The last decade has witnessed drastic change in the social context within which the Japanese educational system functions. The Cold War came to an end, and the political climate created by the deep rivalry between two major political parties since 1955 finally ended. Moreover, the number of children has fallen steeply, and the distinctive features of childhood have nearly disappeared. A post-job age has dawned, the development of information technology has revolutionized the way we communicate with one another, and mammonism and technocracy have flowered. There has been a profound change in the structures of power, demographics, industry and occupation, and social status, as well as in the values or moral standards shared by people, which should not be confused with fluctuation in standards of income, living, education, or culture. During the 1990s, the structural changes in these social factors, which are intimately related to input, output, and throughput in the educational process, have shaken the foundations of Japanese educational system in respect to conception, organization, management, and curricula. Competitiveness and individuality has come to take dominance in schooling, and great concern has frequently been expressed over the poor level of students' cognitive skill and scholastic achievements as well as discipline problems in the classroom. While there has been a trend towards deregulation, privatization, and decentralization, which has given wider discretionary powers to local governments and individual schools, demands for accountability have increased in the operation of schools. Thus, the structural change in the educational system occurred partly in response to the changing social context, but partly from educational policy. Change was frequently understood to contribute to the crisis, but effective measures were rarely taken. Although solutions have been offered, they have proven to be temporary expedients and have not borne fruits. In fact, the situation has deteriorated. In this sense, the 1990s can be regarded as a lost decade in search of educational reform.
The 1990s were a turning point in world history; as Eric Hobsbawm wrote in his recent book, the “short twentieth century” ended in the early 1990s. With regard to public education, not only in Europe and North America, but in Japan as well, the structure of the public education system underwent dramatic change during the 1990s. In this paper I examine the characteristics of this change. The dominant feature of the change in the 1990s has often been conceptualized as “liberalization, ” or the “deregulation” or “marketization” of public education. However, this conceptualization does not adequately grasp the political aspect of the change, as Chantal Mouffe demonstrated when she termed it “the return of the political, ” or Nancy Fraser when she called the dilemma of justice in a “post-socialist” age one that was moving “from redistribution to recognition.” Focusing on this political aspect of the change in public education in the 1990s, I clarify the specificity of the historical context of this change. As in the Western countries, opportunities for public education in Japan expanded to all areas of society during the 1960s. There was, however, an important difference in the characteristics of this expansion between the West and Japan. In the West, it was initiated by the policy of the welfare state. In Japan, by contrast, the role of the welfare state was less important, and was replaced by the depoliticized triangle of family, school, and private enterprise. In the 1990s, Japan experienced major social and political upheavals. The “bubble economy, ” which had prevented the manifestation of economic crisis, burst in the early years of the decade. The depoliticized triangle of family, school, and private enterprise, which had replaced the welfare state, fell into a crisis of legitimacy. It was at this point that the triangle began to break down, and the need arose for an alternative to it. In this situation, the actual possibility emerged of a return of “the political.” In order to seek this possibility, it is necessary to reconstruct the space of political significance as well as democratic citizenship. The task of public education here should be focused on political life, which is, as Giorgio Agamben cited, to be distinguished from biological life. This is one of the most important points in the restructuring of public education.
In the 1990s, Japanese higher education underwent the largest structural changes since the 1940s, when it was forced to carry out drastic reform under the American occupation. In spite of the post-war reforms modeled after the US, Japanese higher education maintained its traditionally rigid, uniform, and hierarchical structure for more than half a century. In the beginning of the 1970s, there was a major rise in the movement to reform higher education, with the aim to shake and change its long established structure. However, because of the strong resistance from universities and professors, the Ministry of Education failed to carry out its reform plan. At the end of 1980s, there was another big surge in the movement reform Japanese higher education. And this time, the universities and professors criticized as conservative for a long time, started positively to tackle the difficult tasks. Behind these changing attitudes, we can point to several important factors compelling reform. First, there were three international “megatrends” : i.e.(1) massification, (2) marketization, and (3) globalization. Secondly, there were three national factors:(1) demographic, (2) economic, (3) policy-related factors. Under the pressure of these forces and quickened by the policies of the Education Ministry based on reports of the University Council, reforms and changes were carried out, ranging from the structure of the total system to the inside of the individual universities. Reforms at the institutional level started from undergraduate education, and various “tools” developed by American universities to improve education for massified students were introduced. Nearing the end of the 1990s, the universities began to be asked to drastically change their organizational structure, including the traditional chair-faculty system. This system, modeled after the German university, had long been considered the stronghold of academic freedom and autonomy by Japanese professors. The structural changes in Japanese higher education will reach their final phase when the universities succeed in obtaining professors' approval to replace the long established chairfaculty system with the American department-college system, and in creating new independent administration systems.
In the 1990s, there was a rapid increase in the number not only of young jobless people, but also of “free-ters, ” or young part-time or temporary employees in low-skilled jobs. The first purpose of this paper is to explain the transformation of the youth labor market that lies behind these figures. The second purpose is to explain the process of youth getting regular employment after experiencing a period of “free-ter”-ism or unemployment. And the third is to examine the problem of this new transition process, and how schools should cope with it. The demand for young persons as regular employees has decreased, especially that for persons under 24 years old or whose educational background is low. Low skilled jobs, which were once the entrance to high skilled jobs in Japanese employment practice, have become separated from the work of regular employees, becoming jobs for part-time or temporary workers. Based on original investigations targeting young people living in the Tokyo metropolis, we tried to clarify why and how they had become “free -ters, ” and when they had become regular workers. The main findings were as follows;(a) 40% of the persons who experienced “free-ter” status currently were regular employees.(b) Most “free-ters” chose this working style while searching for a career, recognizing that it involved unfavorable working conditions.(c) Few of their experiences during the “free -ter” period were related to their career search.(d) Though it is easy for men to change to regular employee status after being “free-ters, ” it is not so easy for women. It is easy for those who have only been “freeters” for a year who have become regular employees. And (e), the younger the generation, the greater the number is who become “free-ters.” It seems unlikely that the number of “free-ters” will decrease among persons of low educational background. In the past, the development of the occupational ability of young people was shouldered by the enterprise which they entered, but the situation is changing and it is necessary for schools to be more responsible for the development of the occupational ability of young people.
The purpose of this paper is to analyze the process through which new types of problems of deviance have taken place in contemporary Japanese schools, referring to the perspectives of organization studies, especially those of T. Parsons and A. Etzioni. Schools, as instructional groups, must be orderly and systematic in order to achieve their given tasks. Confronted with a growing number of deviant pupils, Japanese schools have attempted to enlarge and strengthen control and punishment. However, these strategies have again driven schools into trouble in two ways. First, they have raised external criticism that schools themselves are unusual and deviant. Second internally, schools have seen the emergence of new kinds of deviant behaviors, namely bullying (ijime) and school non-attendance (futoko). To deal with such problems, the Ministry of Education has proposed to weaken control and punishment in schools, i.e. to build a “supportive climate, ” and to enhance their “group-maintenance functions.” It is said that punishment serves to tame deviant pupils and to quiet down learning groups. But this order is transient, for once the coerciveness is withdrawn the situation returns to the original state. Ijime is often a by-product of coerciveness. It is believed that oppressed pupils will attack others too weak to strike back. As forfutoko, among the causes for its increase is the current trend toward toleration in school education. Once instructional control is weakened, there can be a loss of the sense of belonging among pupils who, under coercive situations, readily identified themselves with the school. This suggests that schools should develop new school guidance practices to foster the “moral involvement” of pupils.
Until the 1980s, adolescent culture in Japan was, for the most part, a student subculture, formed in school and differentiated in relation to students' attitudes toward school. However, in the 1990s this tendency weakened. During this period:(1) Adolescent culture strengthened its character as youth culture in relation to the mass-consumption society and the media;(2) Adolescents' interests shifted from the society, or their status within it, to their inner selves or the human relationships around them; and (3) Establishing an identity became more difficult and adolescents' identities showed a tendency to diffuse. These changes were caused by schooling and the society surrounding it. Schooling came to emphasize the instant satisfaction and individuality of students rather than their future accomplishments or conformity (This can be described as the “Consumerization of Schooling”). Moreover, it was becoming more difficult for students to realize the merit of schooling, because of the universalization of higher education. As a result, school became just a “place of living, ” where students spent long periods of time. As for the society outside school, adolescents were celebrated as independent consumers in the mass-consumption society. On the other hand, with the progress and spread of personal media such as cell-phones, the Internet and e-mail, it became easier for adolescents not only to greatly expand their relationships, but also to have several characters and to present any of them depending upon the context. Consequently, the basis of adolescence and adolescent culture was greatly weakened. This is bound to make the purpose and meaning of schooling more ambiguous in the twenty-first century.
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.
During the decade of the 1990s, an economic recession made us come to see inequality and injustice as matters of social concern. In spite of the recession, however, we experienced a “relatively high” expansion of education. A series of empirical studies have provided evidence that there were great differences in educational attainment by social origin. In this paper, I examine the changes in inequality of educational opportunity after World War II, by analyzing two data sets, the 1995 SSM (A) Survey data and Senior High School Students survey data conducted in 1981 and 1997, focusing especially on changes in the 1990s. Two aspects of educational stratification are analyzed:(1) the effects on educational attainment of academic achievement during junior high school and of the type of high school attended, and (2) the effects of the economic conditions of the family on educational attainment. Academic achievement in junior high school and the type of high school attended mediate the influence from social origin on educational attainment. The effect of social origin on academic achievement and on the type of high school attended, and the impact of these variables on educational attainment (or educational aspiration) have become stronger for women. This shows that academic achievement and the type of school attended have become important in the process of women's educational attainment. However, this does not mean that this effect is stronger for women than for men. Rather, men and women have come in recent years to have the same process of educational stratification. Family economic conditions, which directly influence educational attainment, had a strong effect until the 1970s. In the 1980s, their effect decreased, but became stronger again in the 1990s due to a fall of the higher education enrollment ratio in lower status families. Social origin still has a strong direct impact on educational attainment after controlling for intermediate variables such as academic achievement.
“Ijimesuicide”(or suicide caused by bullying) has been one of the most serious problems in Japanese primary and secondary schools since the late 1970s. The problem hasbeen widely studied in Japan. Generally speaking, the prevailing view is that thoughbullying has always existed, the situation of children committing suicide because of bullying is getting worse. Against this prevailing view, some scholars in the field of the sociology of education claim that “ijimesuicides” existed in the past, andbullying condition may not be getting worse, but what has happened is that people have become more sensitive. In other words, they refer to the social condition itself. However, ifwe strictly observe the methodological standard of social constructionism, the bracketing of the ontological status of “social problems, ” we must conclude that they are making an error of “ontological gerrymandering.” We may have a tendency to regardijimeas bullying. However, according to Jeff Coulter, To claim that ‘X’ is the same action ascan mean creating a connection between them rather than simply recording a pre-existing relationship. We may misunderstand the property of our description. According to Peter Winch, the human activity we study is carried on according to rules. Therefore, we need to study the rulefollowing discourse of “ijimesuicide” carefully. I would claim that “ijimesuicide” does not exist until people learn ofthis term and the discourse. This is not an empirical, but rather a conceptual problem. Consequently, the aim of this paper is to solve this problems and explain “ijimesuicide” itself analytically by focusing on the discourse involved, and then to indicate the possibility that a discursive reformation can dissolve“ijimesuicide.”
In recent years, a number of empirical studies have been carried out regarding the processof cultural and social reproduction in Japan. However, we are still confronted by many difficulties in applying the French theory of Pierre Bourdieu to the social realities of the Japanese educational system. This paper attempts to reexamine the possibilities of this prominent theory in the context of Japanese society's focus on academic credentials (the so-called “gakurehi, shahai”), using the data of the National Survey on Social Stratification and Social Mobility (the SSM national survey). We began by analyzingthe characteristics of the “objectified” and “embodied” states of cultural capital, according to the possession of higher education degree which represents the “institutionalized” state. In Japan, cultural capital tends to be gained in school education regardless of where it originated from, and Western modern cultures have a great influence upon these types of properties. We term this catching-up cultural capital. Next, we focused on the relationship between cultural and social reproduction using thisredefined concept of cultural capital. An intergenerational accumulation was observed for women. However, for both men and women, the social class of origin had little effect on the production of catching-up cultural capital compared to the effect of the educational levels of respondents and their parents. We therefore conclude that in Japan's credentialssociety, catchingup cultural capital depends on the school culture rather than the class culture. It follows from this that a sort of status inconsistency may be seen with culturalcapitalvis-à-viseconomic and social capital. In this structure of distribution between the different kinds of capital, individuals or families can practice “reconversion strategies” in order to maintain or improve their position in the class structure.
This paper aims to clarify the image of the girl among the new urban middle class, which had a great influence in society, using analysis of the image of girls that appeared in mass-consumption culture, and especially which arose in the girl's magazine culture. In our analysis of columns in a girl's magazine, we assumed that the interaction between the editors of the magazine and its readers constructed the image of the girl in the magazine. Specifically, the readers' column of the magazineShojo-no-Tomofrom 1931 to 1945 was analyzed. The results are as follows. In the 1930s, a “girls network” among the readers was organized inShojo-no-Tomo.Through this network, readers corresponded with each other in the columns and met at regular readers' parties. The readers were united under the concept of girlishness, especially pureness, and for a concrete thirst for culture and arts. This girlishness, with its “purity, ” was constructed in opposition to the “dirty” “adults, ” and took precedence over adults. However, from the endof the 1930s, in the midst of the war, editors and the surrounding adults started to condemn “girlishness, ” and in response, the girls themselves changed their image to one of “Japanese girls” who served the country with patriotism. However, the image remained one constructed against “adults.” Therefore, there was continuitybetween the “girl” of the 1930s and the “Japanese girl” of that era.The process of change during the War indicates two facts. First, “girls” came tobe admired for their ability to work, and secondly, the idea of “girlishness” had become defective.
This paper analyzes the effects of high school admissions based on junior high school recommendations. Educational reformers in Japan tend to believe in the importance of ideals and to ignore the facts, and they fail to consider the intentions of actors. As a result their plans and reforms, especially the reforms of the entrance examination system, often fail. According to Coleman, sociologists have failed to focus on micro-macro links. Though one actor may behave rationally, the aggregate of many people's acts often leads to unintended consequences. If we use rational choice theory, we can explain this missing link. However, some sociologists criticize rational choice theory as having no evidence, so I use my original data to check the validity of the theory. The intent of the policymakers is toselect students who have original personality, break the hierarchical system in high school, and relax competition. However, to begin with, we cannot objectively evaluate studentswith different types of personality. Personality indexes are limited to experiences as student leaders, captains of sports clubs, sports tournament winners, excellent students who have abilities in art, etc. However, students who achieve high scores in academic subjects also tend to get such achievements. It is hard even for students who get high scores to pass the entrance exams, because other competitors also have excellent scores and good skills and these “indexes.” The recommendation system does not include paper tests. Students who are not able to achieve high scores do not have rivals and competitors. Therefore, the recommendation system allows a relaxation of competition only for those students who cannot get high scores. On the other hand, the gap between students who get high scores and those who cannot get high scores tends to expand. It is possible that through therecommendation system, the problems involving the educational system in Japan will become worse and worse. It is impossible to avoid the occurrence of unintended consequences. There are a variety of ways to understand and grasp the social situation and environment surrounding oneself. So it is natural that different persons act in different ways. However, sociologists must consider and predict the perverse effects of social policy.