2014 Volume 81 Issue 4 Pages 408-422
The purpose of this paper is to examine the catastrophic effects of the “New System of Children and Childcare Support,” which starts April 2015, on the “Hoiku” concept.
The concept of “Hoiku”—original to Japan—has a history dating back to the Meiji era. Despite being interpreted in various ways, it came to have two essential aspects in the post-war era :“Hoiku as the integration of child care and early childhood education” and “Hoiku as a public service”. People involved have taken the “Hoiku” concept very seriously.
In Japan, two systems, “nursery as child welfare” and “kindergarten as school,” have been followed since World War II. However, under the “New System of Children and Childcare Support”, new “Certified Children Centers” will be instituted legally as child welfare facilities and schools. In these Centers, the concept of “Hoiku as an integral part of child care and early childhood education” will collapse. In spite of opposition by researchers of Hoiku, the concept will be divided into “childcare” and “education”. “Childcare” will be for children from 0 to 2 years old ;“childcare” and “education” will be for children three years or older. In this way, the “Hoiku” concept will lose simplicity and comprehensibility.
In the post-war era, local governments have maintained a system of “nurseries” and “kindergartens” as public institutions and have guaranteed the “quality of Hoiku” in Japan. But when the revised “Child Welfare Act” for this “New System” takes effect, the local governments will have their hands tied with respect to the implementation of “public nurseries.” Focusing on children from 0 to 2 years old, the intervention of child care industry companies will be permitted. These companies will be able to receive subsidies from the national government. At the same time, subsidies related to new construction and renovation of nurseries, which have been supplied by the national government to local governments, will be cut. Even though nurseries in Japan have over two million children in their charge, they face a crisis. In fact the “New System” is being established not for Childcare Support Services, but for the industrialization of Hoiku. “Hoiku as a public service” will certainly collapse.
The new system destroys the two great ideas of “Hoiku as the integration of child care and early childhood education” and “Hoiku as a public service.” What can we do to remedy this situation? First, researchers in Hoiku studies should reflect on the fact that they were uncritical of the new system. They should present ways to deal with the new system and the grand design of the Hoiku system in Japan. Fundamental research into the “Hoiku” concept is necessary, so that we can fight against future detrimental reform of the Hoiku system. Second, we should request the holding of “local meetings on Children and Childcare Support.” With this type of gathering, we can continue to monitor the “Hoiku plans and issues” of local governments in order to prevent the decrease of Hoiku quality.