Chapter I Concept and Character of Common Education
Section 1 Unsolved Common Education in the field of Education in general.
On many occasions, discussions focused on “what is education” have been carried out, but not “what is common education.”
Education may be literally interpreted as “to educate (people) and let them grow” or “to bring out ones’ capabilities.” Either way, this wide definition is also often used in the world of adults. In parallel, various kinds of education have been practiced in the world of children, such as at home, in a community or in the world of mass media.
Nonetheless, for the world of children, there is another kind of education, being unique to the world of children and differentiating it from the kind of wider meaning education mentioned. This kind of education means to develop children as human beings as members of mankind, or to bring up children to grow to be members of a collaborative society. A unique type of education, which is special to the world of children, does exist in a very simple way in the minds of the public at the unconscious level. In the case of Europe, such an education was recognized and institutionalized as “common education” with a background in the development of civil society.
One education with a larger definition and another education so unique to the world of children, these educations share the same purpose of forming one’s character. These forms of education often coexist yet they enjoy so many different interpretations. Some say there are one hundred educational points of view for one hundred different individuals. There is a point in that. Keeping this in mind, it is important for us to differentiate those two types of education as well as to clarify what the common education for bringing up people as people in the universal sense is.
It can be said that we have not paid enough attention to an education which is unique to the world of children.
Why does adult society end up losing interest towards this particular education so unique to the world of children? Perhaps, there may not be any urgent enough reasons to face this issue. Perhaps, some adults may think the need of fitting children into an adults’ convenience or ulterior motive as well as advantages of adult’s society, where others may believe that children are not thinking anything so that they can be brought up in any possible way. Perhaps, there are people who are puzzled by the fact that there may be a kind of education so unique to the world of children.
Adults in general have, to some degree, some expectations toward this particular type of education so unique to the world of children, such as to grow to be considerate, with magnanimous generosity, to earn others’ trust, to contribute to others and society as a whole, etc. There are children’s rituals regarding these expectations, which are seen across the world. Shichi-go-san in Japan is one of them.
However, having expectations does not make adults think deeply enough about exactly what are the procedures to bring up children to meet with those expectations. Only a few people pay attention to them: those who may be able to speculate as to the quality of relationship between adults and children, who may be able to imagine the process of bringing up child as a person in a universal sense. These people are the ones who have expressed the concept of common education, bringing up people as people in the universal sense.
There has been no occasion when the concept of the common education was realized on a full scale. It is quite reasonable in a class-based society. Yet, some people say that the capitalist society is the last form of class-based society. That is because this is the last time which the wealth itself owns a sense of values: the wealth that people created and the wealth that is symbolized in a form of money. And because now is the time when people are forced to shift to realize that people, who create a sense of wealth, must realize the value within themselves. Some people also say that the capitalist society is the last form of society that offers the material conditions to make such a social shift possible.
Contemporary Japanese society is a highly advanced capitalist society. In this kind of society, the realization of common education is difficult in one sense but on the other hand, all the necessary conditions are laid, in an objective sense, to make the introduction of common education possible.
After all, 60 years ago, the Japanese constitution mandated that it is the responsibility of all Japanese nationals to provide common education to all children. As tools to realize this, the Basic Act on Education and the School Education Act were enacted. Since then, the education policy has been in development for many years. A number of teachers have practiced teaching based on common education at actual schools as well. At the same time, throughout these years, there have been a number of various movements shifting from common education to “national education.” As the culmination of such movements, the “amendment” of the Basic Act on Education as well as the School Education Act was carried out.
The problem here is that the recognition that it is important to construct an common education system is not shared among Japanese people. Even if the objective condition to make it possible is in place, if the majority of people are uninterested in that issue or actually not willing to realize it, the realization of common education cannot take place.
Section 2 Definition of Common Education
Firstly, let us look into the Kojien, Japanese-Japanese dictionary, for the definition of common education. It has been changed every time it is revised.
● 1st edition (1955): an education that offers all the youth cultural accomplishments (Kyoyo) necessary in general, as a citizen as well as a human being, regardless of nationality, belief, social class, gender or capability.
● 2nd and 3rd edition (1965, 1983): an education that offers knowledge and cultural accomplishments necessary in general common as a human being, a social member, or a citizen.
● 4th to 6th edition (1991, 1999, 2008): an education to foster a sense of cultural accomplishment by offering necessary knowledge in general public, regardless of types of occupation.
It is significant that the first edition targeted the youth and laid its base on the cultural accomplishments necessary as a human being. Nevertheless, after a few revisions, the main target has become “a citizen, a social member” or even unclear. It is impossible to obtain an accurate understanding about common education in this way. It seems each revision makes its content step backwardly. Would it be possible for the dictionary writer to have been reflecting the definition to the government led education policy movement?
The definition of common education varies among the scholars specialized in the field of education, and so it has not been settled into one definition.
Dr. Teruhisa Horio, one such scholar, states that common education is “a general and basic education which is commonly necessary to all citizens in this contemporary time” and it should be structured around appropriate cultural accomplishments. His definition seems to have potential points of contention, such as what is “a general and basic education which is commonly necessary to all citizens in this contemporary time,” how do we determine such an education, what are the cultural accomplishments appropriate for such an education, etc.
In regard to the definition of common education, it is also said to be “one of the most intricate issues for a school of education.” Statements like “commonly necessary to all citizens” or “public rationale” are very complicated to begin with, so it is quite impossible even to attempt to define common education from there.
As the prologue of this paper mentioned, in the post-war period, a number of heated discussion were carried out in regard to common education through the course of establishing the Constitution as well as the Basic Act on Education. The Ministry of Education at that time advanced its definition, reflected by academic and educational insights, to a certain degree. This definition has been considered as the interpretation of common education by the government.
The Basic Act on Education, that was amended in 2006, adopted a phrase which states “common education that practices as compulsory education” along with the word “common education,” determining its purpose. In summary, “the objectives of general education, given in the form of compulsory education, shall be to cultivate the foundations for an independent life within society while developing the abilities of each individual, and to foster the basic qualities necessary for those who form our state and society.” The School Education Act, amended in 2007, set 10 items, incorporated a sense of nurturing patriotism as well as normative consciousness, as the aims of “the common education as compulsory education.”
The “amended” Basic Act on Education itself has shifted its education policy from “bringing up mankind” to “bringing up citizens.” Even after making this shift, “common education as compulsory education” remains. Common education here is restricted under the aim of “bringing up citizens” or “bringing up people to form a state as well as communities.”
The word “common education” is restricted like so, by contradicting itself with its original meaning. This means that the MEXT denies, is the de facto definition that the Ministry of Education of the post-war time introduced.
The author of this paper takes the position of recognizing the academic and educational premise for the definition that the post-war Ministry of Education introduced and defines common education here again today as the “education to bring up people as people in the universal sense.”
“Bringing up people as people in the universal sense” is imbued with great significant content and meaning, as this paper will discuss.