa 1997:10). Many of them went to segregated Ainu schools, where they
were forced to learn Japanese, so many received mediocre educations. In 1937, these
schools were abolished, and Ainu children were sent to Japanese elementary schools
(Otani 1998:125-130). Japanese-centered education deprived Ainu children of the
right to learn their own language, and as a result, the spoken form of the Ainu
language has virtually died out. Many Ainu who live in the urban areas or married
into Japanese families are indistinguishable from other Japanese children unless they
identify themselves as Ainu.
The academic performance of Ainu children is still far below the national average,
though the disparity between Ainu children and Japanese children has been
narrowing. In 1999, 95.2 percent of Ainu middle school graduates continued into high
school, compared to 97.0 percent in areas where Ainu people lived in Hokkaido. Only
16.1 percent of Ainu children went to college, compared to 34.5 percent in areas

where Ainu people lived. Ainu children are now doing much better in school. In
1979, 69.3 percent of all Ainu children went to high school, compared to 90.6 percent
in areas where Ainu people lived, and only 8.8 percent of Ainu children went on to
higher education, compared to 31.1 percent in areas where Ainu people lived
(Hokkaido 2000).
Substandard academic performance, prejudice, and discrimination have blocked the
upward social mobility of Ainu children. The household income of the Ainu is well
below the national average. Since 1974, the Hokkaido Administration has enforced
affirmative action measures, the Hokkaido Utari Welfare Measures in order to
improve the social welfare of the Ainu through public works projects. Scholarships
for high school and higher education of Ainu children have also been made available
to raise the educational level of the rising generation.
Ethnic education for Ainu children is guaranteed by the 1994 Convention on the
Rights of the Child and the 1997 Law for the Promotion of the Ainu Culture and for
the Dissemination of and Advocacy for the Traditions of the Ainu and the Ainu
Culture, also known as the New Ainu Law.2 The government subsidizes the
promotion and transmission of Ainu culture and heritage in schools, museums,
cultural centers, and in annual festivals. These programs instill and maintain a sense
of Ainu identity and pride among the Ainu.
Despite the New Ainu Law, a century of coexistence, education and intermarriage
with the Japanese have ended the traditional Ainu way of life. According to the
Agency for Cultural Affairs, there may be a dozen people who speak Ainu language,
and 20 who are qualified to teach it. All of them are elderly (Nihon Keizai
1997:128). Only a handful of Ainu children are learning their ancestral language.
Most urban Ainu children pass and do not have a chance to learn the Ainu language
because their parents no longer speak it. Without efforts to teach children the Ainu
language in formal schools, the Ainu language will die out. Ainu culture and heritage
will survive, but only in schools, museums, and annual festivals. Without the
everyday practice of Ainu language and tradition, some Ainu people may declare an
Ainu identity, based on a voluntary allegiance to the collective memory of their



The Ainu cultural and ethnic movements since the 1980s have created a public
awareness of Ainu heritage, and popularized Ainu culture. The purpose of teaching
Ainu history and culture is to promote understanding of the Ainu and their culture,
and to refute the Japanese stereotype of the Ainu as a hairy and uncivilized people. In
some areas of Hokkaido, Ainu children are tormented by Japanese children because of
their different physical appearance. Even teachers make ignorant and hurtful remarks
(Myojin 1993:253).
The Hokkaido Board of Education and the Hokkaido University of Education have
taken the lead in funding Ainu studies and education. The Hokkaido Board of
Education produced teaching materials for Ainu history and culture in 1984, and in
1992, produced a handbook, Guidelines for the Teaching of Ainu History and
Culture, for every high school in Hokkaido. In 1987, the Utari Association requested
that the Hokkaido University of Education teach a course in Ainu history and culture,
and in 1991 the five campuses of the University offered seventeen courses wholly or
partially devoted to Ainu history, culture, and language. The Ainu themselves, as well
as scholars, are actively researching and writing about Ainu history and culture
(Myojin 1993:258-260). The 1997 New Ainu Law provides public funds to museums,
performance theaters, research centers, and community cultural centers.
Japanese students learn about Ainu history and culture as part of the social science
curriculum in elementary, middle, and high schools. Ainu issues first appeared in the
social studies textbooks in 1961 (Takegahara 1993:289). In addition to textbookcentered instruction, elementary school students and preschoolers become
familiarized with Ainu culture by making handcrafts, reading folktales, and
performing music and dance. Watching a documentary of the lifestyle of the Ainu can
also give students a sense of Ainu culture.
Since 1978, middle school textbooks have included chapters on Ainu history and
cultures (Morishige 1996:104). A popular history textbook portrays the Ainu as the
victims of Japanese exploitation and prejudice. It refers to Ainu revolts as justifiable
resistance against exploitation by Japanese settlers and merchants prior to the 1868
Meiji Restoration. Shakushain, one of the leaders of the resistance, is portrayed as a

This war is the battle between all the Ainu and the Matsumae clan. We will rid
shamo (Wajin/Japanese people) from Ainu moshiri (homeland). Shakushain raised a
stick high before the Ainu soldiers, who gathered with bows and swords. It was
spring in 1669. The Ainu attacked the trading ships [of Wajin] that were making
undue profits. But the Matsumae clan, having an army with guns, gradually attacked
the Ainu, and Shakushain, who agreed to peace negotiations, was killed by treachery.
Afterwards, many Ainu were deprived of fishing ports and the Wajin merchants
started opening these fishing ports to operate herring boats (Tokyo Shoseki
The Meiji government deprived the Ainu of their lands, fishing ports, way of life, and
language through the exploitation and the assimilation policies, leaving the Ainu
destitute. The textbook mentions:
The [Meiji] government changed the name of Ezochi to Hokkaido, placed the
colonization commission, and started the development of enterprise with the western
technology. But in the process, the Ainu were deprived of their lands and fishing
ports, and their lives were oppressed. The development commissioners (tondenhei)
were a main force for developing resources. The Ainu were also mobilized. Many
were engaged in hard labor such as in the construction of streets, and became victims
of hard labor (Tokyo Shoseki 2002b:126).
The section on the rights of minorities in Japan in a civics textbook for middle school
students mentions how the Ainu were exploited by the Japanese:
For the elimination of discrimination against the Ainu:
The Ainu have lived in Hokkaido, Sakhalin and the Kurile Islands since ancient times,
and have built their own history, language and culture. When the Meiji government
enforced its law in Hokkaido, it incorporated the land of the Ainu, basically
confiscating their land, forcing assimilation policies, and denying the Ainu people
their traditional culture. In this process, discrimination and prejudice toward the Ainu
were strengthened. Currently the Ainu make efforts to transmit their own culture and
ethnic education, and [to gain] economic independence. The Diet passed the New
Ainu Law in May 1997 in order to make a society where the ethnic pride of the Ainu
is respected (Tokyo Shoseki 2002c:39).

The description of social science textbooks emphasizes the sufferings of the past, but
omits the Ainu of the present. The overemphasis on wrongs that the Japanese people
inflicted upon the Ainu may make Japanese students uncomfortable. A more balanced
description of the Ainu, such as their participation in the international indigenous
peoples movement is necessary in order for Japanese students to develop the
necessary sensitivity to the Ainu and their culture.
Furthermore, teaching about the personal lives of the Ainu will give students a greater
familiarity with the Ainu. Meetings with Ainu people, presentations, and fieldtrips to
Ainu museums are good alternatives to the traditional curriculum, and give students a
chance to interact with living Ainu people. However, this may be difficult for schools
that are not near the Ainu community in Hokkaido.
Buraku people,3 a population of one to three million, have been stigmatized as the
descendants of former outcastes. According to the official definition, the Buraku are
the descendants of people who had been forced to live in specific Buraku (hamlet)
districts, and were freed by the 1871 Emancipation Edict. Because of this stigma,
Buraku people are still a socially discriminated-against minority group in Japan.
In 1993, 892,800 Buraku people in 4,442 government-designated Buraku districts
amounted to 41 percent of the whole population in the Buraku districts, most of which
are in the western and southern parts of Japan. The number of Buraku children in the
Buraku districts amounted to 71,900 elementary school children, 1.1 percent of all
elementary school students, and 38,800 middle school children, 1.1 percent of all
middle school students (Smuch 1995:71, 79).4 However, the Buraku Liberation
League (BLL), Japans largest Buraku organization, claims that there are 6,000
Buraku districts and that more than three million Buraku people live in Japan (Buraku
Liberation News 1997, No. 99). The BLL uses the estimate made by the Suiheisha
The Levelers Association in its inauguration declaration of 1922. The Suiheisha
was the first nationwide association of Buraku people, and the predecessor of the
BLL. The BLL counts many small and unrecognized Buraku districts and passing
Buraku people living outside of the designated district in their calculation.



Education for Buraku Children Until the 1960s

According to the political implementation theory, the authority placed the already
discriminated-against degraded people, such as eta (filth) or hinin (non-human
beings) below the four-layer caste system (Samurai-Farmers-Craftsmen-Merchants)
by the end of the sixteenth century. These outcastes included butchers, tanners, and
gravediggers, those who dealt with the dead animals and people, considered taboo
in Buddhism and Shintoism. They were forced to live in segregated Buraku
(hamlets), mainly in the western part of Japan. During the Edo period (1603-1867),
the eta/hinin suffered social ostracism as contaminated people. They practiced
endogamy and worked as leather workers, prison guards, and farmers within Buraku
districts until the Emancipation Edict of 1871.
The Buraku were registered as new commoners in the official family registry after
the 1871 Emancipation Edict. Widespread peasants riots against the Edict indicate
the depth of popular hatred of the Buraku. After the establishment of the compulsory
elementary school system in 1872, many Buraku children were forced to enter
segregated Buraku schools or to stay in segregated Buraku classrooms. Buraku
teachers usually taught Buraku children. The segregation was supported by the local
administrators and teachers as well as by the public.
Buraku elementary school-age children were far less likely than other children in their
age to attend school. In 1897, only 16.9 percent of Buraku children in Tottori
Prefecture were enrolled in elementary schools, in comparison to 61.9 percent in
Tottori Prefecture and 66.7 percent nationwide. In 1905, 65.4 percent of Buraku
children attended elementary schools in Mie Prefecture, far less than the prefectural
average of 94.8 percent and 95.6 percent across Japan. In Mie Prefecture in 1912, 37
percent of Buraku boys and 15.4 percent of Buraku girls practically went to
elementary school. For non-Buraku children the comparable figures were 88.8
percent and 66 percent respectively (Yasukawa 1998:572-573).
In the 1910s, civic leaders and advocates for the Buraku started the Ywa
(Assimilation) movement, calling in the name of the Emperor for welfare for
Buraku people. The Suiheisha (The Levelers Association) called for the unification
of all three million Buraku people to fight against injustice. The government took
over the Ywa movement in 1927, making generous provisions for the improvement

of Buraku communities in order to undermine the Suiheisha movement. The

Suiheisha dissolved itself in 1942 for the war efforts controlled by the government.
The MOE ordered the abolition of school segregation in 1932 after the Suiheisha and
Ywa activists protested educational segregation and discrimination. In the
desegregated schools, however, Buraku children were seated in the most
uncomfortable areas of the classroom such as on the lower floor at the corner, along
the windows under the hot sun during the summer and along the corridors on the
northern side during winter. In some areas where the Buraku liberation movement
was not active such as Shiga prefecture, discriminatory seating patterns were kept
until 1935. Teachers as well as other students tormented Buraku children. For
example, teachers punished troublemakers by making them sit next to Buraku
students, and called Buraku students eta, a derogatory term used against the Buraku.
In 1936, far fewer Buraku students (24.6%) than the national average (69.4%) pursued
education beyond compulsory elementary schools, including two-year higher
elementary schools and youth schools (Yasukawa 1998:565-573). As a result, as of
1993, the rate of Buraku people without any schooling is ten to fifteen times higher
than that of non-Buraku people. Therefore, the rate of illiteracy is extremely high
among older Buraku people: one in two in their 80s, one in four in their 70s, and one
in ten in their 50s (Buraku 1997:96-98, 100-101).
Continuous poverty and discrimination caused the extremely high rates of
absenteeism, school dropouts, and delinquency among Buraku children even after
World War II. The long-term absenteeism of Buraku children in middle schools was
20 to 30 percent in the 1950s in Nara Prefecture, though it dropped to 6 percent in the
1960s. In contrast, long-term absenteeism had been only 2 to 3 percent nationwide in
that same period. In Nara Prefecture in 1953, the reasons given for long-term
absenteeism of middle school students were poverty, laziness, working for their
families and a lack of parental understanding. In the 1950s, Buraku elementary and
middle school children scored very low on IQ tests and Standard Achievement Tests,
and low grades in their classes. The high school enrollment rate of Buraku children
(30%) was less than half of the national average (70%) in the mid-1960s (Buraku
1997:98-99, 104-105; DeVos and Wagatsuma 1967:260-264).
Buraku children developed pessimistic and negative attitudes toward education after
they had seen the extent of unemployment and underemployment among adults in

their Buraku communities, and heard about employment discrimination experienced

by their families and neighbors in their job search. Social ostracism kept Buraku
people in the lowest strata of society. Many of the Buraku were day laborers, small
shopkeepers, or unemployed. Prejudice in job recruitment, and the underemployment
of Buraku youths were facts of life. Very few Buraku people obtained professional
and managerial jobs or full-time employment in large companies (DeVos and
Wagatsuma 1967:124-5). Buraku children were discouraged from pursuing further
education because of Buraku origin, and they saw few role models in the Buraku
community. Their distrust in the school system and society generated oppositional
identities (Ogbu 1991:16) among many Buraku children against mainstream society
even in the 1960s. Poverty, loss of interest in school, and unemployment brought
many Buraku youths into conflicts with the law. For example, the delinquency rate of
Buraku youths (15.10/10,000) was three times higher than the national average
(4.49/10,000) in Kbe (DeVos and Wagatsuma 1967:266).
Affirmative Action For Buraku Children

The National Committee for Buraku Liberation (NCBL) was founded in 1946 to
succeed the Suiheisha with support from the Communist and Socialist parties. The
NCBL regarded discrimination against the Buraku as a remnant of the feudal system
and was actively engaged in political battles against the government, which had
neglected the impoverished living conditions of Buraku people. The NCBL changed
its name to the Buraku Liberation League (BLL) in 1955, and thereafter, the BLL has
been the leading and most influential advocate of Buraku people.
Affirmative action measures for Buraku people took effect under the Special
Measures Law for Assimilation Projects (SML) of 1969 as a result of pressure from
the BLL. Preferential treatment for Buraku people was justified as a temporary
remedial measure until their education level, occupational status, and household
income reach the national average, and prejudice and discrimination against them
come to an end.
The living conditions and standards of Buraku districts have improved dramatically.
The discrepancies between Buraku people and non-Buraku people in education,
occupation, and household income have narrowed, although these levels remain below
the national average for the Buraku. On the other hand, discrimination against Buraku
people persists, especially in marriage, employment, and social relationships. Many

Japanese still have the misguided belief that Buraku people have contaminated
bloodlines of Buraku people and are a violent underclass. However, in recent years,
Dwa education,5 designed to eliminate discrimination against Buraku people and
human rights education have helped to reduce such attitudes. The enforcement of the
SML and its revisions ended at the end of March 2002, and special treatment
measures for Buraku people were integrated into general measures that aid all victims
of discrimination.
Dwa projects and Dwa education have succeeded in noticeably improving the
educational performance of Buraku children. Their high school enrollment rate has
increased from half of the national average in the 1960s to 90 percent in 1975 (Buraku
1997:104-105). Affirmative action measures have improved the quality of education
among Buraku children. Their educational performance was hindered by 1) the low
socioeconomic status of Buraku parents; 2) low educational aspiration, expectations
and lack of role models; 3) cultural conflicts and low expectations from teachers; and
4) employment discrimination.
The government has spent most of the SML budget on improving Buraku districts,
and raising the socioeconomic status of Buraku people. Buraku children are more
likely than non-Buraku children to suffer because their families are living in poverty.
Many Buraku parents did not have enough money to cover educational costs.
Financial difficulties frequently made Buraku children turn to long-term absenteeism
or give up further schooling in order to assist financially their parents.
The Dwa project, using most of its budget for the massive construction of
infrastructure in Buraku districts, has transformed shabby and dirty Buraku districts
into clean ones with new housing, wide streets, and good sanitation (Smuch
1995:6). Buraku people are eligible to rent or own newly built inexpensive public
houses or renovated houses. The improvement in living standards has enabled Buraku
parents to provide a stable home environment, and make a greater emotional
investment in their childrens education. Since 1966, scholarships and loans for high
school and college have been granted to Buraku children (Buraku 1988:231).
Nevertheless, their household incomes are still lower than the national average. For
example, in Shiga prefecture in 1996, Buraku children were five to ten times more
likely than their classmates to come from families on welfare (Buraku 1997:106-107).

The government has established Dwa teachers who are assigned to Buraku children,
in order to help them academically and to encourage their personal growth. Since
1969, the government has assigned additional teachers who are responsible for Dwa
education for Buraku children, when the number of Buraku children reaches a certain
proportion of the student body. Dwa teachers prepare programs and workshops,
guide troubled Buraku students, tutor academic subjects, teach Buraku-identity
courses, help students with post-graduation career guidance, and collect, make, or
organize teaching materials and resources. Dwa teachers also serve as liaisons
between mainstream teachers and Buraku parents.
In cooperation with Buraku parents and community leaders, Dwa teachers have
helped Buraku children improve their school performance and behavior. Dwa
teachers encourage Buraku children to take their education seriously through afterschool lessons and the Buraku Childrens Association. Dwa teachers have played a
significant role in coordinating between the school and the Buraku community by
spending considerable time with Buraku leaders and parents as mediators between the
school and the Buraku community. Few Buraku parents had positive experiences in
school, or were encouraged to regard education as something that could benefit.
There are few Buraku role models. Dwa teachers help Buraku parents to get
involved in their childrens education, and have become role models for Buraku
Dwa teachers also help other teachers understand Buraku children and Buraku
cultures. This minimized the possibility of cultural misunderstanding. Teachers need
to initiate contact with Buraku parents through home visits, and with Buraku leaders,
and to understand Buraku issues and learn about the kind of discrimination that the
Buraku face on a daily basis. Learning about the culture of minority students through
home visits and interviews with parents helps transform teachers perspectives and
reduce cultural conflicts and misunderstanding.
Dwa teachers participate in municipal, prefectural and national workshops,
conferences, and voluntary study groups in order to understand Buraku culture, and to
develop better pedagogy for Dwa education. The Zendky (National Dwa
Educators Association) has been the most influential association of teachers and
community leaders since 1953. The Zendky cooperates with the government and
the BLL to offer Buraku children a better education. The 1999 annual convention of

the Zendky, supported by the government, the BLL and Japan Teachers Union,
attracted 22,300 teachers, activists, government officials and parents to discuss Dwa
education in preschool, primary, and secondary schools, as well as in the community.
They presented papers on their work with Dwa children, and discussed Dwa
education within the framework of human rights education, including the education of
disabled children (Zenkoku 1999). The purpose of Zendky is to learn from the
reality of discrimination and design pedagogy to promote a better lifestyle and future
[for Buraku children] (Buraku 1988:174). The Zendky encourages teachers to
learn about the reality of Buraku children through visits with Buraku parents and
conversations with members of the Buraku community (Zenkoku 1999).
The improvement of occupational status with anti-discrimination legislation will
provide Buraku children with more positive experiences in job hunting and
recruitment. Many Buraku youths were dissuaded from pursuing higher education
because they had grown up seeing and hearing about employment discrimination
against members of their community. The incident of the Buraku Lists in 1975
revealed that investigative agencies compiled a list of Buraku districts and sold the list
to many companies. Many of these companies tried to discover Buraku origins of
applicants and deny the employment based on their heritage. The investigators were
also able to find an applicants Buraku origin from old family registries in city halls.
The BLL successfully lobbied for the abolition of the discriminatory family registry,
and the restriction of access to family registries. In 1985, Osaka Prefecture enacted a
regulation that prohibits the investigation of Buraku origins.
The BLL also succeeded in establishing uniform application forms, which do not
require the listing of the occupation of the parents because a parents occupation in
industries considered traditionally Buraku ones, such as shoe making, could imply
Buraku origin. Since 1997, high school graduates have also had to use a uniform
application form, which requires disclosure neither of permanent legal domicile nor of
family information. Even though employment discrimination persists, Buraku youths
now confront much less discrimination than in the past.
The majority of Buraku children start to work after high school. In 1994, about 90
percent of Buraku children graduated from high school, but only 24 percent of Buraku
children continued to college, in comparison to the national average of 36 percent
(Buraku 1997:104-109). Many Buraku children attend non-elite academic high

schools or vocational high schools where most students seek employment following
graduation. In addition, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare provides
vocational training and guidance to middle school and high school graduates of
Buraku origin (Smuch 1995:114).
Despite the remarkable success of affirmative action measures, the BLL points out
that discrepancies in educational attainment and achievement between Buraku
children and the national average still remain. The BLL argues that in 1993, the rate
of high school dropouts among Buraku students (3.6%) was twice the national
average (1.9%). Furthermore, Buraku children rarely entered elite academic high
schools. In 1994, 24.3 percent of Buraku students enrolled in college, compared to
the national average of 36 percent. Only 19.5 percent of Buraku people ages 25 to 29
in 1993 had a degree from college or specialized training college, 61 percent only had
a high school degree, and 17.5 percent only had a middle school degree (Buraku
1997:102-109). Therefore, in order to bring Buraku children into line with the
national average, the BLL continues lobbying for affirmative action programs,
scholarships and the deployment of Dwa teachers for Buraku children.
Buraku children still struggle with academic achievement, despite remedial education
and Dwa teachers. Disparities in academic performance between Buraku and nonBuraku children widen with age. According to a 1995 survey of students from the
first grade to the ninth grade in a city, Buraku children began to fall behind their
classmates starting in the third grade. Additionally, by the time that Buraku children
began to study English in the seventh grade, they were already behind in their classes.
The disparity widened as they proceeded into higher grades. Variables such as the
socioeconomic conditions of parents, home study habits, parental involvement in
education, and educational aspiration affect the school performance of Buraku
children (Buraku 1997:112-115). That indicates that Buraku children still have less
favorable educational environments at home.
Another Buraku organization is the Zenkairen (National Buraku Liberation Alliance),
which developed into Chiikijinkenren (National Confederation of Human-Rights
Movements in the Community) in April 2004, by declaring that the Buraku problem
had been solved. The supporters of the Japan Communist Party (JCP) in the BLL
opposed the exclusive policy of the BLL and called for the cooperation of Buraku
people with other working class and disadvantaged people. They split from the BLL

in 1970 and formed the Zenkairen in 1976. The Zenkairen has promoted solidarity of
Buraku people with other oppressed peoples, the independence of Buraku people, and
the cooperation of Buraku people with the neighboring communities. Conflicts
between the BLL and the JCP-backed Zenkairen ended in violent fights over the
denunciation tactics used by the BLL as the solution to discrimination, and the
Zenkairen legally challenged the denunciation in the 1970s.
With 80,000 members, the Zenkairen has promoted neutrality in education, and
opposed special treatment for Buraku children. The Zenkairen believe that Dwa
education has already accomplished its mission (Zenkoku1998:417-418). The
government has supported assimilation to help Buraku children catch up with
mainstream children, and promoted the neutrality of education as the Zenkairen has.
Nevertheless, the government cooperates with the BLL and the Zendky in
endorsing affirmative action measures for Buraku children.
Buraku children receive regular supplementary classes without fees from public
teachers, including Dwa teachers. These lessons are designed as an outreach
program to improve the school performance of Buraku children. The teachers of these
supplementary lessons interact with Buraku children and community leaders.
However, sometimes these lessons have triggered jealousy among non-Buraku
people. The Zenkairen has claimed that public teachers tutor only Buraku children
after school to the exclusion of other children who need help. The Buraku Childrens
Association under the Zenkairen invites non-Buraku children to participate in
community activities alongside Buraku children, and arranges for tutors from the
community. Considering the underachievement of Buraku children due to generations
of poverty and discrimination, Buraku children have the right to receive remedial
education until equal opportunity in academic achievement is reached. Following the
Zenkairen recommendation, one solution would be to have private tutors replace
public teachers so as not to arouse feelings of resentment.
Lower educational attainment and achievement are prevalent not only among Buraku
children but also among Korean children, foreign children, children from low-income
and dysfunctional families. It is important to note that the 5 percent discrepancy in
high school enrollment rates has not changed since 1975 to the present, despite the
affirmative measures. The high school enrollment rate of Buraku children from a
single parent households (79.3%) or a family on welfare (68.3%) lagged further

behind the average rate of Buraku children in Shiga (89.5%), and that of all children
in Shiga (96.4%) in 1996 (Buraku 1997:107). That indicates that the sources of the
disparity derive from poverty and home environment, not from Buraku origin. Afterschool lessons for Buraku children should be open to all children who need help. If
schools invite tutors from the community, schools can provide supplementary lessons
for low-achievers after school inexpensively because there is a large pool of
homemakers and retirees who would be willing to volunteer their time.
Buraku children need to have Dwa teachers as long as they encounter prejudice and
discrimination because of their origin. There is no doubt that Dwa teachers have a
prominent role in the lives of Buraku children, by helping them to understand their
heritage and to fight against prejudice and discrimination, in cooperation with Buraku
parents and community leaders. Schools and the Buraku community decide to what
extent Dwa teachers need to be involved in the Buraku community. Dwa teachers
can also teach regular classes and have other responsibilities in addition to teaching
Buraku children.
Buraku Awareness Education

It is important to teach Buraku children their history so that they will learn to have
self-esteem and pride in their identity. The 200,000-member BLL, in cooperation
with Dwa teachers and municipal administrators, takes charge of the activities of the
Buraku Childrens Association in order to build high self-esteem and solidarity for
collective action. The BLL promotes education for liberation, which encourages
Buraku children to proclaim their Buraku identity and to fight against discrimination.
Liberation education teaches the history of the Buraku and the problems that
Buraku people have faced. The BLL expects children to develop solidarity, and to
enter the Buraku liberation movement, instead of assimilating (Buraku 1988:284).
However, the Zenkairen criticizes liberation education, which segregates Buraku
from non-Buraku children. The Zenkairen calls for neutrality of education and
promotes the assimilation of Buraku children into the mainstream through Dwa
education. The Dwa Education Promotion Association, an affiliate of the All Japan
Dwa Association, in cooperation with the governing Liberal Democratic Party
promotes the separation of school education from the liberation movement and
emphasizes moral education.

In recent years, the solidarity among Buraku people has weakened, and the Buraku
identity has become ambiguous, especially among young people as more Buraku
people assimilate into the mainstream society by leaving Buraku districts and through
intermarriage. Due to the exodus of Buraku youths through marriage and
employment, and the influx of low and middle class non-Buraku people into the
Buraku districts, the percentage of Buraku people in the Buraku districts decreased
from 71.9 percent in 1971 to 41.4 percent in 1993 (Smuch 1995:71). Buraku
people outside of the Buraku districts tend to assimilate quickly into the mainstream
culture. They can pass unless someone deliberately delves into their origin.
Moreover, the rate of endogamy among Buraku people in the Buraku district has
decreased dramatically from 70 to 90 percent among people aged 60 and over to only
25 percent in those in their 20s (Smuch 1995:81).
The outflow of Buraku youths has caused a shortage of young leaders in the Buraku
liberation movement. The younger generation tends to be indifferent to the problems
of Buraku people and to the Buraku liberation movements. Also, they are not as
conscious of their Buraku identity as their parents are.
When Buraku people become socioeconomically equal to the rest of the people in
Japan, and prejudice and discrimination against Buraku people ends, the identity of
Buraku people as oppressed people will lose its rationale. Buraku heritage remains
as collective memories of past suffering and as struggles against discrimination. It
will become a historical identity with a heritage of persecution. It takes time to
eliminate prejudice, but the Buraku problem will, and should be solved, and
discrimination against them will end. Their label as the descendants of former
outcastes will be nothing but a vestige of the past.
Education for Buraku Children in Marugame

Marugame City, with a population of 80,000 on Shikoku Island has three Buraku
districts with approximately 350 Buraku people.6 The city enacted The Principle of
Dwa Education in 1978 and launched full-scale Dwa education at schools and in
the community. The Marugame Board of Education supervises Dwa education in all
elementary and middle schools. At each school, one of the teachers takes charge of
coordinating Dwa and human rights education and prepares school events about
human rights. In addition, one Dwa teacher is assigned to each elementary and
middle school located in an area with a Buraku district. Dwa teachers are

responsible for the education of Buraku children in cooperation with their parents and
Buraku leaders.7
N. Buraku district is located along the river and includes new residential areas. In
1997, the N. Buraku community had 41 Buraku households and 106 Buraku people.
Before the government designated it as a Buraku district in 1971, impoverished
houses were scattered on the low and damp land, surrounded by the riverbank and
saltpans. From 1971 to 1986, 28 houses were renovated, 16 old houses were razed, 19
public houses were built, and new mortgage loans were offered to five households
under the Dwa project. Non-Buraku people moved into new condos near the Buraku
community center because the rent was lower in the Buraku district than in the
surrounding communities. The physical environment of the Buraku community has
been improved remarkably, and the Buraku district appears to be no different from its
neighbors. However, the average household income in the Buraku community is still
lower than the national average, and many Buraku people hold only temporary jobs.
According to community leaders, some Buraku people still suffer marriage and
employment discrimination. The BLL oversees Buraku community activities, and the
majority of households belong to the BLL.
One administrator from the Section of Dwa Projects in the municipal administration
of Marugame directs community activities with two leaders of the BLL, two Dwa
teachers, and the staff of the Buraku community center. Both teachers, one from
elementary school and the other from middle school, spend much of their time in the
center, and take responsibility for the education and counseling of Buraku children
with Buraku leaders and parents. Dwa teachers know Buraku community leaders
and their parents very well through their cooperative community work, and are able to
develop trusting relationships with Buraku children and their parents through
liberation education and other community activities. Dwa teachers also teach
supplementary lessons with other teachers twice a week in the center.
The community center, built in 1982 is a two-story building. The first floor is the
Rinpokan (community center), which includes an office, an assembly room for adult
classes, a large kitchen for cooking classes, a health care room, and a conference
room. The second floor is the Jidkan (childrens center), which consists of a study
room, library, and a playroom. The community center provides liberation education
for Buraku children, counseling and social welfare for Buraku people, cultural

activities and recreation for all community residents, and lectures on the Buraku for
neighboring communities.
At the beginning of every school year in April, all new and transferred teachers at H
Elementary School (16 Buraku students among 509 students in 1997-98) visit the
Buraku community center for a study meeting. Face-to-face communication with
parents and leaders help teachers understand the cultural background of the children,
and reduce teachers prejudices. Most teachers have never spoken to Buraku people
before this meeting. Middle-class teachers learn to resolve conflicts with
disadvantaged Buraku children. Teachers are expected to help Buraku parents
become more involved in the education of their children, and to encourage Buraku
children to see the value of a good education.
The school principal regularly participates in Buraku parents meetings. At school, a
Dwa teacher discusses pedagogy with a teacher responsible for Dwa and human
rights education and with the sixth-grade teachers once a month. The Dwa teacher
also coordinates meetings between teachers and community leaders. Many teachers at
schools whose district do not include any Buraku communities are not very
enthusiastic about Dwa education. Even at schools with Buraku children, not all
teachers agree with Dwa education. One Dwa teacher emphasizes that teachers
need to have training sessions in order to understand the Buraku.
Teachers, including Dwa teachers from the two schools of Buraku children, lead a
supplementary lesson to review schoolwork for Buraku children in the community
center twice a week from 7:30 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Additionally, they have morning
classes for seven days during summer vacation. I observed supplementary classes in
the center for one day. Six teachers, including one Dwa teacher, tutored 12 Buraku
students, and those lessons were very casual. The students reviewed their homework
and schoolwork with the teachers. Two sixth-graders rehearsed the graduation
ceremony with a teacher while another teacher gave a ninth-grade student last minute
preparation for the upcoming high school entrance examination. Those teachers
receive allowances for tutoring as a part of their salaries. Tutoring helps teachers to
know Buraku children better, but it may trigger charges of reverse discrimination
from non-Buraku parents.

Buraku children build strong group solidarity through the Buraku Childrens
Association, supplementary lessons, and liberation education in the Buraku
community center. All 16 children in the elementary and middle schools belong to the
Kaih Kodomokai (Childrens Association for Liberation) and all of their parents
belong to the Parents Association and the BLL. The Childrens Association sponsors
camping trips, hikes, the summer festival, and a Christmas party. The Cultural
Festival in the Buraku community center is held in December and is open to the
Since 1992, Buraku children have participated in liberation education to learn about
Buraku history once a month. One of the fathers initiated liberation education. He
believed that being well informed was the best way to understand the issues and
overcome discrimination. Buraku parents established the Parents Association in
1991. For half a year, parents talked about their experiences of discrimination in their
childhood, in marriage, and at work, and discussed ways of teaching their children to
deal with prejudice. Eventually they decided to let their children have liberation
education once a month, and parents themselves decided to have a joint lesson in
liberation education with their children at the yearly Parents and Childrens
meeting. In this instance, it was the parents who designed liberation education in
order to prevent their children from suffering the same discrimination that they had
Telling Buraku children about their identity as Buraku people is a sensitive matter.
Dwa teachers, Buraku leaders and parents decide when and how to tell children
about their origin. They expect fifth-grade students to be able to understand what it
means to be Buraku.8 The majority of children do not know the meaning of the term
and might wonder why their teachers come to their community to tutor them. The
parents who have discussed the Buraku problem with Dwa teachers and Buraku
leaders at the monthly parents meeting are ready to handle their childrens reaction.
One Buraku leader believes that proper understanding of his or her identity will help a
child to understand his or her origins, and that a child who discovers his or her Buraku
origin without proper understanding might be confused.
Liberation education is taught on the third Friday of every month. Non-Buraku
children are invited to participate. The following points are emphasized: 1)
Discrimination and prejudice against the Buraku are wrong; 2) Many of the Buraku

are fighting to end discrimination; and 3) More non-Buraku people than ever know
about the Buraku.
Little children listen to stories read from picture books. Students in the fifth-grade
through middle school attend lectures given by Buraku leaders and Dwa teachers.
These lectures cover history and the human-rights struggles of other minority groups
in Japan. They are also given research topics about the Buraku and are required to
present their work in class. The liberation education encourages the self-esteem of
Buraku children and helps them think about their Buraku heritage positively.
The fifth-graders learn about their Buraku origin during the liberation education at
the annual Parents and Childrens Meeting. The meeting is a good opportunity for
parents to share their life stories. Parents cooperate with each other to support all
Buraku children. Once, one sixth-grade girl and one fifth-grade boy could not face
the fact that they were of Buraku origin. However, the children gradually began to
accept liberation education positively. One boy in middle school said, I am glad
that I was born of Buraku people. If I was not a Buraku person, I would probably
have grown up without knowing about the discrimination against Buraku people and I
might have discriminated against Buraku people. It is important and necessary for
Buraku children to know their origins and to know about the conditions under which
the Buraku live and the challenges that they will face in a society that still harbors
prejudice against them.
Despite liberation education, the Buraku group solidarity has been weakened among
young people. Buraku leaders hope that children develop group solidarity through
liberation education and the Childrens Association for Liberation, and will inherit
the leadership of the liberation movements in their communities. However, it is
getting more difficult for the BLL to keep young leaders within the Buraku district
because more and more young Buraku people have left the Buraku district to take jobs
and to marry.


Since the 1969 SML, the government has supported Dwa education. Starting in the
1980s, the government and the BLL began to regard the Buraku as a human-rights
problem and to promote human rights education in an effort to eliminate
discrimination. The core of human rights education has been Dwa education. In

1995, the Ministry of Justice spent 425 million yen promoting human rights. The
Prime Ministers Office sponsored lectures, workshops, movies, as well as television
and radio programs for civil servants at national, prefectural, and municipal levels
with a 1.1 billion yen budget (Smuch 1995:110-112). The human-rights awareness
budget for 2000 was about 3.5 billion yen, three times as much as was in 1999
(Tagami 2000:44-45).
However, regional disparities in the implementation and awareness of Dwa
education still exist. Dwa education is more widespread in the western part of
Japan. Thus, the majority of people in the western part of Japan where many Buraku
districts are concentrated know about Dwa education, but less than half of the
population in areas such as the Thoku in the northern part of Japan, where very few
Buraku people live, have heard of Buraku issues (Smuch 1995:72).
Thanks to the BLL, Buraku issues have been included in the school curricula in social
studies, moral education, special activities, the long homeroom hour, and additional
classes (yutori) since the mid-1970s. The MOE issued the guideline for Dwa
education at school in 1994. It requires all schools to have classes for Dwa
education. Principals and teachers decide the exact content of their schools Dwa
education. Principals and teachers tend to be less enthusiastic about Dwa education
if their schools do not have Buraku students or do not have the government
designation as Dwa-education promotion schools.
Human rights education teaches all students to be friendly, to help and cooperate, to
be sensitive, and to confront discrimination. There are no lessons addressing the
Buraku problem until the sixth-grade. The students learn to appreciate life (inochi)
by cultivating plants and flowers and by taking care of animals at school. The fifth
graders learn about the elderly and the disabled when they visit and communicate with
them through school-organized volunteer work. All students have to complete
projects on human rights.
Sixth-graders learn about Buraku people from their social studies classes. The social
studies textbook focuses on the positive aspects of Buraku people, in addition to
describing Buraku people and their history. The textbook, however, does not use the
word Buraku, referring to the people as people who were severely discriminated
against [in the caste system of the Edo period], different from farmers and

merchants. They were restricted in their living places and clothes, and suffered
discrimination such as prohibitions from participating in the events and festivals of the
villages and towns (Tokyo Shoseki 2002a:57). The textbook states that political
authorities imposed Buraku status on people who were chosen to be scapegoats, and
presents Buraku people as victims of a caste system. The positive image of Buraku
people has been emphasized by portraying them as hard workers who invented useful
tools and contributed to society in the Edo period (Tokyo Shoseki 2002a:57). The
Shibuzome uprising of 1856 is presented as a justified rebellion of Buraku people
against authorities who forced them to wear special clothes (Tokyo Shoseki
2002a:70). After the Meiji Restoration, those people who had suffered
discrimination for a long time were legally emancipated as commoners in 1871.
However, the government did nothing to improve their status and they continued to
suffer discrimination in employment, marriage, and housing (Tokyo Shoseki
The fundamental ideals of the Suiheisha, the first nation-wide organization of Buraku
people are highlighted as the most important landmark for the Buraku liberation
movement. The impressive speech of sixteen-year-old Little Yamada at the
inauguration of Suiheiha in 1922 is quoted: Lets get up and eliminate
discrimination! And lets make a new wonderful world [without discrimination]!
(Tokyo Shoseki 2002a:91). The picture of Little Yamada addressing the audience in
the textbook appeals to the hearts of students. The textbook comments that current
human-rights problems include discrimination against Buraku people, the Ainu,
Korean residents in Japan, and foreign newcomers, women, children, the disabled, and
the elderly (Tokyo Shoseki 2002a:112).
Dwa education and human rights education continue to be taught at middle school.
The students review the history of the Buraku and the current cases of discrimination
against Buraku people. The students also study the caste system in India, racial and
ethnic problems in the United States and Brazil, discrimination against the disabled,
the Okinawans, the Ainu, and Korean residents in Japan, and bullying. The high
school Dwa education curriculum includes Buraku history and contemporary issues.
In the long homeroom hour/special activities period, students debate the problems of
the Buraku in Japan.

After two decades of Dwa education at school and in the community, the majority of
non-Buraku people know that Buraku people have been victims of unwarranted
prejudice and discrimination. In addition to understanding the Buraku, it is important
to learn about the personal lives of Buraku people in order to emphasize with their
Dwa teachers in Marugame develop supplementary teaching materials and arrange
special events with Buraku community leaders. The students became acquainted with
local Buraku people, and develop positive attitudes toward them. The students also
discuss local instances of discrimination against Buraku people, and how the Buraku
handle them. The pedagogy is similar to the social action approach to multicultural
curriculum reform. It helps students to think about local Buraku problems in a
familiar way and join the fight against discrimination.
It is also necessary to emphasize the progress made by Buraku people. The
overemphasis on victim history may backfire against Dwa education. According to
questionnaires filled out by college students in 1992, who received formal Dwa
education in primary and secondary schools, 44.5 percent of them positively evaluated
Dwa education, 31.7 percent of them said it had no effect, and 14.3 percent of them
criticized it. These respondents had an image of Buraku people as discriminated,
depressed, inaccessible, dirty, and poor. Tamiya suggests that Dwa educations
emphasis on the hardships of Buraku life may make students feel very uncomfortable
and cause an allergy to Dwa education (Tamiya 1995:180-191).
It is harder to change the prejudices of adults because they do not have access to
Dwa education unless they make efforts to read the community papers or to attend
lectures about the Buraku problem. School authorities provide information to parents,
and encourage students to discuss the Buraku. Nevertheless, most residents hold onto
the old stereotypical image of Buraku people and are indifferent to resolving the
Buraku problem. Many community leaders and teachers do not pay much attention to
the problem. It is important to provide community leaders and teachers with
leadership workshops and have them discuss the Buraku problem with Buraku
people. The pedagogy developed by Dwa teachers can be used for adult education in
municipal halls, community centers, and cultural centers. Social-education specialists
and Dwa teachers, together with the Buraku community leaders can take the
initiative in transforming the pedagogy of Dwa education for adults.

Because of a century-long vicious cycle of poverty and discrimination, Ainu children
in Hokkaido have been under-represented in high school and college. Since 1974,
affirmative action programs such as the Hokkaido Utari Welfare Measures have
improved the socioeconomic status of Ainu families, and have provided scholarships
for Ainu children. The Ainu cultural revival of the 1970s and the New Ainu Law of
1997 have both promoted ethnic education. Twelve Ainu language schools have
opened and some universities offer Ainu language courses. However, very few, if any,
speak the Ainu language on a daily basis, or follow the traditional way of life. Ainu
children are indistinguishable from Japanese children, especially in the urban areas,
because of assimilation and intermarriage. Todays Ainu children learn about their
culture and heritage through school education, museums, and annual festivals.
All Japanese children learn about the Ainu as part of their social science education.
They do so in order to understand Ainu history and culture from the perspective of
Ainu people, and to learn tolerance and acceptance. Textbook descriptions about the
Ainu emphasize their sufferings and persecution. Watching documentaries, making
handcrafts, reading their folklore stories, and performing their music and dance helps
students become more familiar with Ainu culture.
Until the 1960s, Buraku people faced poverty and social ostracism, and lived in
segregated districts. That caused lower educational attainment and employment
discrimination for the Buraku, which eventually led to lower occupational status, and
lower household income, and trapped the Buraku in the lowest strata of society.
Massive affirmative action measures, such as the Special Measures Law for
Assimilation Projects (SML) of 1969, have helped to close the gap between Buraku
children and the national average. The government has subsidized programs to raise
the socioeconomic status of Buraku parents, provided scholarships and loans for
Buraku children, created Dwa teachers for Buraku children, and enforced antidiscriminatory measures for the employment of Buraku people. As a result, their high
school enrollment rates had risen from the half of the national average in the 1960s to
90 percent in 1975, in comparison to the national average of 95 percent. However, the
5 percent disparity has persisted since 1975, despite these affirmative measures. The
rate of enrollment of Buraku children from single parent households or families on
welfare still lags far behind the average rate of Buraku children. That indicates that

disparities may be caused by other factors such as poverty and home environments
rather than Buraku origin. I propose that after-school supplementary lessons for
Buraku children be expanded to all underachieving and disadvantaged children.
School can provide the supplementary lessons in the inexpensive way, if school
invites voluntary tutors from a large pool of homemakers and retirees in the
Dwa education and human rights education are designed to end prejudice and
discrimination. Three decades of Dwa education have helped students and younger
adults become more sensitive to discrimination against Buraku people. Social science
textbooks describe what the Buraku have endured in their own words. However, the
textbook-centered instruction does not seem to be adequate in making students feel
positive about Buraku people and to fight against discrimination. It is important to
teach about the Buraku on a more personal level by having the students visit Buraku
communities or meet Buraku people.
1. The history and culture of the Ainu are summarized in English (Siddle 1996; Loos
and Osanai 1993; Kayano 1994; Fitzhugh and Dubreuil 1999; Honda 2000). The
Foundation for Research and Promotion of Ainu Culture has information about the
Ainu in English on the Internet. Education for Ainu children is discussed from the
perspective of minority rights in Japanese (Ogawa 1993, 1997; Myojin 1993; Otani
2. The New Ainu Law only guarantees the cultural rights of the Ainu and does not
grant compensation for lands and resources, or minority representative rights in
national and local legislatures, which the Utari Association of the Ainu originally
proposed in 1984 (Yamakawa 1995:244-250). The Utari Association continues to
manage the Utari Social Welfare Project with the Hokkaido Administration for the
improvement of living standards and education of the Ainu.
3. I use the term Buraku people, although the term Burakumin is widely used in
the English-language literature. I follow the new 1997 platform of the BLL where the
term Burakumin is replaced by Buraku people or people from a Buraku district
because a term min has an ethnic connotation even though Buraku people are not
considered an ethnic group (AS May 20, 1997).

4. Many scholars and teachers in Japan have published on the theory and practice of
Dwa education (e.g., Buraku 2001; Buraku 1998). In English, the education of
Buraku children in the 1950s and 1960s is well documented in Japans Invisible Race
(DeVos and Wagatsuma 1967). The policy and pedagogy of Dwa education are
studied through ethnographic research (Hirasawa 1989; Clear 1991) and reviews
(Hawkins 1989; Shimahara 1984; Shimahara and Konno 1991). The Buraku
Liberation and Human Rights Research Institute provides information about Buraku
activities in English on the Internet.
5. Dwa education provides non-Buraku people with the proper knowledge and
understanding of Buraku issues in order to eliminate prejudice and discrimination
toward Buraku people, and sponsors affirmative action programs aimed to improve
the educational performance of Buraku children.
6. I conducted research on the practice of Dwa education for Buraku children at
school and in the Buraku community in Marugame City from February to March
1998. Marugame City is a typical middle-size town in the western part of Japan, with
a small number of Buraku people. Dwa education has been implemented much more
rigorously in the western region than in the eastern region because of the higher
concentration of Buraku people. My research is based on interviews with Dwa
teachers, municipal administrators and Buraku community leaders, the observation of
supplementary classes and community activities in the Buraku community center, and
the analysis of textbooks, supplementary teaching materials, Dwa teachers journals,
students compositions, and secondary literature.
7. One Dwa teacher told me that after going to school in the morning, he goes to
the Buraku community center and spends most of his day there. Some Dwa teachers
also teach social studies or other regular classes in school.
8. According to a survey of a Buraku community in 1990, the majority of young
adults (15 to 30 years old) had been informed of their Buraku origin by the Childrens
Association for Liberation and from their school before entering middle school, while
almost half of those in their 50s learned it by themselves or from neighbors, relatives,
and parents after they became adults (Yagi 1994:86-97).



Contents of This Chapter

1. 10-1


1. 10-1-1


2. 10-1-2


1. Human Rights and Korean Children

3. 10-1-3


1. Korean Names
4. 10-1-4
2. 10-2



1. 10-2-1


1. Japanese Language Education

2. Newcomer Students

3. Foreign Students in Ume Elementary School

3. 10-2-3


4. 10-2-4


Foreign students include third- and fourth-generation Korean children, newly arrived
Nikkei children, Chinese returnee children and refugee children. Nearly 90 percent of
Korean children attend Japanese schools and receive the same education, while about
10 percent of Korean children attend Korean schools. The number of recently arrived
foreign children has increased since the 1990s with the arrival of many Nikkei
workers. Remedial education and ethnic education are provided for foreign students
so that they can be proud of their ethnicity and will overcome academic challenges
and linguistic barriers. This chapter will present and discuss education for Korean
children and the children of newcomers, such as Nikkei, Chinese returnee, and
refugee children.




After Japans colonization of Korea in 1910, the number of Korean migrants rapidly
increased in Japan. In 1930, the Ministry of Education (MOE) announced that Korean
children in Japan would be required to enroll in elementary schools as Japanese
nationals.1 Approximately 7,000 Korean elementary school students out of 40,000
school-aged Korean children attended elementary schools. Only 18.5 percent
enrolled, compared to the nearly 100 percent enrollment rate for Japanese children in
1931. By 1945, approximately 70 percent of Korean children were enrolled in
elementary schools (Lee 1999:136-137). However, many of them enrolled in night
elementary schools because they had to work during the daytime. In 1941, in Kbe,
84.6 percent of night elementary school students were Korean. By the end of war,

Korean children became the primary users of night elementary schools (Yasukawa
In 1945, Korea was liberated, and Koreans living in Japan formed the League of
Koreans in Japan (Chren). Since April 1946, the Chren has established Korean
ethnic schools that teach Korean language and history. By October 1946, there were
525 elementary schools with 42,182 students and 1,022 teachers, four middle schools
with 1,180 students and 52 teachers, and 10 youth schools with 714 students and 54
teachers. Fifth- and sixth-graders took four hours of Korean language and two hours
of Japanese language classes per week (Lee 1999:139-141).
On the other hand, in 1946, another Korean residents organization, the Korean
Residents Union in Japan (Mindan), was founded by nationalist Koreans who opposed
the left-leaning Chren. Mindan established its own Korean ethnic schools by April
1948: 52 elementary schools with 6,297 students, two middle schools with 242
students, and two vocational-training schools with 289 students (Lee 1999:142).
The Civil Information and Education Section (CI&E) in the General Headquarters
(GHQ) allowed Korean ethnic schools to teach Korean language as an addition to the
regular curriculum in 1947. However, in 1948, the GHQ changed its stance and
opposed the ethnic education of Korean residents. The MOE, following orders from
the GHQ, sent an official notice in 1948 that Korean ethnic schools should obey the
School Education Law and teach a Korean language class as an extracurricular class.
Otherwise, ethnic schools would be closed. Many Koreans demonstrated against this
In 1949, the Japanese government dissolved the two largest communist-dominated
Korean associations, the Chren and the Minsei (Korea Democratic Youth
Association), under the order of GHQ. The GHQ ordered the closure of most Korean
ethnic schools. Parents, teachers, and students together fought the closures in order to
save their schools. Thirty-nine ethnic schools were opened privately.
In Hygo Prefecture, more than 30,000 people were arrested for disobeying the
GHQs order. In Osaka, more than forty schools were closed and about 10,000
Korean students were integrated into nearby Japanese schools. Korean language
education was prohibited in elementary schools and was taught as a foreign language
in middle schools. Korean children learned Korean in an extracurricular class in

Japanese schools (Kang 1994:80-82). Some Korean schools stayed open as unofficial
volunteer schools. Some Korean schools became branches of Japanese public schools
that offered ethnic classes. As a result, 20,000 Korean children were able to receive
ethnic education in unofficial schools or branch schools, and the rest of the 40,000
Korean students were transferred into Japanese schools or withdrew (Lee 1999:145).
After the 1952 San Francisco Peace Treaty, Koreans in Japan were no longer
considered Japanese nationals and became resident aliens. Therefore, Korean children
were exempted from compulsory elementary and middle education. In 1953, the
Japanese government declared that Korean children could attend Japanese schools if
they wished. In 1953, the Governor of Kyoto Prefecture recognized the Kyoto
Korean school as a special school, and other prefectures followed suit.
By 1955, many Korean schools operated as private miscellaneous schools. Korean
schools are legally regarded as miscellaneous schools under Article 83 of Japans
School Education Law. Miscellaneous schools are not as well subsidized by the
government as accredited private schools, but have more freedom to design their
curriculum, and are not bound by the MOEs Course of Study.
The General Association of Korean Residents in Japan (Chongryun), formed in 1955,
is an affiliate of North Korea that runs North Korean schools while the Mindan,
affiliated with South Korea, operates South Korean schools. Graduates of these high
schools do not receive the educational credentials that make them eligible for college
admissions, and are required to take a national examination (known as high school
equivalency exams) to be eligible for college admission. Currently many private
universities and colleges exempt these graduates from taking a national examination
for college eligibility.
By 2003, 613,791 Korean residents registered in Japan included 471,756 special
permanent residents2 and 39,807 general permanent residents (Hmush 2004a).
In 1994, 67 percent of Koreans belong to South Korea (Zainippon 1997:7). Korean
residents are concentrated in the Kansai area (Osaka, Kyoto and Hygo Prefectures)
and Tokyo metropolitan areas such as Tokyo and Kanagawa Prefectures. In 1998,
Osaka City had 99,878 Koreans, and especially, the ward of Ikuno in Osaka City had
36,700 Koreans, one out of four residents (Paku 1999:20). However, the number of

special permanent resident-status Koreans has been falling because of intermarriage

and naturalization.
Korean children in Japan are mostly the grandchildren or great-grandchildren of
people who arrived in Japan between 1910 and 1945. Very few third- and fourthgeneration Koreans speak Korean. They use Japanese names and have Japanese
friends. Legally they are Korean nationals, but many are culturally, linguistically, and
socially Japanese. The number of intermarriages and naturalizations has been
increasing among Korean youths. Many older Koreans have resisted naturalization
because of bitter memories of Japans colonization of Korea. As time passes, more
Koreans have less resistance accepting Japanese citizenship. There is also a new trend
to preserve Korean identity and names even after naturalization.
Nearly 90 percent of Korean children attend Japanese schools. In most cases, Korean
children use Japanese names and are barely distinguishable from their Japanese peers.
Some schools that have large numbers of Korean students provide after-school ethnic
activities, clubs or classes for Korean children.
Comparatively, about 10 percent of Korean children attend Korean schools, most of
which are under the control of the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan
(Chongryun), affiliated with North Korea. These schools, established by Korean
residents after World War II, are classified as miscellaneous schools and they
emphasize ethnic education for Korean children, free from the guidance of the MOE.
All children have the right to be educated, regardless of their ethnic background or
nationality. Although Korean students are welcomed in Japanese public schools,
many choose to attend ethnic schools instead.


The ethnic schools under the Chongryun, a North Korean affiliate, emphasize ethnic
education in order to develop Korean identity and pride among Korean students as
overseas nationals of North Korea, according to the guidelines issued by North
Korea. The number of Korean students in ethnic schools under the Chongryun had
increased until the 1960s as the overwhelming majority of Koreans in Japan were
North Korean (e.g., 85.8% in 1950 and 79.9% in 1960) (Zainippon 1997:7), and had
been very enthusiastic about North Korea and its ruler, Kim Il Sung. Kim Il Sung sent
scholarships and educational expenses for Korean children in Japan to the Chongryun,

and welcomed Korean residents to North Korea. Remittances from North Korea since
1958 had totaled 23 billion yen by 1977 (Lee 1981:170). In April 1966, more than
140 ethnic schools with 14 branches, 30 ethnic classes, 208 afternoon and night
classes were serving 40,000 students (Lee 1999:150). In the 1960s and the early
1970s, the ideology of North Korea and Kim Il Sung dominated the Chongryun ethnic
schools. All fourth graders joined the Young Pioneers and learned about the
childhood of Kim Il Sung. In the early 1970s, when the portrait of Kim Il Sung
became popular among the Chongryun, schools made sure that all students had a
portrait of Kim Il Sung at home (Ryang 1997:26-28, 101).
The number of students in these schools has decreased from 46,000 in 1960 to 11,000
in 2003, as many Koreans opted to register as South Koreans after the 1965 JapanSouth Korea Normalization Treaty granted special permanent residency for South
Koreans (Zainippon 1997:67; AS February 21, 2003). For the past ten years, the
number of North Korean schools dropped by more than 30 schools and 6,000 students
(AS February 18, 2004). Also, by the 1970s, many Koreans were disenchanted with
North Korea. The decreasing number of students has caused financial crises among
the ethnic schools whose budgets depend on tuition and donations from parents.
The schools also faced the need for curriculum and textbook reforms in order to teach
third-generation Korean children who did not speak Korean at home and did not plan
to move back to Korea. After the mid-1970s, the textbooks included more content
relating to Japan, as the active first-generation members of Chongryun were replaced
by second-generation Koreans. The 1983 textbook and curriculum reform changed all
textbooks modeled on North Korean textbooks into textbooks with more Japanese
content. In the late 1980s, schools started to take Japanese holidays as well as North
Korean holidays (Ryang 1997:25, 180; Lee 1999:155).
Textbooks and curricula were revised again in 1993 in order to accommodate the
needs of third- and fourth-generation Koreans. References to Kim Il Sung and Kim
Jong Il were substantially reduced, and ideological education was removed from the
curriculum (Ryang 1997:51). Social science textbooks began to include more
descriptions of Japanese history, geography, politics, and economics. Mathematics
textbooks are virtually identical to their Japanese counterparts. In Japanese language
arts, Japanese classics such as the Story of the Heike Clan are included (Lee
1999:154-5). In September 2002, the portraits of Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il were

removed from classrooms. History education that was previously based on Kim Il
Sung and Kim Jong Il will be changed into more general history education (AS
September 7, 2002).
However, the emphasis upon ethnic education remains. More than one-fourth of total
unit hours in elementary and middle ethnic schools are devoted to Korean language
arts, and in the social science curriculum, North Korean history, geography, and civics
still play a significant role (Lee 1999:154-155). In reality, many students have a
difficult time learning the Korean language and academic subjects in Korean because
they do not speak Korean outside of school. Group awareness of Korean identity is
strong among the students because they have the same ethnic background (Moriguchi
In contrast, the Mindan operates four Korean schools, two of which are accredited
private schools and two of which are miscellaneous schools. The overwhelming
majority of Koreans who are affiliated with the Mindan have sent their children to
Japanese schools. More than 85 percent of students at Tokyo Kankoku School are the
children of non-resident Koreans from South Korea whose parents came to Japan
temporarily for work (Zainippon 1997:78). The other three schools in the Kansai area
where Korean residents are concentrated consist mostly of third- and fourthgeneration Korean children.
The Mindans Korean schools teach Korean language and history, in addition to the
general subjects in accordance with the MOEs Course of Study. They encourage the
students to study in South Korea as college students or exchange students. The
Mindan also organizes summer training camps for elementary and middle school
students, where they learn about Korean language and culture. In 1995, 1,656
students participated in 38 summer camps. In addition, the Mindan provides shortterm lecture courses for Korean studies in ethnic colleges for Korean and Japanese
adults as part of a lifelong learning program (Zainippon 1997:82-83). Teaching
Korean history and culture to Japanese people is regarded as part of human rights
Human Rights and Korean Children

Korean schools are classified as miscellaneous schools (kakushu gakk), similar to

driving schools or cooking schools. Because of this status, the students receive far

fewer public subsidies, and require special permission to participate in formal athletic
competitions. Moreover, the graduates of Korean schools had to take a national
examination for college eligibility before applying to national universities, which did
not recognize credits from ethnic schools. However, miscellaneous schools have
greater freedom to design their own curriculum and pedagogy.
Some prefectural governments subsidize ethnic schools, but the subsidies for ethnic
schools are much less generous. For example, private schools receive more than four
times as many prefectural subsidies as ethnic schools in the Kanagawa prefecture (Lee
1999:159-160). Donations to ethnic schools, which account for 40 percent of school
budgets, do not have tax credits because of their status as miscellaneous schools (Pak
1992:46). Public subsidies to public, private, and foreign/ethnic schools vary
depending on the degree of their autonomy from the MOE. Since these Korean
students, like their Japanese counterparts, are the future workforce and residents of
Japan, the government needs to offer more subsidies to these schools, because they are
more like accredited schools than are other miscellaneous schools.
Concerning the unequal access of Korean children to higher education, which the
Human Rights Committee warned about in 1998 (U.N. Committee 1998a), the
Japanese government argues that the graduates of Korean schools do not complete a
Japanese curriculum, and, therefore, have to take a university entrance qualification
examination before taking a college entrance examination (U.N. Committee 1998b).
Since 2000, any 16-year-old or older can take a national examination for college
eligibility, and they are eligible to apply for college when they turn 18 (Monbush
1999b:12). Prior to the 2000 revision, the prerequisite to taking a university entrance
qualification examination was the academic ability of middle school graduates or the
students attending evening or correspondence high schools. Prior to 2000, the
government did not recognize the graduates of ethnic middle schools as having the
academic ability of Japanese middle school graduates. Therefore, the students from
ethnic schools had to attend Japanese evening high schools or correspondence high
schools first in order to obtain eligibility to take the university entrance qualification
In 1999, the MOE announced that graduates from Korean schools and international
schools could take the national examination for college eligibility without any credits

from Japanese schools (AS July 9, 1999). More private, prefectural, municipal
colleges have permitted graduates from ethnic high schools to take an entrance
examination just as graduates from regular Japanese high schools do. As of 1994, 162
out of 406 private colleges and 17 out of 48 prefectural and municipal colleges accept
graduates from Korean high schools without a national examination for college
eligibility (Lee 1999:159).
The MOE had prohibited all national universities from taking graduates from ethnic
high schools who had not passed a national examination for college eligibility until
the 2004-5 academic year. However, almost 80 percent of presidents of national
universities preferred waiving the examination requirement (AS July 2, 2003).
Requiring a national examination for college eligibility of graduates of ethnic high
schools is, in fact, a redundant practice. All students who apply for national
universities have to take the National Universal Test and the entrance examinations
assigned by each national university. Anyone who passes these entrance examinations
from highly competitive national universities is most likely to pass a national
examination for college eligibility, which is a high school equivalency exam. There is
no reason why students from ethnic high schools have to take a national examination
for college eligibility. Finally, the MOE decided to entrust each college with the
authority to examine the academic quality of those without high school equivalency,
such as graduates of Korean schools, high school dropouts, and middle school
graduates, without the requirement of the national examination for college eligibility
from the college examination for the 2004-5 academic year.
Almost all national universities decided to exempt graduates of Korean schools from
the requirement of the national examination for college eligibility. Furthermore, the
MOE decided to change the national examination for college eligibility into the high
school equivalency examination so that those who pass the examination will have the
same status as high school graduates officially. For graduate schools, since 1999,
each graduate school, including graduate schools of national universities, has the right
to decide on a case-by-case basis if an applicant from a Korean University of
Chongryun should be admitted or not.
For a long time, students of ethnic schools had been prohibited from participating in
athletic competitions. However, in recent years, Japanese sports associations have
finally accepted the participation of ethnic schools. Since 1991, the Japan High

School Baseball Association has allowed foreign and ethnic schools to participate in
its competitions. Since 1994, the National Association of High School Physical
Education has invited foreign and ethnic schools to compete, and the Japan
Association of Middle School Physical Education has, since 1997, recognized the
participation of foreign schools (AS January 16, 2001).
Derogatory remarks and violence against Korean students, especially female students,
are common, especially when relations between Japan and North Korea sour. Some
examples include the allegations that North Korea was stockpiling nuclear weapons in
1994, and the 1998 North Korean ballistic missile test that launched missiles from
North Korea into the Sea of Japan and the Pacific Ocean (AS September 10, 1998).
Since Korean girls commute to their schools wearing the chima chogori (Korean
traditional clothes), they are easily recognized and harassed by Japanese people,
especially right-wingers who hate to see North Korea threaten Japan. Because of
crises such as the Tendom incident in 1998 when North Korea launched missiles, six
cases of the harassment of Korean students and schools were reported to the police,
including hate crimes against girls wearing the chima chogori (U.N. Human 2000).
Concerned for the safety of Korean students, the Bureau of Education in the
Chongryun notified 61 ethnic middle and high schools that they should allow girls to
wear Japanese-style uniforms, and not the chima chogori until they arrive at school
(AS March 6, 1999). Insults, bullying, and attacks against Koreans violate their
human rights. The Human Rights Bureau undertook a series of vigorous street
campaigns in order to eliminate violence and harassment of Koreans. Human rights
education helps to change public attitudes about Korean residents of Japan.


Most Korean children attend Japanese schools and have the same education as
Japanese children. As of 1997, 83 percent of all school age Korean children in Osaka
Prefecture go to Japanese schools. Most Korean students use Japanese names and are
indistinguishable from Japanese students at school. There is no Japanese language
education for third- and fourth-generation Korean children who are already fluent in
Japanese. After the 1991 memorandum of the Japanese and South Korean
governments, which enshrined the rights of Korean residents in Japan, education for
Korean children has improved. Ethnic classes are recognized as extracurricular

programs. Korean residents have obtained the right to be hired as full-time public
teachers (Lee 1999:160, 169).
The educational attainment of Korean children has almost reached the national
average. In the 1950s and 1960s, a higher percentage of absenteeism, dropouts and
juvenile crimes were recorded among Korean teenagers because of poverty at home
and discrimination in schools and workplaces. In 1963, the estimated rate of
delinquency among Korean youths was 28.17 per 10,000, much higher than the
average of 4.49 per 10,000 in Kbe (DeVos and Wagatsuma 1967:266). In 1976, 88.2
percent of Korean students went on to high school, compared to 93.7 percent of all
middle school graduates in Hygo Prefecture. Only half of them went on to public
academic high schools and 8.2 percent of them (4% in Hygo Prefecture) went to
evening high schools. In 1976, only 26.3 percent of Korean high school graduates
went on to higher education, compared to 45.8 percent in Hygo Prefecture (Rohlen
1981:196-197). The disparity has decreased over the last several decades, though the
enrollment of Korean and other minority children in high schools and colleges
remains lower than the national average.
Korean residents frequently have difficulty obtaining employment at Japanese
companies because of their alien status. Governmental employment has been largely
closed to Korean residents because Japanese citizenship is required for public service,
though some local governments have started to hire foreigners. Many Korean
residents are self-employed or work in family businesses more than their Japanese
However, the employment rate of young Koreans is much closer to that of their
Japanese counterparts. Since 1997, in order to prevent employment discrimination, all
job applicants have to use the same application form that does not require a family
registry address, family occupation, or familys educational history in order to prevent
employers from discriminating against applicants because of their origins. The
Buraku Liberation League (BLL) lobbied hard to implement uniform job application
forms for Buraku children. The same application forms also help eliminate
employment discrimination against Korean children.
By law, Korean children have the right to receive ethnic education to preserve their
culture and identity. Minority rights in Japan have improved as the government

ratified the Human Rights Covenants in 1979, enacted the Fundamental Human
Rights Law in 1993, and launched a human rights awareness campaign for the Decade
of Human Rights Education (1995-2004). The Convention on the Rights of the Child,
ratified in 1994, makes special provisions for the rights of minority children. A
minority child has the right to enjoy his or her own culture, to profess and practice
his or her own religion, or to use his or her own language (Article 30).
Localities that are home to a large Korean population promote ethnic education for
Korean children in cooperation with their parents and teachers. Ethnic education
gives Korean children an opportunity to learn the Korean language and culture with
other Korean children, and to nurture their ethnic pride and solidarity through group
activities. Ethnic education in schools and the community have been shown to help
Korean children develop high self-esteem and pride in their ethnic identity.
Furthermore, it helps Japanese children better understand their Korean peers and
respect their ethnic identity.
Korean ethnic classes and the Korean Childrens Associations were founded in the
early 1950s when Korean children were sent into Japanese schools because of the
forced closure of Korean schools. In 1953, 8,268 Korean students attended 151 ethnic
classes in 95 schools (Nakajima 1997:321-324). Many of these classes have since
been abolished. In Osaka, eleven ethnic classes created by the 1948 memorandum
between the governor of Osaka and Korean representatives still remain. These are
funded by the prefecture and are taught by full-time instructors who handle foreign
students (Hester 2000:178). In 1971, teachers in Osaka who were concerned with the
education of Korean children founded the Concerned Society for the Education of
Korean Students in Japanese Schools, which in 1983 grew into the National
Conference for Research on the Education of Koreans in Japan. Since 1972, the
Osaka prefectural government, whose jurisdiction includes the largest Korean
population in Japan, adopted a set of principles and directives for the education of
Korean children. Many municipal administrations of areas that have many Koreans
followed suit. Teachers, parents, and volunteers have also formed extracurricular
clubs for Korean children.
After the 1991 memorandum between Japan and South Korea, the MOE started
promoting extracurricular ethnic classes for Korean children. Many ethnic classes
were introduced in the 1990s. In 1998, Osaka City had 70 schools that were teaching

ethnic classes to 2,000 students enrolled. In Osaka Prefecture, 3,000 of the 26,000
Korean students in Japanese schools attended ethnic classes. However, about half of
the Korean students in Osakas public schools do not have access to school-based
ethnic education. Since 1992, these classes have received some city funding, but
many instructors work as volunteers. However, in 1997, Osaka City started to make
municipal employment contracts with the instructors of ethnic clubs (Lee 1999:168,
170; Hester 2000:178, 181).
These classes meet one to four times a week, and students learn not only Korean
language and history but also Korean music and drama. Japanese students are
welcome to participate in some of these clubs. According to a 1995 ethnographic
study in M Elementary School in the Ikuno ward where about 40,000 Koreans reside,
70 percent of the 366 students were Koreans. About 100 fourth-grade Korean
students studied Korean language and culture in Japanese, with Korean greetings at
the beginning and end of class (Nomura 1996:69-70).
Another ethnographical survey describes how one elementary school in Osaka has
Korean classes every Wednesday afternoon, where 20 students from the first- to sixthgrade learn songs, the Korean writing system, folk tales, history, and geography, and
perform folk dance and music with a third-generation Korean teacher. Most children
have both Korean and Japanese names, and they address each other by Korean names
in class (Hester 2000:175). In some high schools in Osaka, Kbe, and Hiroshima,
Korean students organize their own culture study groups and clubs (Umakoshi
In communities where many Korean residents live, Korean residents often take the
lead in organizing Korean Childrens Associations, and provide ethnic classes and
human-rights awareness classes for Koreans and Japanese people in local community
centers. The Fureai community center in Kawasaki City operates a Childrens
Association, classes for human-rights awareness, adult classes, home education
classes, ethnic culture lectures, literacy classes, and other courses. In Osaka, several
Korean Childrens Associations provide summer camps and activities (Lee
1999:170). In addition, the Chongryun and the Mindan have their own branch
organizations for Korean youths and children.

Korean children mainly learn Korean language, culture and customs from their
parents. In 1993, 40 percent of Korean youths received some form of ethnic
education (Fukuoka and Kim 1997:29). Korean parents attitudes toward their
ethnicity most effectively accounted for their childrens participation in ethnic
education. The parents who keep their Korean traditions alive at home or belong to an
ethnic organization are more likely to encourage their childrens involvement in
Korean education and organizations. Korean children make friends with other Korean
children through ethnic education, activities, and organizations (Fukuoka and Kim
Many Korean parents want their children to have ethnic education, probably because
of minority-rights movements in schools and in the community. According to a 1989
survey of the parents of Korean children in Japanese schools in the Kansai area, 43.9
percent thought that ethnic education was necessary, while 40 percent thought that
ethnic education was necessary only if their children had an interest in learning about
their culture. Those who claimed that ethnic education was necessary were more
likely to be fathers, first-generation immigrants, college graduates, graduates from
Korean schools, or graduates from schools in Korea. They also tended to speak about
Korea and Korean identity more frequently at home, and to have more Korean friends
(Kyoto 1990:40-41).
More parents wanted their children to study ethnic education in 1989 than in 1979.
Almost two-thirds of parents wanted their children to keep their Korean identity, and
more than half of Korean parents also wanted their children to keep their Korean
nationality (Kyoto 1990:41, 47). Positive attitudes toward ethnic identity and
education have given children high self-esteem and ethnic pride. Korean children can
not only learn about ethnic education at home from their parents, but they can also
learn about it in Korean schools, ethnic classes in Japanese schools, and ethnic
organizations such as Korean Childrens Associations.
Korean Names

Most Korean residents in Japan use Japanese names, out of necessity and
convenience. In 1940, Koreans were de facto forced to change their Korean names
into Japanese names under the assimilation policies of the Japanese government
during the colonization of Korea (1910-1945). Most Koreans resisted the change
because they respected their Korean ancestral names. When Korea was liberated in

1945, most Koreans happily discarded their Japanese names in favor of their original
Korean names.
Korean last names are distinguishable from Japanese last names. Therefore, using a
Korean last name announces an individuals ethnic identity. Most Korean residents in
Japan have kept their Japanese names in order to avoid potential discrimination and
Korean children usually do not use Korean names because they are afraid of being
teased, ostracized, or ridiculed by Japanese children. In 1997, 13.5 percent of Korean
elementary school children in Osaka used their Korean names, including 26.1 percent
in elementary schools with ethnic classes and 7.1 percent in elementary schools
without ethnic classes (Lee 1999:168). Ethnic education seems to give Korean
children positive attitudes about Korean identity, and encourages them to use their
Korean names. Also, Korean children nurture their ethnic identity by using their
Korean names in ethnic classes. According to a 1993 survey of South Korean youths,
40 percent of respondents said they had been mistreated because of their ethnicity.
Bullying is the most common type of mistreatment mentioned by children between the
fourth and sixth grades (Fukuoka and Kim 1997:46-7).
The teachers belonging to the National Conference on Research for the Education of
Koreans in Japan started a movement to encourage the use of Korean names in
schools and to educate Japanese children to welcome Korean classmates. Teachers
delivered lessons in Korean history and culture in social studies classes and school
special events, in order for Japanese children to understand why Korean children are
in Japan. Since 1981, the Tokyo Board of Education has officially used Korean
names, but Korean students and parents can decide how they want to use their names
in schools.
The decision to use or not to use a Korean name is a family decision. The majority of
Korean children do not have access to ethnic classes or do not know other Korean
children in their schools. Therefore, using their Korean names can be an act of great
courage. Through the nationwide promotion of multicultural education and human
rights education, Japanese children will overcome their prejudices against Korean
children so that Korean children can feel more comfortable using their Korean names.



Japanese students learn about Korean culture, history, and the human rights of Korean
residents in social science classes. Korean issues can be also discussed in long
homeroom hours or special activities, such as the annual Human Rights Meeting in
December. In addition to textbooks, students can learn about Korean issues by
watching movies and videos, or by listening to a talk given by a Korean resident.
Communication with Koreans helps students become familiar with Koreans and
Korean issues, especially in those schools with no proclaimed Korean students. In
Osaka Prefecture, a human rights textbook called Ningen (People) is used as a
supplement to the regular textbook. Each volume of Ningen contains one story or
poem about Korea or Koreans (Aoki 2000:166).
History textbooks emphasize Japans cultural debt to Korea and the good relations
between Japan and Korea from ancient times through the Early Modern period, with
the exception of Japans invasion of Korea in the late sixteenth century. History
textbooks portray Japan as a victimizer and Korea as a victim during the colonization
of Korea (1910-1945). The textbooks mention the massacre of Korean residents after
the 1923 Greater Tokyo Earthquake, the suppression of independence movements
during the colonization period, the wartime forced labor of Koreans, and the use of
Korean comfort women.
Since the 1980s, leftist historians have placed greater emphasis upon Japans war
crimes against Asia and written extensively about the Asia-Pacific War (1931-1945)
from the perspective of Japans Asian victims. After foreign criticism during the 1982
textbook controversy over the invasion of China, the government has given liberal and
leftist textbook authors unprecedented latitude to depict Japan as a victimizer. In
response to the leftists, right-wing scholars and leaders led by Fujioka Nobukatsu of
Tokyo University, have criticized history textbooks that are too favorable toward
Korea, as biased, apologetic, and masochistic (Nishio and Fujioka 1996).
Japanese students need to know the truth of Japans colonization and war crimes in
order to build good relations with Korea. However, the overconcentration on war
crimes in the textbooks may cause Japanese students to oversimplify the situation by
seeing only the bad Japanese victimizer and the poor Korean victim, and thus feel
uncomfortable learning about the Asia-Pacific War. Even leftist historians argue that
the stories about Japanese people who opposed the colonization of Korea and spoke

against the discrimination of Koreans should be included in the history textbooks.

Otherwise, students would be uncomfortable learning only about the negative
behavior of Japanese people, and might have negative feelings toward Korea
(Nichikan 1993:104).




Since the early 1980s, foreigners from Asia without working permits have entered
Japan as temporary workers. These newcomers are distinguished from Korean and
Chinese permanent residents whose parents and grandparents came to Japan before
1945.3 The first newcomers were young women from Taiwan and the Philippines
who entered the entertainment industry in the early 1980s. Later, during the bubble
economy and the labor shortage of the late 1980s and early 1990s, a massive inflow
of young single men from Asian countries, such as China, South Korea, Bangladesh,
Pakistan, and Iran came as undocumented manual workers in hopes of earning the
highly valued Japanese yen.
In order to resolve the severe shortage of unskilled workers in small and mid-sized
companies, the revised 1990 Immigration Control Law allowed the children and
grandchildren of Japanese nationals who had emigrated to Latin America and
elsewhere, to come and work in Japan unconditionally. A huge number of Nikkeijin,
Japanese migrants or Japanese descendents with foreign nationality, mainly from
Latin America, flooded into Japan. The majority of Nikkei who came to Japan are
Nikkei (Japanese-) Brazilians.
In 1988, Brazil had the largest overseas Japanese community, 1.23 million Nikkeijin
(Japanese-Brazilians) (Sellek 1997:187). The Brazilian economy had suffered
hyperinflation of 1,500 percent between the late 1980s and 1990 (Nihon Rd
1995:1). In 1997, of the nearly 250,000 registered Latin American aliens in Japan, 82
percent were Brazilians and 15 percent were Peruvians. The first-generation
Nikkeijin with Japanese nationality and Nikkeijin with dual citizenship do not count
as registered aliens, but they account for perhaps 12 percent of the population of
Nikkeijin from Latin America. Therefore, in 1997, the number of Nikkeijin from
Latin America amounted to more than 278,000 (Kitagawa 1998:199-200). They are
concentrated in the Tokyo metropolitan areas and the Tkai area, where many
automobile plants and factories are located. In 2002, there were 234,000 Nikkei

workers, 1.4 times more than 1992, though the number has not changed much since
1997. According to a 2002 survey, Nikkei workers stayed in Japan for 10 years or
more (28%), 7 to 10 years (21%), 5 to 7 years (16%), 3 to 5 years (13%), 1 to 3 years
(16%) and less than one year (5%) (Kseirdsh 2004).
As of 2003, the number of registered foreigners amounts to 1,915,030, the largest on
record, 1.50 percent of the Japans population of 127,619,000. Registered foreigners
include Koreans (32.1%), Chinese (24.1%), Brazilians (14.3%), Filipinos (9.7%),
Peruvians (2.8%), Americans (2.5%), and others (14.5%)(Hmush 2004a). As of
2004, there are estimated 219,418 undocumented aliens, a number that has been
decreasing since 1993. They are mainly Koreans (21.2%), Chinese (15.3%), Filipinos
(14.3%) and Thais (6.5%)(Hmush 2004b). Foreigners are concentrated in the
metropolitan areas around Tokyo and Osaka.
Foreign children include the children of the newcomers who need Japanese language
education and the children of old comers, that is, third- and fourth-generation
Korean and Chinese children. Most foreign children who need Japanese language
education in primary and secondary schools are Nikkei children, the grandchildren of
Chinese returnees, refugee children (mainly from Vietnam), children of non-resident
foreigners, and Japanese returnee children from overseas. The majority are Nikkei
children. Nikkei children are not immigrant children who plan to stay in Japan. Most
parents of Nikkei children plan to return to their country in a few years, though more
and more Nikkei parents are, in fact, staying in Japan for a longer time.
It was not until 1991 that the MOE conducted its first survey on Japanese language
education in schools because Japanese schools had not had foreign students who
needed Japanese language training. About 5,500 foreign children of newcomers were
counted in 1991. According to a 2003 MOE survey, 19,042 foreign children needed
to learn Japanese language education in public elementary, middle, high schools, sixyear secondary schools, and special schools. The majority of municipal governments
(565) had one to four students who needed Japanese language education in elementary
and middle schools, and 139 municipal governments had at least 30
(Monbukagakush 2004c).
Half of those students are Nikkei children from Brazil and other Latin American
countries. Portuguese-speaking students, 36 percent of those who need Japanese

language education, are Nikkei children from Brazil, and Spanish-speaking students
(14%) are Nikkei children from Peru and other Latin American countries. They are
concentrated in the Tkai, and Kant metropolitan areas. Chinese-speaking children
(26%) are the grandchildren of Chinese returnees and are most likely to be found in
Tokyo, Kanagawa, Aichi, and Osaka (Monbukagakush 2004c).
The grandchildren of Chinese returnees, refugee children, and Nikkei children who
plan to stay in Japan need both a good education and proficiency in Japanese, in order
to enroll in high schools and colleges, and to lead stable and independent lives in
Japan. Among 1,143 high school students who needed to learn Japanese language,
54.3 percent are Chinese-speaking, and 24.1 percent are Portuguese- and Spanishspeaking. Among 1,143 high school students, 650 students go to regular daytime high
schools, 465 attend evening high schools, and 28 students go to correspondence high
schools (Monbukagakush 2004c). This indicates that these students have difficulty
passing the examinations for admission to regular daytime high schools.
In 1997, one daily school for Brazilian children was established for the first time in
Hamamatsu City. Then, there were more daily schools established for Brazilian
children in Toyota City and Toyohashi City (Murata 2001:151). The private
Pythagoras School in Brazil opened its first school in Japan with 170 students
between the ages 3 and 18 in Ota City in 1999. By 2001, a sixth school was
established with 30 students between the ages of 3 and 15 in Nagano (Sakai 2001:309310; Mainichi Interactive January 25, 2002). In Oizumi Town, where there are 230
Brazilian children, only 56 percent of Brazilian children of school age attended public
elementary and middle schools in 2000. The opening of the daily Brazilian school,
Colegio Pitagoras was established at the border between Oizumi Town and Ota City in
1999 met with an immediate welcome (Sakai and Onai 2001:102; Fujiwara
In addition, there are three informal supplementary Brazilian schools for 150 students
in Ota City and Oizumi Town. The students, ranging in age from six to 16, learn
Portuguese, mathematics, social studies, and science from Brazilian schools (Fujiwara
2001). Among 17,000 Brazilian children between the ages of six and 15, about 7,500
go to Japanese public schools, and about 2,500 go to Brazilian schools, as of 2000.
This leaves 7,000 Brazilian children who do not go to school (Sekiguchi 2003:78).

One survey of Brazilian and Peruvian children who returned to their countries after a
few years in Japan found that most of these children had difficulties readjusting to
their schools. It took approximately half a year for elementary school students and
one to two years for middle and high school students to understand class materials
(Murata 2001:152-154).
Japanese Language Education

Since 1991, as the number of school-age children of Nikkei newcomers has grown,
the Japanese government has created measures to help foreign children in public
primary and secondary schools. All foreigners, including undocumented aliens, can
send their children to public schools, without drawing scrutiny from the authorities.
Since 1991, the municipal administration sends a welcome-to-school notice to every
household in which a six-year-old resides. Upon enrolling in public school, they are
provided free tuition and free textbooks like any other Japanese student.
The MOE provides Japanese language classes and educational counselors to foreign
students. Since 1989, the MOE has supported research on the education of foreign
students. As of 1999, 12 schools have been officially designated as associated schools
for research, and 20 schools have been endorsed as center schools for foreign
students. Since 1992, the MOE has deployed additional Japanese language teachers,
and since 1993, has provided workshops for teachers on educating foreign students.
The MOE has also, since 1999, dispatched educational counselors for foreign students
and their parents who consult with them in their native language (Smuch
2000a:374-377). Prefectural and municipal boards of education, with support from
the MOE, are responsible for these measures.
The most common pedagogy used in Japanese language education is the pullout
method, as most schools have only one to four foreign students if any. Foreign
students who need Japanese language education are pulled out of Japanese language
arts and social studies classes, and are tutored Japanese until they are able to keep up
with their classes. Originally, many schools that had a few foreign students arranged
informal language classes with teachers who had free time, or with a vice-principal or
principal. Then, municipal boards of education began assigning full-time Japanese
language teachers, part-time Japanese language teachers or volunteers. Since then,
Japanese language education has improved through standard textbooks, teaching
materials, and teachers workshops. In many cases, Japanese language teachers

circulate among several schools. More than half of all middle school students (54%)
and 59 percent of high school students stay in Japanese language classes for more than
two years, while 60 percent of elementary school students leave these classes within
two years (Monbukagakush 2004c).
Many foreign children learn interpersonal communication skills in school. Acquiring
abstract cognitive language proficiency in order to keep up with Japanese language
arts and social studies classes takes longer. Most foreign children attend regular
classes before becoming proficient at abstract cognitive language.
Bilingual and native-language education are now provided by municipal boards of
education. Native-language teachers and volunteers, who speak Spanish, Portuguese,
Chinese, or Vietnamese, are dispatched by the local or prefectural boards of education
to schools at regular intervals, usually once a week. Bilingual and native-language
education helps many Nikkei children maintain fluency in their native language when
they return to their countries of origin. Moreover, native-language education helps
foreign students respect their native languages and cultures, and reinforces their ethnic
pride. In addition, native language-speaking teachers and volunteers provide foreign
students with consultation in their native language on schoolwork, on the Japanese
language, and on their school life.
Newcomer Students

According to the 1992-1993 survey of Nikkei children and Japanese children, foreign
students who came to Japan as teenagers have a harder time adjusting to Japanese
schools, mastering the language, and making friends than younger foreign students
(Nakanishi 1995). They have difficulty mastering the abstract cognitive language
necessary to understand social studies and Japanese language arts classes. They
frequently have trouble keeping up with their classes and assignments. Many foreign
students are often enrolled in lower grades because of their deficient knowledge of
At the elementary school level, Japanese and foreign students readily played together
despite the language difference. Playing sports and music together can help foreign
students develop friendships with their Japanese classmates. However, foreign
students in middle schools often have a hard time making friends because they are
older than their classmates, and because Japanese students are busy with

extracurricular activities and cram schools (Nakanishi 1995). Few foreign students
participate in extracurricular activities because they have Japanese language classes,
after-school supplementary lessons, homework, or responsibilities at home, or have
problems with the language.
In 1994, a major concern of teachers of foreign students was that the students have a
difficult time coping with the differences in school culture and the hierarchical
organization of extracurricular clubs. The parents themselves are not proficient in
Japanese, and their work schedules keep them too busy to be actively involved in their
childrens education (Sat 1995:62-66). Teachers and counselors in community-based
language classes indicate that foreign students worry about keeping up with their
school work, making friends, following school rules, forgetting their native language,
and future employment (Miyajima 1999:142).
Foreign students, especially the most recent arrivals, need counselor teachers who can
converse with them in their native language. Training and workshops for teachers
help them understand the cultures of foreign students, and work together with parents,
because few teachers in Japan have ever had foreign students in their classrooms. The
cooperation of homeroom teachers, Japanese language teachers, native-language
teachers, educational counselors, and community-based volunteers can help foreign
students succeed in school.
High school entrance examinations are the highest hurdle for many foreign students.
Although some high schools have special quotas for foreign students, most high
schools require foreign students take the same examinations as other Japanese
students. As a result, many foreign students enter evening high schools and
vocational high schools (Nakanishi 1995:35). According to data from 1999, about 40
percent of foreign students went up to high school after graduating middle school in
Kanagawa in 1999 (Miyajima 2002:120, 141). However, a school education is
necessary for anyone who intends to work in Japan. More high schools are
considering affirmative action admissions policies for foreign students. Teachers and
counselors encourage foreign students to attend high school, and talk to their parents
about the value of a high school education.

Foreign Students in Ume Elementary School

Ume Elementary School in Marugame was designated as an Associated School for

Research on the Education of Foreign Students during the 1998-2000 school years,
and received subsidies for research on the education of foreign students. Since 1994,
this school has had foreign students, and in 1999, it had six Peruvian students, one
Brazilian student and one Chinese student. The newest fifth-grade Chinese girl
entered school in 1999.4
The school formed a committee for foreign student education, consisting of one fulltime and one part-time Japanese language teacher, seven homeroom teachers, and
three teachers whose classes did not have foreign students. The committee designed a
Japanese language education curriculum in order to promote language proficiency in
foreign students. The committee also introduced international-understanding
education so that the Japanese students could become familiar with the cultures of
Peru and Brazil. The school introduced foreign students and their cultures to Japanese
students and parents through school papers, school television broadcasts, special
events, and class activities.
The school has one full-time Japanese language teacher and one part-time language
teacher. Only one student need to study conversational Japanese, but all of the
students needed to learn more abstract cognitive language. The teachers designed
individualized study plans, based on the results of the students Japanese language
placement tests. They were excused from their regular classes between one and six
times a week to take Japanese language classes, depending on the amount of practice
they needed.
Foreign students also receive native-language education, taught by a Spanish-speaking
teacher and a Portuguese-speaking teacher. Since 1996, a Spanish-speaking teacher
has been sent by the prefectural board of education for two-hour lessons every other
week. Spanish language education is important especially for the students who plan
to go back to Peru.
The teacher also teaches the culture and history of Peru in Spanish. All students feel
comfortable expressing their thoughts in Spanish. All six Peruvian students speak
Spanish with their parents at home, but they cannot read or write Spanish because
they came to Japan before they were of school age. Both parents work and do not

have enough time to teach Spanish to their children. Parents often worry that their
children are forgetting Spanish, and may not be able to catch up in school after they
return to Peru. The teacher also translates school memos into Spanish for their
I observed one Spanish class and one Portuguese class. A Japanese instructor who is
fluent in Spanish teaches four Peruvian students, mainly in Spanish. The class was
very lively, and the teacher taught verb conjugations by asking questions in Spanish.
In the Portuguese class, a teacher used flash cards to teach spelling and writing.
Native-language classes meet only once every other week. However, the opportunity
to learn their native language helps foreign students maintain their language
proficiency, and enhances their ethnic identity.
The homeroom teachers of foreign students provide assistance with schoolwork
during recess or after school. Though the foreign students can speak Japanese, they
often have problems with complicated sentences, Chinese characters (kanji) and
abstract cognitive recognition. Thus, their educational achievement suffers because of
language barriers. The committee of Ume School concluded that the school needed
classroom aides to help the foreign students in academic classes.
The homeroom teachers created friendly homeroom environments and helped them to
make friends with their Japanese classmates. Some homeroom teachers had all the
students learn several Spanish words from their Peruvian classmates during the
morning and afternoon homeroom periods. The homeroom teacher of one fourthgrade Peruvian girl decided to let all her students play together during break twice a
week because the girl had a hard time making friends. One Brazilian girl in the fourth
grade who was two years older than her classmates could not communicate well in
Japanese, and therefore, she had been going to the Japanese language classes instead
of spending time with other students during recess. The homeroom teacher let other
Japanese classmates go with her to the Japanese language class so that they could
make friends with her and the other foreign students.


About 1.55 million Japanese civilians living in Manchuria suffered the ordeal of
repatriation during the aftermath of World War II. When the Soviet Union advanced
into Manchuria on August 9, 1945, many men were conscripted. Military and civilian

deaths during and immediately after the invasion numbered 245,000. Another
700,000 Japanese men were captured and sent to Siberia and Outer Mongolia for
forced labor, where 55,000 died of starvation, cold, and exhaustion (Ienaga 1986:293295; Nakayama 2000:263). Women, children, and the elderly fled into safe areas. By
October 1945, the post-war turmoil had abated, but they had no shelter, food, or
clothing to see them through the freezing Manchurian winter. Many children were left
with Chinese families, and many women married Chinese men who would provide for
them. Children who were adopted by Chinese families are known as orphans
remaining in China (Chgoku zairy koji). Girls who were 13 or older and married
to Chinese men are called women remaining in China (Chgoku zairy fujin).
After the establishment of the Chinese Peoples Republic in 1949, China and Japan
severed diplomatic relations until the 1972 Normalization Treaty. Since 1973, the
Japanese government has encouraged Chinese orphans to return to Japan if they can
find a Japanese relative to sponsor them. Since 1993, the Ministry of Health and
Welfare has supported all those who wanted to return to Japan even if they could not
find a relative.
Chinese returnees return to Japan with their spouses, children and grandchildren. By
October 2004, 6,265 Chinese returnee households (2,478 households of Chinese
orphan returnees and 3,787 households of Chinese women returnees) with 20,048
family members have returned to Japan (Chgoku 2004). Others returned to Japan at
their own expense. In 1999, the number of children and grandchildren of war orphans
and their spouses who have accompanied them to Japan was as high as 60,000.
Approximately 30,000 descendants of Chinese returnees have become Japanese
citizens (Komai 2001:62).
Chinese returnees and their families can visit one of the three Readjustment
Promotion Centers (eight Centers before 1999) to enroll in four months of instruction
in Japanese language and culture. Then, they are settled into regions where their
relatives or sponsors live. Afterwards, they can also attend classes at one of the
twelve Centers for Training in Independence to learn Japanese language and culture
and to receive eight months of aftercare services. Most Chinese returnees and their
families live in metropolitan areas near Readjustment Promotion Centers.

Since 1976, the MOE has designated an associated school for the education of
Chinese children, and hired extra teachers. In 2003, 4,913 elementary, middle, and
high school Chinese students needed assistance with learning Japanese
(Monbukagakush 2004c). Starting in 1999, the MOE has hired counselors for
Chinese and other foreign students and their families. The MOE has published
supplementary teaching materials for teachers since 1986, and Japanese language
materials since 1989.
The children and grandchildren of Chinese returnees perform below the national
average in school, mainly because they lack Japanese language proficiency. Many
Chinese children are assigned to lower grade levels than their age. According to a
1995 survey, among those who received education in Japan, 44.2 percent were middle
school graduates, 19.2 percent were high school graduates, and 28.8 percent were
graduates of technical schools, and 7.7 percent were junior college or university
graduates. More than half gave up on education for economic reasons, and 38.5
percent did so because of language problems (Komai 2001:98).
According to 88 Chinese high school students who have lived in Japan for three years
or more, about 70 percent of their parents speak Chinese to them all the time, while
54.8 percent of siblings speak both Chinese and Japanese (Kiyoda 1995). Among
Chinese returnees in 1999, 31 percent said that their children and grandchildren had
problems at school, including educational expenses, language comprehension
problems, difficulty with class work, or bullying (Kseish 2000).
Many prefectures provide special treatment for Chinese returnee children who wish to
take the high school entrance examination. In Osaka Prefecture, extended hours,
hiragana reading for Chinese characters, Japanese-Chinese and Chinese-Japanese
dictionaries, and Chinese translations for key words of the composition at the entrance
examination for high school, are provided for Chinese children who came to Japan
after the first grade.


Japan was a stopover for many political asylum seekers who were going to the United
States during the Cold War, but did not have to deal with these refugees directly until
the arrival of boat people, mostly from Vietnam, in 1975. In 1979, the Japanese
government set a quota for refugees, and opened a refugee camp. In 1981, Japan

signed the U.N. 1951 Convention and its 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of
Refugees, and enacted the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act.
Therefore, Japan has an international obligation to be open to refugees and asylumseekers. The quota for refugees was eliminated in 1994. In December 2003, 11,087
refugees from Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia live in Japan.5 Before March 1994, they
had entered the country as boat people from the overseas refugee camps. However,
the majority of entry now is through family reunifications.
The Refugee Project Headquarters at the Asia Welfare Education Foundation,
established in 1979, have helped refugees and their families settle in Japan. After they
are admitted, most Indochinese refugees have stayed in the Settlement Facilitation
Centers in Himeji, Hygo (1979-1996), Kanagawa (1979-1998), the Reception Center
in Nagasaki (1981-1995), or the International Rescue Center in Tokyo (1983-). The
Settlement Facilitation Centers have provided room and board so that refugees can
learn Japanese language and customs and speak with job placement counselors to find
a job or arrange internships.
Many refugee children have low educational achievement as a result of their lack of
fluency in Japanese. Refugee children receive remedial education and special
treatment to improve their Japanese language skills and educational level, as do
Nikkei and Chinese returnee children. Refugee children learn the Japanese language
in school like other foreign students who need Japanese language education.
In addition, community-based volunteer associations help refugee children with their
schoolwork and with learning the language. Refugee children have a hard time
passing entrance examinations for regular high schools. Many parents of refugee
children do not place as much emphasis on the education of their children, and some
refugee children begin working at the age of 15 (Nakanishi 1995:34-35). Their
parents do not know much about the school system due to insufficient mastery of the
Japanese language, the lack of social contact with Japanese people, and long, hard
work hours (Miyajima 2002:135). Therefore, teachers have had to persuade some
parents to let their children attend high school, as a high school education is necessary
to obtain a stable job. A special quota and preferential treatment for refugee children
taking the high school entrance examination should be available to all refugee
students. In addition, teachers must ensure that refugee children are not victimized by

their classmates. Refugee children are often bullied because of their status and


Many schools have foreign students make presentations about their country and
cultures to their Japanese classmates in homeroom classes and in school events.
However, most schools do not have foreign students, and only teach about diversity
through the regular social science classes. Japanese students learn about human rights
and diversity as part of social science. Middle and high school textbooks now
mention foreign migrant workers and the new immigrants.
A popular middle-school civics textbook has a section, Living Together in the
Multicultural Society that describes newcomer foreign workers mainly from Asia and
South America (Tokyo Shoseki 2002c:20-21). The students are expected to discuss
the causes and effects of the influx of foreign workers, and the rights of foreigners in
Japan. They can also study the role of the community in internationalization. High
school teachers recommend teaching about foreign workers using role play,
interviews, newspaper, magazines, videos, guest speakers, the Internet, games and
debates (Fujiwara 1994; Takahashi 1995:28).
Nearly 90 percent of Korean children attend Japanese schools, speak Japanese at
home, and use Japanese names. In many ways they cannot be distinguished from
Japanese children. The educational attainment of Korean children has almost reached
the national average. However, their status as aliens may create difficulty in finding
employment. Some schools with many Korean children provide extracurricular ethnic
classes, where they learn the Korean language and culture with other Korean
children. Ethnic education helps Korean children feel ethnic pride and solidarity.
In 1993, more than 17,000 Korean children were attending Korean schools organized
by the Chongryun (the General Association of Korean Residents in Japan), an
organization affiliated with North Korea. In these schools, students speak Korean,
read Korean textbooks, call each other by Korean names, and girls wear traditional
clothing, chima chogori. Ethnic consciousness and group solidarity are strong among
the students. But even those students have a hard time mastering the Korean language
because most of them do not speak Korean outside of school.

Human rights education and multicultural education teach Japanese children to

understand and respect Korean culture with the goal of eliminating prejudice against
Koreans. All Japanese children learn Korean history and culture so that they can
understand why so many Koreans live in Japan. History textbooks emphasize Japans
invasion and colonization of Korea from the perspective of Korean victims, and civics
textbooks underscore the human rights of Korean residents in Japan.
Due to the shortage of labor during the bubble economy of the late 1980s, the
government enacted the revised 1990 Immigration Control Law to allow Nikkeijin
(Japanese migrants/Japanese descendents with foreign nationality) to work in Japan
unconditionally. A huge number of Nikkeijin, mainly from Latin American countries,
flooded into Japan. Many of them brought their families and have stayed in Japan.
Responding to the increasing number of Nikkei children, the government began to
provide Japanese language education, native-language education, and educational
counseling. In 2003, 19,042 foreign students in public schools needed Japanese
language education. Among these students were Nikkei children and the
grandchildren of Chinese returnees. In most cases, they are excused from their
regular classes to work on their Japanese.
The majority of foreign students can converse in Japanese. However, they have
trouble reading and writing Japanese, and their cognitive language proficiency is
below average for their age. Therefore, they tend to be behind in social studies and
Japanese language arts, and are denied admission to elite academic high schools.
They need tutoring to keep up with classes, and course guidance. Special treatment
and high school admission quotas help these students continue their education, which
is necessary for those students who plan to stay and work in Japan.
1. Many books and articles concerning Korean residents in general (e.g., Lee and
DeVos 1981; Hicks 1997; Ryang 2000); Korean ethnic schools (Ryang 1997; Inokuchi
2000); the education of Korean children in Japanese schools (Lee 1991; Umakoshi
1991; Okano 1997; Hester 2000) have been published in English.
2. Special permanent residency was granted in 1991 to those people who lost their
Japanese nationality on the basis of the 1952 San Francisco Peace Treaty, and their

3. As the number of Nikkei children has increased in schools since the mid-1990s,
many books and articles about the education of Nikkei children have been published
in Japan (Watanabe 1995a, 1995b; Nakanishi and Sat 1995; Ota 1996; Sat 1997;
Sasaki and Akuzawa 1998). The education of Nikkei children is discussed in English
(Okano and Tsuchiya 1999; Tsuneyoshi 2001).
4. This case study is based on my observation of classes and interviews with
teachers at Ume (pseudonym) Elementary School on February 21, 2001, in addition to
the school report for the international-understanding education, and school
bulletins. See also Case Study 7.1 International-Understanding Education in Ume
Elementary School.
5. The Refugee Assistance Headquarters provides detailed information concerning
refugees from Indochina on the Internet.

Due to the ever-decreasing rate of childbirth in Japan (in 2003, 1.29 children per
woman in her lifetime), the number of students has been rapidly decreasing. A large
number of elementary schools have converted their empty classrooms into computer
rooms, international understanding rooms, and even public rooms, while many
elementary schools have been closed or merged with neighboring schools. With the
decreasing number of students, there is a decreased need for new teachers. As a
result, the average teacher is now more than 40 years old.
Elementary school classes of 40 students prevent teachers from seeing their students
as individuals. Since the 2001-2 school year, each prefectural board of education can
reduce class sizes at its discretion. Furthermore, elementary and middle schools have
been able to create 20-student learning groups for Japanese language arts,
mathematics, and science classes. In addition, elementary and middle schools are
hiring 22,500 new teachers for these smaller classes. Moreover, the MOE has
recruited 50,000 temporary teachers from the general public, even waiving the
requirement of a teaching certificate, in order to form team-teaching groups with
regular teachers, and to teach computer skills or other practical skills. Also, retired
teachers or local people will be invited to work as teachers aides on a part-time basis.
Many communities have a large pool of retirees, homemakers, and potential

volunteers who are qualified to work as classroom aides or as teachers aides during
school and after school hours. The smaller student-teacher ratio will mean that
students have personal attention and learn more in the classroom.
Schools are now much more open to the community. Since 1993, the MOE has
promoted the use of school facilities for local people. For example, athletic clubs can
use the school gymnasium for weekend basketball practice. Furthermore, since April
2000, principals can appoint a school committee of parents and community members
to discuss school management. When members of the community are more involved
in schools, the quality of education improves.
In 1987, the National Council on Educational Reform (NCER) (Rinkyshin)
recommended the deregulation, diversification, and individualization of education in
order to reform the rigid and uniform Japanese educational system. The MOE has
implemented large-scale educational reforms for deregulating the school system
including the diversification of curriculum, changes in the examination system, the
promotion of higher education, the development of lifelong education, the promotion
of scientific research, information technology and sports, and the internationalization
of education.
The 1998 Course of Study for 2002 onward created a new subject, integrated study
(sgtekina gakush no jikan), in which each school can determine what and how to
teach international issues, information science, environmental issues, social welfare,
and health issues through debates, volunteer activities, surveys and experiments.
Integrated study is intended to nurture the creativity and individuality of students, and
emphasize problem-solving methods rather than the rote-memorization of the basics.
The 1998 and 1999 Courses of Study expanded the range of electives for middle and
high school students. Moreover, each school can regulate the length of each class.
Teachers have much more authority to determine what and how to teach their
Corresponding to the five-day school week, educational content in the 1998 Course of
Study has been reduced by 30 percent, while 20 percent of class time is set aside for
review sessions. Critics worry that the students will cease to excel in mathematics
and science. Many public schools plan to supplement class hours by spending less
time on school events and offering a summer session. Parents and community leaders

organize Saturday classes, while some juku (private educational organizations)

cooperate with the MOE to provide camping, sports, and science experiments on the
weekend. In order to maintain the class hours for academic subjects, half of all
private middle and high schools did not adopt the five-days school week for the 20023 school year.
After the nine years of compulsory education in elementary and middle schools, all
15-year-olds are sorted out, through high school entrance examinations, into ranked
public and private high schools. In order to ease the intense competition, high school
admissions committees have begun to consider extracurricular activities and volunteer
service, in addition to the entrance examination score. In addition, six-year secondary
schools have been created. However, as long as educational credentials affect
students future prospects, the competition to enter high-ranked high schools and highranked colleges will continue. The promotion of measures that create flexibility in
college entrance, such as the transfer system and a quota for adult admissions, will
give late-bloomers a second chance, and ease the examination war for better high
schools and better colleges. Furthermore, compensatory and remedial education for
low-achievers helps students who have fallen behind to recover and have the chance
to enter better colleges.
Higher education is now universal education. In 2003, almost half of high school
graduates went to two-year junior colleges or four-year colleges, the largest rate in the
record, and 19 percent of high school graduates went to specialized training colleges.
More students than ever are entering college, despite the decline in the number of 18year-olds. However, the academic quality of college students has diminished, as
many colleges must accept almost all applicants, in order to remain financially
Lower educational achievement tends to be a more acute problem among minority
children and children from low-income families or dysfunctional families. Family
backgrounds have a significant impact on the educational attainment of children.
Children whose fathers are in professional or managerial positions are more likely to
attend selective high schools and colleges.

Early compensatory education and outreach programs for low-achieving and

disadvantaged children will improve their academic abilities and keep them
performing at grade level. Compensatory education and outreach programs such as
supplementary lessons for Buraku children should be open to all children with low
educational achievement. Though some teachers voluntarily teach children with low
educational achievement after school, there is no system of teachers aides or tutors
for these students. The Ministry of Education has recently devised a plan to provide
compensatory education for children with learning disabilities and those who are
behind. It will not be too difficult to provide teachers aides and volunteers for those
students who have trouble learning, because schools have started recruiting volunteer
teachers from the community.
Integrated education has helped create more accessibility to regular classes and
schools for disabled children, although not all children with disabilities are legally
guaranteed entry to regular schools. Moreover, since 1993, children with mild
disabilities can join regular classes with special assistance from the resource room.
Furthermore, human rights education promotes exchange programs between the
students in special schools and those in regular schools.
Minority children include socially discriminated-against Buraku children, indigenous
Ainu children, ethnic minority Korean children, and ethnic or linguistic minority
children of newly arrived migrant workers and immigrants (such as Nikkei children,
Chinese returnee children, and refugee children). In order to improve the lower
educational level of minority children, the government provides scholarships,
subsidizes compensatory education, supports ethnic education, and assigns language
teachers when necessary. The government also sponsors human rights education to
teach Japanese children about minority cultures and history in order to instill respect,
acceptance, and tolerance for all people.
Teachers, parents, the community, and the government have been looking for the best
way to help children develop their creativity and individuality as well as their
educational achievements. Since the 1987 recommendation of the Rinkyshin that
started the current wave of reforms, Japanese education has been moving rapidly
toward deregulation, diversification, and individualization. According to the 1998 and

1999 Courses of Study, each school can decide what to include in integrated study,
and set the length of class hours. Students can now take many more elective classes
and follow their own interests.
Responding to criticism concerning the possible repercussions of shortened academic
class hours and reduced content, the Ministry of Education claimed that the Course of
Study is based on a minimum standard, and created 20-student groups for Japanese
language arts, mathematics, and science by hiring more full- and part-time teachers.
Smaller class sizes and more teachers aides will keep students performing well in
their classes.
Cooperation between schools and the community has been promoted by inviting
members of the public into schools as volunteers, lecturers, and teachers aides, and
school committee members. A large pool of educated homemakers and retirees can
help teach children after school in order to improve their educational standing.

Assistant Language Teacher


Asahi Shinbun (Asahi Newspaper)


Buraku Liberation League


Coordinator for International Relations


U.S. Department of Education


English as Second Language


U.S. General Accounting Office


Gross Domestic Product


The General Headquarters (of the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers)


Individualized Education Program


Intelligence Quotient


Japan Communist Party


Japan Exchange and Teaching


Japan Socialist Party; since 1996, the Social Democratic Party of Japan


Japan Teachers Union


Learning Disabilities


Liberal Democrat Party


Limited English Proficiency


Mainichi Kazoku Shinbun (Mainichi Family Newspaper)


Ministry of Education, Science, Sports and Culture. Ministry of Education, Culture,

Sports, Science and Technology (since January 2001)


Ministry of Foreign Affairs


National Commission on Excellence in Education


National Council on Educational Reform (Rinji kyiku shingikai or Rinkyshin for short)


National Center for Education Statistics


Nonprofit organization


Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development


Parent-Teacher Association


Special Measures Law for Assimilation Projects


Social Stratification and Social Mobility


Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study


United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization


United Nations International Childrens Emergency Fund


Yomiuri Shinbun (Yomiuri Newspaper)


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