2014 Volume 81 Issue 4 Pages 396-407
This paper aims to outline trends in Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) policies on the connective curriculum between preschool and elementary school education in Japan, and to discuss features of the content of this curricular reform. To this end, policy directions are divided into two approaches for analysis. The first approach concerns reform of the structure of schools and the second concerns problems in Grade 1 of elementary school.
The paper first examines the school-restructuring approach, clarifying that a concept for the preschool curriculum, Fundamentals for Learning, was debated and a conflict arose over whether play or learning was more appropriate as the core principle of preschool education. Since the 2000s, with globalization and the emergence of the knowledge-based society and international academic abilities surveys (e.g. PISA), moves have been made to promote education policy as a national strategy and reform of the connective curriculum between preschool and elementary school has become more zealous. Thus, the connection between preschool and compulsory education has been enshrined in legislation through changes to the Fundamental Law of Education and the School Education Law; furthermore, schools have also called for the creation of a connective curriculum. The concept of collaborative learning was suggested based on project-centered lesson practice; in preschool education, the principles of collaboration and learning were adopted in addition to the existing principles of initiative and play. Collaborative learning is an idea for reforming both the teaching of play and life skills in preschool and subject study among school-aged children. However, this concept was never widely adopted in preschool education.
Subsequently, this paper examines the approach to preventing problems in Grade 1 of elementary school. It clarifies that the debate around Grade 1 problems has centered on the gap between preschool and elementary school education and that the Start Curriculum, which aims to prepare students to adapt to elementary school life, was proposed in the Education Guidelines. The debate has problematized the anxiety and confusion experienced by children due to the various differences in teaching method, content, and environment between preschool and elementary school. The Start Curriculum, which has been proposed in living environment education, poses the problem of changing the aims of lesson practice in this subject area: rather than the creation of individualistic educational content, the adaptation of students to school life should be the goal.
Today, new principles and concepts for the connective curriculum between preschool and elementary school continue to be generated and attempts are moving forward to build a curricular system. As the curriculum is being reconceptualized based on the principle of collaborative learning, drawing on the core idea of continuity between development and learning, concepts and explanations for the transition from preschool outcomes to elementary school education still require investigation.