An Advanced Education Image for the 21st Century in Japan

- Hiroko Itatani
Section of Liaison Psychiatry and Palliative Medicine,
Department of Comprehensive Diagnosis and Therapeutics,
Division of Comprehensive Patient Care,
Graduate School of Tokyo Medical and Dental University
Tokyo, Japan
Eubios Journal of Asian and International Bioethics 9 (1999), 80.


There has recently been a call for further transition of study guidelines in Japan. The "University image of the 21st century and reformation strategy for the future council" of the Ministry of Education made this call while referring to the necessity for the system of finishing and the completion of the university to be improved. One of the ideas is to move from having equal content for all to adjust the content corresponding to a student's ability and aptitude. When this is done a system which can evaluate the desire for study, and the results of the student's effort is needed. The students should enthusiastically show originality given the new flexibility and using new class technology.

Transition of study guidelines

Since the end of the Second World War there has been a period where Japan has been searching for a new direction using "Study guidelines". Study guidelines appeared for the first time in 1947. The outline of national control of education originates from the empire constitution in 1889, and the "Imperial Education Decree" was made in 1890. The "Imperial Education Decree" was followed until 1945 at the end of World War II, and the education system continued to include patriotism as an idea after then also.

A change in the direction was urged from the education indicators, and this was effected though study guidelines which introduced a new content in education from a national textbook which had been called "Guidance". The 1951 education guidelines introduced the theory of empiricism, "Life study", the theory of "Problem solving study" with value placed on discussion. "Promotion of a democratic character" was assumed to be a target of education. In the 1958 study guidelines, the introduction and the class policy of "Morality" was converted from the life study unit to a systematic study to master objective knowledge and learn technology. In addition, the legal restraining power of the study guidelines was reinforced. The education committees were appointed through the public election system, and the efficiency ratings were executed. The 1968 education guidelines introduced revisions to meet the demands of highly developed economic growth. A highly developed content was introduced, for example, sets, functions, probability and statistics were introduced in mathematics in the compulsory education course.

After the war, the flow of politics and society had changed greatly with the security system between Japan and the United States. The focus of Japanese education changed completely towards highly developed economic growth. However, "Composure and enhancement" were included in the study guidelines in 1977. There were some problems noted in the social situation where mass production and a large amount of consumption had been assumed to be good at this time. Problems of education such as increasing scholastic attainments differences, refusals to go to school, delinquency, violence inside the campus and dropouts came to be taken up by the mass media. Violence inside the campus gradually developed from physical destruction into teacher violence. Moreover, there were reductions in the class time and content of education. This led to reduced experimental observations and poorer experiences and impressions. A five day school system was introduced in the 1989 study guidelines in 1989 (though most schools still have a working Saturday morning every fortnight). The range of subject selections was expanded in junior and senior high school with an overall study introduction being attempted at each school. However there are still the above social problems with no solution in sight.

What is problem solving study and experience type study?

Since the 1951 study guidelines, classes for problem solving study and value on discussion have been introduced in primary, secondary and tertiary education, also in social welfare and medical education. There are a lot of research reports about class development and better class technology for participation in experience type study recently. It is divided into experience type study, virtual experience type study, and direct representation experience type study. The experience study includes direct participation in activities apart from the outdoor activity and the classroom, and uses extremely realistic study techniques. The virtual experience study takes something that is close and involves making a model using computer software. The representation experience study includes taking videos. There are some other kinds of study techniques, with various merits and weak points , but each should be used properly according to the characteristics, class purposes and the students.

Execution of problem solving study

The role of education is to search for the ideal appearance of humans. Students can reexamine the ideal way for the class to cultivate an outlook to understand different people. However, problem solving classes that value discussion must be done carefully. For instance, when students give their impressions of the class in an open description form, it is possible for the teacher to imperfectly understand the real intention when evaluation of the teacher is described. The blind spot which the teacher can easily fall into when this free description is evaluated to lose objectivity, especially when the content of the class and an affirmative comment on the teacher are included in the content of the description. To remove this danger and to perform more objective class evaluation, a system which can evaluate the study desires of the students and the results, has been executed. Moreover, two or more teachers can be used, with three people or more being better including one overall supervisor teacher. Checks and evaluation between teachers are requested. Such methods are sure to lead to a qualitative deepening of the content of the class, and allowing multidisciplinary discussion of ethics. It is necessary to maintain student's desire to study otherwise the entire class could be stagnated and objectivity lost .

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