Chapter V  Relations between common education and changes in society




Section 1  Common education and social change




 Previous Prime Ministers and Ministers of Education (Culture, Sports, Science and Technology) have promoted education reform throughout history, carrying the motto “meeting with the changes of society.”


 For instance, the former Minister of Education, Mr. Kennoki, questioned the Central Education Council by “responding to the development of national society in the future.” The former Prime Minister, Mr. Nakasone, questioned the direction of education reform to the provisional council for education in 1984, due to the “rapid changes in society.” In 2001, the former Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, Mr. Toyama, stated “education shall be sought tether can respond to dramatic changes in society” and questioned the Central Education Council about “the modality of the Basic Act on Education suitable to a new era.” Would the modality of education have to be reformed according to changes in society?


 An American Philosopher, John Dewey (1859-1952) wrote in a book titled “School and Society” that education is a drive for social advancement. Does education have to contribute to social reform?


 Education for children tends to follow the way of society at the time, regardless of different situations and beliefs in those schools of thought.


 The preamble of the Basic Act on Education, 1947, states “the realization of this ideal shall depend fundamentally on the power of education.” This preamble is emphasizing the importance of education in realizing the principle of citizens’ sovereignty, basic human rights, the right to live in peace etc.; in other words, education is significantly important for the development of society. However, it still remains questionable how the relation between the idealism of society and education are understood.


 The Japanese Constitution regards the relations between social idealism or advancement and education as twofold.


 It is due to the fact that the education clause is stipulated on both sides of education and common education.


 The owner of right is citizen, no matter if it is basic human rights or the right to live in peace. Therefore, citizens shall make the effort to learn or educate themselves in order to become practitioners of those rights. In this sense, the first clause of Article 26 stipulates the right to receive education.


 At the same time, the second clause of the Article stipulates that citizens own the responsibility to let their children receive common education.


 This common education is indeed the one to “bring up people as people in the universal sense.” This means precisely that the Constitution orders citizens to ensure the growth of children to be an independent human who can fully practice proper judgement skills as a human. This is what it means to realize the Constitutional ideal to be an independent individual who mediates humanities. This does not mean teaching or learning constitutional values. Nor does it mean to learn something such as what is the basic right to live, what is the right to live in peace, etc. either.


 It means that children shall foster a sense of judgement skills in regard to the sovereignty and basic human rights, by feeling human emotions during the growing stage, through the process of obtaining human rationality where children develop their knowledge about natural and social matters.


 It is a wonder that education can (including the common education) contribute in realizing idealism in society, under the current condition where the common education described above has become almost “obsolete[1]?”


 The ruling power of society or people in political power attempts to create a social structure, favorable to their interests, and reorganizes individual belief or ability, even social life, to suit such a society. This type of society “favorable to their interests” shall go through many changes for different reasons, so education reform is also necessary whenever this change happens. Individuals would then stand passively, to be enforced by these education reforms.


 From the stand point of the modality of society as a form of people’s consensus, depending on people’s judgement, mutual inspection becomes inevitable to check the inclination of the owner’s rights and the content of people’s judgement skills. It is necessary to learn from each other and discuss about the way of society where every member shall feel mutually beneficial, if a society is favorable only for some people but not for others.


 The common education to “bring up people as people in the universal sense” is education with the basic concept of cultivating a sense of rational judgement in humans. Therefore, the development of society shall depend on the degree of matureness of the common education. The development or advancement of a society means the majority of citizens shall practice their judgement properly on the current status and challenges of political economy both in and out of the country, on issues of healthcare and social security, on science and technology as well as art and culture, on health and sports, etc. Proper judgement would not only be reasonably developed by direct learning about these issues or through education. The innate and possible rationale of children shall be fostered in association to the common education, then that judgement shall be available.




 As already mentioned earlier, Japan has a history of elimination and misunderstanding of common education, and unfortunately common education has become a mere façade.


 On the contrary, even the word “common education” may not be used, the international society seems to share broadly the understanding of an “education to bring up people as people in the universal sense” as a contributor for social advancement, seen in documents of the United Nations institutions as well as education in European and North American countries.




Section 2  Lifelong learning concept also towards realization of common education




 The word “lifelong learning” has been used in many ways. In general, it is used as an extension of learning opportunities mainly for adults having a sense of “whenever and wherever.”


 At the same time, what the Japanese government, MEXT, has promoted along with UNESCO since 1960’s shall be regarded as lifelong learning.


 UNESCO’s intention is to create new types of social framework by expanding learning opportunities based on becoming aware of human nature and self-actualization, by challenging traditional, authoritarian and formal frameworks as a whole for not being suitable to changes in society.


 The “transition towards the system of lifelong learning” policy of Japan has tried to create a government and administration that leads the lifelong learning system and to place the system throughout the entire educational institution. The Japanese lifelong learning policy seems backward to the world trend.


From the perspective of the “principle of reform of education,” common education is intimately associated with lifelong learning.


 “The reform of education” has proceeded today with the stand point of neoliberalism and market fundamentalism. Meanwhile, the world of children and teachers are facing a series of serious problems. Under these circumstances, the state of school education should be reviewed radically starting from where children stand, based on the concept of common education “bringing up people as people in the universal sense.” This would perfectly meet with the important issue of lifelong learning which has been promoted by UNESCO, etc.


 In contrast, MEXT has promoted a number of lifelong learning policies, following the principle of “the transition towards a system of lifelong learning” suggested by the provisional council for education in 1985.


 The “amended” Basic Act on Education of 2006 stipulated the “concept of lifelong learning” (Article 3): “Society shall be made to allow all citizens to continue to learn throughout their lives, on all occasions and in all places, and apply the outcomes of lifelong learning appropriately to refine themselves and lead a fulfilling life.”


 The Basic Act on Education was amended and changed its basic concept from “cultivate people” to “cultivate national people;” furthermore, the government led learning activities for national people determines the direction to realize a productive society. There is no sign of the assurance of the right to learn from the perspective of basic human rights.


 In addition, the School Education Act was “revised” (2001) under the influence of the “amended” Basic Act on Education with particular emphasis on patriotism or normative consciousness, and stressed for the elementary school to ”pay particular attention to foster the value of respect proactive participation in learning (snip) in order to cultivate a base to learn over a lifetime,” (Made Italics by the author) in order to achieve the aims of “common education in the form of compulsory education.” For instance, according to the above revision, elementary school education must pay particular attention in order to cultivate “the base to learn over a lifetime” and to meet the aim of “fostering the value of love of the country and regions.” It is possible to identify the intention of traditional and patriotic moral education through which the foundation of patriotic education, etc. shall be established at an early stage.


 As part of the “transition towards the system of lifelong learning” policy, it has been made possible to institutionalize a system like that.


 The report of the Central Education Council released in March 2008 titled “A Consideration on the Promotion of Lifelong Learning to Open the New Era” suggests to consolidate the “self-supported local community” with the ”investment” for the “people who create the knowledge” and “scale-downed public services” under the “knowledge-based” as well as “sustainable society.” In this type of theory of lifelong learning, there is no recognition of the assurance of the right to learn from the perspective of basic human rights, which belong to common education as “bringing up people as people in the universal sense.”




Section 3  Common education supported by family and community




 In recent years, the words “education at home” and “education in the community” are frequently used. “Education at school” is also used. Although these words are not definitive, there must be a reason for their frequent use. How are homes and communities related to common education?


 According to the “principle of emphasis on individuality,” homes and communities have a sense of individuality. So it is expected for homes and communities to demonstrate those individualities to form a “collective vitality.”


 For the individuality of home and community, there are various factors which form its individuality. If the main factor is to be identified among those various factors, perhaps it is a factor that plays a leading role for the home or the community. In result, it is most likely the parents for family, or at home, and it is a leader of local public organization for the community.


 In summary, “education at home” means the educative function played by the parents and “education in the community” means the educative function played by the head of local autonomies.


 Then, does the main drive of the educative function played by the parents as well as the head of the local autonomies belong to the parents and the head of local autonomies?


 The documents of the provisional council for education and the Central Education Council fail to explain neither the education at home nor education in the community. Therefore, even it is said to have “declined”, it is impossible to clarify what kind of educative function declined why and how much.


 Still, the reason why the “decline of education at home” and the “decline of education in the community” are emphasized is because it is intended for the country to take the lead in granting the parents and the heads of communities to have the “educative function.” That is the reason for the amendment of the Basic Act on Education. By re-establishing an education concept of national designation, replacing the Imperial Rescript on Education of the pre-war period, and having that as a tool to grant, not limited to use only to family and community but also to schools, companies, culture and era, the “educative function,” the country-led education ruling system is about to be constructed by literally “the entire society.”


 The roles of family, having family as a basic unit to exhort national ethics, have been strongly recommended, under the ideology of the “theory of the family as a model for the state” parallel to the establishment of the system of the Meiji Nation. There, family traditions and precepts were much valued and the authority of a father of the family was much in focus. The authority of the father was based on the Imperial Rescript on Education. Being encouraged by their parents, children grew to be subjects who pledged allegiance to the emperor. The community was regarded as homeland and programed into the system of family as a model for the state.


 Family was the point of origin to support the system of family as a model for the state. School was also programed into the system of family as a model for the state and played the role of injecting national ethics in intimate cooperation with family and homeland as a whole. School, home and community owned different educative functions in reality, yet they all maximized their functions in terms of fostering subjects.


 In the post-war period, the Constitution of Japan and the Basic Act on Education set the “respect for the individual” or “dignity of the individual” as a basic principle. The smallest social unit was to be the individual and not the family. This is a historically remarkable change. In addition, as mentioned in the prologue of this paper, because this change was made through a fundamental regret of the pre-war social order, it was made the responsibility of people of this country to let every child receive common education to start that individual off as a human.


 Nevertheless, today, MEXT is bringing up some phrases, such as “the decline of education at home” and “the decline of education in the community” as well as “decadence of moral education” and “decline of normative consciousness” etc., for the purpose of circumventing acknowledgement that the responsibility of a ruined education belongs to the educational administration. Furthermore, it is attempting to re-establish the shadow of the theory of family as a model for the state. Its attempt goes towards reinforcing the education control of the country in general, by equating common education with education at home and in the community as well as utilizing the influential voice and power of parents or heads of local government.


 The “amended” Basic Act on Education newly introduced two clauses: one clause “partnership and cooperation among schools, families, and local residents” (Article 13) and another clause “education in the family” (Article 10).


 Today, an amount of “cooperation” has been asserted. The question is whether “cooperation” is sought under the light of an educational concept led by the country or that each party involved shall cooperate and coordinate proactively by acknowledging bringing up children as people through a clear understanding of the concept of common education requested by the Constitution of Japan.


 For schools, families and local communities to “cooperate,” they shall have a common concept worthy to “cooperate” with. If schools, families and local communities are to cooperate under pressure to practice an education based on the curriculum guidelines today, regardless of the objective point of view from families and communities, they would stand on the side of the curriculum guidelines.


 In the final report of the Council for Educational Reform of January 2008, the phrase “by the entire society” appeared frequently. Even the capitalist system itself is now suspected of having its limitations, yet the “power to live” is to be reproduced “by the entire society:” the power to live that is wedded to continue the capitalist system.




[1] “One of the most critical issues in regard to the process of the reform is the concept of [common education] has become more and more obsolete.” Sato. Manabu, “Evaluation of Curriculum  -Toward the Reconstruction of Equity-,“ Seori shobo, 1998, p315.