2002 年 70 巻 p. 105-123
This paper aims to review the trends in the school curriculum and educational attainment in 1990s Japan. The first section outlines the curriculum policy. The 1987 Curriculum Council Report placed emphasis on a “Renewed View on Academic Achievement, ” while the amount of teaching time for each subject and the level of educational content was maintained. In contrast, the Curriculum Council Report in 1998 determined to drastically reduce teaching time and the content of subjects in anticipation of the start of the “five-day” school week system in 2002. At the same time it introduced a new “Time for Comprehensive Learning” into the school curriculum, the purpose of which is to cope simultaneously with the emerging social need for a variety of new knowledge and for renovated teaching methods. The reality of its actual implementation and its effects, however, remain uncertain and unforeseeable.
The second section examines the debate on the “decline of educational attainment” which began at the end of the decade, and the actual situation of educational attainment. The proponents of this argument, which was triggered by data on the strikingly low level of mathematical ability among university students, shared their opposition to the recent curriculum policy of the Ministry of Education. As the result of this debate, not only did the Ministry shift its emphasis from the “Full Scope Education” to the improvement of educational attainment, but the social tendency of “bright -flight” to private schools has been accelerated. With regard to the actual situation of educational attainment, the available data imply that “in some cases it seems to be declining slightly.” A far more distinctive tendency is that the willingness of students to study is deteriorating, to differing extents according to their families' socio-economic status.
The third section presents a theoretical hypothesis based on an examination of the two sections above. The decline of willingness to study among students reflects the end of the inter-system relation which was characterized by close links between the family system and the economic system via the educational system. On the other hand the educational system itself, as reflected in policies and discourses, maintains its conventional closed-ness and stiffness, the symptoms of which are the “institutionalization” of educational content and the abstracted interpretation of educational attainment. We conclude that it is crucial for the betterment of the educational system to break out of this closed-ness and to improve the relevance of educational content.