At the Diet meeting, where the School Education Act Amendment bill was debated, the Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, Mr. Ibuki, made a statement at the time “one must always be acknowledged by the fact the ship one is on would sink if he/she say something selfish.” (April 20, 2007) It took me by complete and utter surprise for the head of an educational administration to say things like this, even after 60 years have passed since the promulgation of the Constitution of Japan.
The ship we are on board is neither “Nippon-maru” nor “Yasukuni-maru” but should be “Kenpo-maru” (Constitution) or “Kokumin Shuken-maru” (sovereignty of the people). It is quite possible to have many different ways of thinking in regard to education. It is not a selfish act to assert each opinion but is an act based thoroughly on the basic human rights ensured by the Constitution. Through active debates, the ship would move on at the good rate. If crews would not say anything “selfish” and only follow the captain, the ship would either move in an unintentional direction or may even sink because of the shortage of fuel.
Common education is a social act, where children would obtain the proper skills of consideration, humanly suitable in an academic environment to learn from and with each other about the world that they have related to ever since the day they were born. If this simple understanding is taken in properly, it is p certainly possible to picture the prospective direction that the government and international society shall go in also. I wonder if Mr. Ibuki understands children’s independence as mankind, as an individual, would assure the direction of the ship. I also wonder if Mr. Ibuki is not aware of the fact that Japan is going to be isolated from the international society more and more by not being able to accept the expressed opinions of each adult or child, with his/her own specific reasons, and only loading everyone on board the ship directed to where he and his colleagues decide, without asking people.
By the way, the government mentions “reform” of education and the industry of education wave their hands frantically, so the mass media are taking up the issues of education. This situation makes it seem as if the issues of education have been the main interest of Japan right now.
But it is insufficient. A heated debate does not offer any future vision of education. Everyone mentions and talks about the ruin of education, but no causes are identified. Many blame on the Ministry of Education, schools, teachers or homes, and they are not taking this issue as their own. I believe there are quite a large number of people all together frustrated about this. Perhaps, many are giving up on the issues for not changing anything only becoming a forum for many commentators to make random comments. Consequently, many feel that a large number of children are suffering, hurting each other, being afraid of school, disliking study, not being able to make any friends, and unable to be motivated for anything. This negative state is expanding, deepening its degree of seriousness. Why is this happening? How can we step out of this condition?
This is the question that I attempted to raise in Part 1. My conclusion was this: it is okay to put the blame on someone else, but in the end, each person has to think seriously about the issue, how does he/she wish it to be and what does he/she want to do, in his/her position. I have come to realize, more than ever, that it is necessary to take my responsibility as one of such persons, and especially as a researcher in the field of education. That was my motivation and what gave me the energy to write this paper.
I have studied about common education for nearly 30 years. These 30 years of time was in no means simple or easy. In the beginning, I kept the theme secretively, so as no one would notice it. After a while, I was encouraged with a comment like “you hit the nail on the head.” But it took about 20 years for me to publically say that “I am studying common education.”
Recently, I had a chance to lecture in-service teachers with the subject title “the thought of common education.” I received some comments on this. These comments assured me that what I have kept on contemplating for 30 years was not in vain; it was worthwhile to encourage in-service teachers.
● “Common education. I was suddenly brought to my senses in finding out such a deep meaning was embedded into this newly heard word. I felt that not only the issue of school bullying but also every issue that we face today would find solutions from the perspective of common education.”
● “What I first felt was the fact that I have forgotten even the existence of the word common education, or that I may not have known the word. As it is pointed out, the word was used in the Constitution or the Basic Act on Education. I was embarrassed about my own ignorance.”
● “I think many educators as well as administrative personnel related to education would be absolutely appalled at the question “what is common education?” In fact, I myself have come this far without knowing the concept and idea of common education.”
● “Under the circumstance where a number of debates or thoughts are expressed, I came to understand common education as a base of education and something not subject to change.”
● “I feel encouraged a great deal.”
● “I thought the concept of common education must be practiced, regardless of the types of school. I would like to contribute towards that in some way.”
The in-service teachers are embarrassed for not “knowing” common education, but it is not their fault. They were not informed.
In the newspapers or magazines of recent years, we see lines like “education crisis” or “introspect “post-war education,” etc. which stand out. But there is no interest shown for “common education.” Indeed, there are various interpretations of “common education.” That itself is something to be considered. However, I believe that it is necessary to speak of the concept of common education as the fundamental concept for the researchers in the field of education and keep considering educational issues based on the concept of common education, etc. and these points should be emphasized much more / cannot be emphasized enough. I feel the urge to revitalize the concept of common education, to make it the guideline for solving many contemporary educational issues. Those were my thoughts throughout Part 1.
Under these circumstances, it requires a bit of courage to publish a book titled common education. I still have ambivalent feelings: is it a self-righteous act? No, some people would accept and understand it.
In order to discuss common education on a full-scale, our research would consider history and the current status of common education, academic theories, theoretical concepts, relations with other fields of science, international trends, etc. The particular issues that schools are actually facing now, especially analyzing profoundly the education practice and class practice through the perspective of common education, are the research topics for the future.
I had considered those issues, but thought it is necessary to ask the public what is common education anyway? Then I decided to write the Part I.
Finnish education has gained public attention. I too am very interested. In a recently published book called “Best in the world, when you quit competing” by Mr. Seiji Fukuta, I was intrigued by his profound expression “it seems the secret of being the best in the world to [do normal education in a normal way.]” I am not sure how “normal education” is related to “common education” in his writing: the common education meant by the Constitution as well as me, the author of this paper. But it seems that teaching in Finland is practiced and the education system has been structured, literally based on the principle of education.
I hear some express their envy at such a curriculum established in Finnish education. However, I would like them to realize that the Constitution of Japan enjoys world envy with the education clause, the second clause of the Article 26.
One is a country with a Constitution specifically stipulating “common education,” but this is lagging when formulating its concept. Another is practicing de facto the concept of common education, but there is no stipulation regarding common education in its Constitution. Indeed, these two countries stand in contrast with each other.
We shall realize the concept of common education stipulated by the Constitution and, furthermore while making achievements, disseminate its concept to the world, just like Article 9.
I feel overwhelmed to publish the basic framework of common education in this way. This is the first time, as far as I am aware, after the war, to have any books published with the word common education in the title. I feel a bit nervous, but it would be my pleasure to receive honest comments.
I have been fortunate to publish 4 books in a series titled “Child and the Basic Act on Education.” It was an act supported by a broad ranging public opinion to not amend the Basic Act on Education for the worse.
Although the Act has been amended for the worse, there has been, in many places, the promotion a movement for common education based on the Constitution.
The pro faction for the “amendment” has failed consequently to convince the public with good reason why the Act has to be amended. They had to mention the “amendment” to “follow the concept of the Constitution.” However, the amended Act, made for the worse, was a completely different Act in the basic concept and also controversial, which contradicted the educational concept that the Constitution of Japan aims for.
We have discussed the significance of common education stipulated by the Constitution, through the “Child and Basic Act on Education” series, etc. After the Basic Act on Education was amended for the worse, today, it was quite reasonable for me to publish a book discussing “common education” as stipulated by the Constitution.
Indeed, there are many debates regarding the question what is common education and these debates should continue. What is certain is that we cannot deny the importance of questioning what is common education stipulated by the Constitution. It would be more than my pleasure if this book is a provoking incentive for more debates on the issue.
In Part I have discussed the concept of common education and the significance of incorporating it within the Constitution of Japan, etc.
In Part II I discussed the significance of the Basic Act on Education enacted in 1947. Perhaps, there may be an awkward feeling in questioning the meaning of this discussion now. However, it was an Act what was abolished. The Constitution of Japan was a world-class document, in terms of quality and systems, drawing up the basic framework of common education, with the perspective that the realization of this [constitutional] ideal “shall depend fundamentally on the power of education.” The historically significant fact that this document was drawn up cannot or should not be eliminate. In this sense, the Basic Act on Education (1947) still holds validity. No one can deny the perspectives it gives.
We must persist in reviewing the amended Basic Act on Education, made for the worse, and not limited to this paper, and keep on criticizing the entire movement of amendments and education policies, etc. after the amendment. This is what we need to do today.
It is definitely not easy to structure the curriculum as a whole, based on the concept of common education, but that is something which has to be done. I feel reaffirmed by my commitment to this profound work.
As I wrote in the “afterword” of “Child and Basic Act on Education” first edition (2002), this year remarks 20th anniversary to have known Mr. Takao Masuda, in connection with common education. It is indeed overwhelming.
On the issue of the second printing
At last, it took me 7 years to reach this second printing. By judging the realistic and historical environment surrounding common education, it is quite remarkable to run to a second printing.
This book happens to be issued as a means of participating in the movement of the anti-amendment of the Basic Act on Education. After the amendment, all measures were intended to redirect the foundation of concept and system of common education in order for the national government to take any initiatives. The contradiction held within that movement has deepened.
If we suppose that the concept of “common education”, stipulated by the Constitution, as being inherently the best educational concept that modern democracy can offer, this book has attempted to lay out an entire structure for the theory of common education, the original point being owned by children.
In the meantime, there were a number of movements in various fields of education, which are having relations with common education.
Many issues are deeply associated with the degree of knowledge about common education: issues such as the modality of local governments or schools surrounding the issue of bullying, the promulgation of the “Bullying Preventing Promotion Act,” the issue of academic achievements including the reality where children cannot hope for bright future prospects, etc.
At the same time, other issues are also indicating the escalation of social interests on the common education system from the objective perspectives: issues such as the textbook authorization issue in Okinawa Prefecture, some attempts of local government in institutionalizing the free of tuition fess of the compulsory education expenses, the raise of civil movement in regard to the scholarship provision system, the increasing criticism in and out of country against the national academic aptitude tests or so called PISA problems, etc.
Moreover, some other civil movements are actually seeking the realization of the “common education” concept, paying close attentions to the common education clause of the Constitution, such as the Tokyo Newspaper front page coverage (May 5, 2013) titled “the right for common education throughout” on a court case issue of realizing the right of children with handicaps for selecting their classes, the movement of the “Association to realize the Securing Alternative Education Act” holding “common education” as the keyword (July, 2013), the “Association to promote the Constitutional Education” (established in 2005).
Today, the Board of Education Act was amended, jeopardizing the foundation of the post-war educational administration and risking its concept of preparation for the educational condition. The vandalism of the entire common education system has been progressed through the “amendment” of the School Education Act for introducing the comprehensive education from elementary to junior high school to nationwide, the revision of the curriculum guidelines for making the moral education as a subject, the “reform” of university entrance system, etc.
After the war, when the Constitution of Japan was lied and the democratic reform was about to take place in the field of politics, based on the constitutional concept, the government of Japan accepted the separate peace talk of U.S.A., the U.S. strategy toward Japan, and made an excuse to “fit to the condition of the country” to take the reverse measures to return to the pre-war regime. In 1951, the Government Ordinance Amendment Advisory Committee presented a report on “A consideration on reform of education system,” that asserted the “correcting common education orientation.” By 1955, the Liberal Democratic Party lied out its conceptual plan on “Establishment of Our Own Constitution.” These movements have gone through some challenges but are about to see the end result, under the Abe administration.
In meanwhile, objectively speaking, the condition associated with common education has been progressed. According to the Constitution, common education regards the obligation of people toward children as an issue. I hope that the debate on common education would be more broadened, having the progress of theoretical discussion.