2018 年 44 巻 p. 9-26
The concept of ‘Standards’ has been featuring more and more in recent education policy in Japan. Many kinds of ‘standards’ are being set to control educational processes and reframe teachers’ professional expertise.
‘Standards’ in Japan usually comprise lists, matrixes, and rubrics as official documents that are prescribed by governments and/or schools. They, for instance, tell teachers how to structure every lesson, dictate how to discipline students’ behaviour, or define the teachers’ standard competences required for each age group. As they tend to cover the relationships between teachers, students, and parents, it seems to be the case that they even regulate accordingly how students and families should be.
This trend has to do with the growing effect of a PDCA cycle that has prevailed throughout the country. Under the New Public Management regime, the central government is supposed to be legitimated to set national objectives for education, to delegate their implementation to local governments, schools and teachers, and to hold them accountable for producing appropriate outcomes. The celebrated technology in this regime is the PDCA cycle. It requires each local government and school to create their ‘Plans’ reflecting on the higher-level government / institution, and to make their educational processes more effective. Because the ‘Plan’ is unquestionable in this regime, PDCA allows local governments and schools only to ask students and teachers to perform in a ‘Planned’ i.e. a predicted and predetermined way. We can understand the rapid rise of ‘standards’ as a representation of the desire for more predictability, shaped by the threat of PDCA.
Meanwhile, standardisation has also had a considerable effect on the Anglo American education systems. This trend covers a range of education reforms such as the following -- i) more emphasis on the learning outcomes assessed by testing ; ii) endogenous privatisation that is forcing schools to act more like businesses with discrete dichotomy of failing or successful schools and/or teachers ; iii) exogenous privatisation from outsourcing teaching materials, selling/buying school improvement strategies, through to inviting private bodies to operate schools ; and iv) de-professionalisation that remakes the teaching expertise as a production process of appropriate data.
As we can see, there are divergences and parallels between Japan and Anglo-American countries. I characterised the Japanese version of standardisation as ‘governing by templates’, compared with the Anglo-American version of standardisation as ‘governing by data’ with more emphasis on evidence and corporatisation. At the same time, mutual undermining of professionalism and democracy has been replicated, placing far more importance on external standards. I also added a caveat that ‘governing by templates’ and ‘governing by data’ are not mutually exclusive. With more emphasis being put upon ‘evidence-based policy making’ in Japan, I asserted that we need rather to focus on the complicated nature of the interactive effect of them.