Many children experience problems during the process of transiting from nursery schools or kindergartens to elementary schools. One of the reasons is the difference of teaching methods between early childhood education and elementary education. Educational administrators explain this difference as corresponding to the two different developmental stages; early childhood and childhood. This study describes in detail the teaching methods of early childhood education and elementary education, and examines their historical and social backgrounds. It then analyzes the dominant discourse which connects the difference with developmental stage theory and suggests an alternative approach to integrating the teaching methods by considering kindergartners and elementary school students as children in an integrated way. Early childhood education in Japan accomplishes its aims through children’s lives and play. The key phrase of its method is “educating children through the environment.” The major role of kindergarten teachers as well as nursery school teachers is to constitute the environment surrounding children from an educational point of view. Children are supposed to engage independently in various activities which interest them. The aims of elementary education are accomplished by integrating all the outcomes of activities in schools, such as subject teaching, moral education, and extracurricular activities. Teachers make their teaching plans based on the annual teaching schedule and are to teach systematically and progressively. The difference of teaching methods between early childhood education and elementary education is partly explained by the historical backgrounds of the two education systems. The Japanese early childhood education system was introduced separately from the elementary school system during the Meiji era. The present gap is also caused by different methods of handling the educational reform movement during the 1980s, which emphasized students’ individualization and their independent minds. However, educational administrators often explain the dissimilarities of these teaching methods as a result of the difference between the two developmental stages. This development theory functions to justify the existing difference. But the theory has been questioned for many years by educational psychologists, and many scholars report that five-year-olds should be treated like elementary school pupils. There are some possibilities of lowering the elementary school entrance age to five if we depend too much on the psychological developmental stage theory. We need to start to discuss methods of educating children based on the findings of educational theory as well as those of early childhood education theory. In order to start the discussions which will connect teaching methods, we need to examine the three themes below. 1. Composing an overall curriculum which considers children’s cumulative experiences. 2. Capturing young people as children in an integrated way. 3. Connecting the two teaching methods; the method of “educating through the environment” and the theory of class design.
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.
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.
The relationship between preschool education and primary school education has been an issue for a long time. The purpose of this paper is to describe the process of the inquiry into “Yonen-Kyoiku” (early childhood education) in the 1950s-1960s. This concept was mainly used in the educational research conferences of the Japan Teachers Union. With a focus on the teachers’ discourses in the movement, this paper examines various viewpoints from which teachers have inquired into the relationships between preschool education and primary school education. The conferences of the Japan have been a unique space where teachers from the three different sectors (kindergartens, nursery schools and primary schools) met and discussed how to cooperate together. The conception of “Yonen-Kyoiku” was presented to the teachers in the preschool education session of the conference of the Japan Teachers Union in 1953, by Hiroshi Sugo (Ochanomizu University) and Setsuko Hani (Jiyu Gakuen School) as an ideal to be inquired into. They gave the concept the following three meanings. First, preschool education and the first two years of primary school education should be coherent. Second, preschool education should not become no more than a preparation for primary school. Third, “Yonen-Kyoiku” should be different from existing pre-school and primary school education. In 1957, the preschool education session of the conference was named “Yonen-Kyoiku”. As an advisor, Hani encouraged teachers to join dialogues with the teachers from other sections of the educational system. Many trials to make connection between preschool education section and primary school education section were made in each prefecture. It seems that dialogue exploring the concept of “Yonen-Kyoiku” was not easy. Many of the primary school teachers’ discourses seemed to be based on the idea that preschool education should prepare children for primary school. Three points emerge from the examination of the teacher discourses. First, kindergarten and nursery school were still in the process of expanding at that time. Second, the perspective of primary school education functioned in the discussions too strongly, and it was difficult to make an equal partnership between the preschool and primary school sections. Third, the conception of “Yonen-Kyoiku” focused on the reform of the existing 6-3-3 educational system. In 1970, as the policy makers made a proposal for school reform called “Yonen-Gakko” (early childhood school) which was similar to the ideal of “Yonen-Kyoiku,” they gave this concept the meaning of early instruction. After that, The inquiry into “Yonen-Kyoiku” was defeated. However, in reading the texts of the conference attentively, small possibilities in the concept of “Yonen-Kyoiku” for new education emerge. Some primary teachers learned from preschool education and changed their practices. Some kindergarten teachers inquired into approaches to literacy education that were different from those of primary school. Preschool education has spread among almost all children in Japan. Now, can we imagine another education with the concept of “Yonen-Kyoiku”?
In this study, behaviors of early childhood teachers in nursery centers were compared with those of elementary, junior high and high school teachers discussed in previous studies with respect to the way they express and suppress emotions toward children/students. The practical significance of the result is also discussed. A documentary film, Yomogi Dango Jiken (“The Mugwort Dumpling Incident”), set at Osaka Atom Day Care, Japan, was shown on TV (NHK) in 2003; it was used in this study as a stimulus medium to induce spontaneous answers from six early childhood teachers who were the subjects of a “focus group interview”. The model of this study was the research conducted by Tobin (1989). The results revealed the following points: 1) When early childhood teachers dealt with children’s interior lives, empathy was consciously suppressed and a neutral expression was mainly shown. Such emotional suppression was also indicated in elementary, junior high and high school teachers. The difference between these two groups was, however, that early childhood teachers suppressed their emotional expressions in order to motivate children’s independent behavior, while elementary, junior high and high school teachers suppressed their emotions in order to maintain their systematized authoritative influence toward students. 2) Intentional emotional suppression was seen in both groups: early childhood teachers used this technique to motivate children while elementary, junior high and high school teachers used it to control their classroom atmosphere. The striking difference between the two groups were that the varying emotional control of elementary, junior high and high school teachers was used to avoid any stagnation in classroom activities, while that of early childhood teachers was used to let children decide on their actions, even if that caused a temporary stagnation. The results showed that emotional suppression in early childhood teachers has the practical significance of allowing children to learn to be independent in a real-life setting.
This study aims to explore the influence on practitioners of early childhood and care (ECEC) of the modification of the “Course of Study for Kindergarten” of 1989 (the first year of the Heisei Era), along with two minor reforms following it, and to find solutions for the present problematic issues. The Course of Study did cause confusion at workplaces due to its characteristics emphasizing ‘educating young children through their environment’ and ‘encouraging children to undertake voluntary activities’, despite its lack of clarity _in defining the roles and leadership of practitioners. Nevertheless, it led to the development of some advantages, as it has fostered discourse among teachers on expressing ‘the child’s personal growth’ and developed a circulatory system of assessing the child’s growth based on his/her initiative through reflection in and on practice (by means of, for example, conferences with their colleagues and daily documentations), as well as practitioners’ “mimamori (observation)” in which the leadership factor is hard to trace. However, the structure of Japanese ECEC is said to be difficult for outsiders to judge. It seems that a decontextualization of Japanese ECEC education from insiders will become more necessary in order to take part in essential discussions on education theories.
All countries recognize that early childhood education and care (ECEC) is worth investing in for their future development. In this paper, the author analyzes best practices in early childhood programs nominated by OECD, as well as methods and policies of evaluating early childhood programs. As examples for good practices in early childhood education, those in Reggio Emilia (Italy) and New Zealand were introduced. Both practices involve project-oriented activities of children, and adopt documentation as their method of evaluation. The quality of ECEC is likely to shift from academic teaching to such a project-oriented inquiry model of children’s activities. Evaluation of ECEC also shifted its focus from structural quality to process quality. External evaluation systems such as NAEYC accreditation and England’s OFSTED inspections tried to include more elements of self-evaluation. ECERS and ITERS focused more on the structural quality of facilities for young children, but SICS in Belgium tried to evaluate children’s well-being and involvement in their daily activities in the facilities. In doing so, each teacher/caregiver becomes involved in improving their own practices. Examples from New Jersey (USA) and the EPPE Project (UK) were described as good practices for improvement of quality in ECEC. Based upon the analysis of such practice, evaluation methods, and policies, the following recommendations are made for the Japanese educational research community; 1) to work to convey messages to the general public drawing attention to the importance of investment in ECEC; 2) to establish a new system for improvement of ECEC quality; and 3) to promote collaboration between ECEC and researchers in pedagogy for longitudinal studies to prove the effectiveness of ECEC.
The purpose of this paper is to clarify the contents of debates on the conceptualization of educational issues of early childhood education and care in Germany, with a particular focus on two readings of the concept of Bildung: ‘self-formation (Selbstbildung)’ and ‘co-construction/development of competency’. In recent years, early childhood education and care have been receiving public policy attention in many countries around the world. The main themes of early childhood education and care are children’s learning and connectivity from preschool to primary school. Accordingly, early childhood education and care is at a turning point. Traditionally, early childhood education and care has its own role to play, distinct from that of schools. Early childhood education and care has been characterized by an emphasis on children’ play and subjective activities derived from their own interests. However, demands for learning have brought fundamental change to the field of early childhood education and care. How should we respond to this situation? This paper focuses on debates on the conceptualization of educational issues of early childhood education and care in Germany. Currently, the results of the OECD-PISA are acting as a catalyst in terms of reforming early childhood education and care. Educational policy measures concerning early childhood education and care were (1) to improve language and literacy competence in the early years and (2) to improve the link between kindergarten and school, with the aim of earlier entry into public schooling. In this situation, the role of German early childhood institutions is changing from ‘care’ to ‘education (Bildung)’. In response to this change, professional discourse on the early childhood education and care centres around the conceptualization of educational issues. German experts in this field have suggested two readings of education (Bildung): ‘self-formation’ and ‘co-construction/development of competency’. ‘Self-formation’ is a reading focusing on children’s construction of inner worlds, while ‘co-construction/development of competency’ focuses on the interaction between children and adults. These two readings of Bildung are contrasted in various respects. The important thing, however, is to focus on the issue in relations between these two readings of Bildung. Results suggest that it is a matter of the starting point of pedagogical ideas. This debate in Germany suggests a possibility of rethinking Japanese early childhood education and care radically.
Japan has a rigid system which distinguishes preschool facilities and primary schools. Therefore there are few arguments on how to divide early years education and primary education. In the UK, where children start school at age 5, there are a lot of discussions on the appropriate school starting age compared to Japan. In this paper, we examine the issues to be discussed when the school starting age is under question. According to research evidence reviews, there is no compelling educational rationale for a school starting age of five. Research on the relationship between school starting age and academic attainment has shown that school starting age has little influence on later educational outcomes. It is not the educational setting per se that is advantageous for children’s learning, but the nature of that setting and the quality of teachers. In 2000, Foundation Stage was introduced for children aged 3 through the end of reception year in England. For the first time in this country, reception year children were provided with a curriculum of their own, relevant to their needs. But at the same time, it must be pointed out that developments in early years education policy coincided with a drive to raise standards of academic achievement, with a particular focus on literacy and an emphasis on teaching and assessment. The English government has commissioned a series of reports focusing on the significance of early years education in preparing children for success in later life. They are very concerned with children’s “readiness” to start primary education. The model of “readiness for school” has merits for the government as it prepares children who conform to classroom procedures and possess basic literacy skills. From the point of view of early-years educators and researchers, the early years are recognized as a crucial stage in their own right, but the government persists in viewing it simply as a preparation for school. The demand of the educators and researchers is that the government stop such inappropriate intervention and leave early years education in the hands of those who truly understand the developmental needs of early years. They also advocate applying the principles of early education to Key Stage 1. In 2008, Foundation Phase was introduced for children aged 3 to 7 in Wales. It aims to apply the principles and practice of early years education to Key Stage 1. It is the flagship policy of the Welsh government, but inspection reports evaluate that while generally the benefits are verified in children’s motivation and enjoyment of learning, it is not sufficient, particularly in the teaching of reading and writing skills. Education reform comes downward from primary education to preschool education in England, while it comes upward from preschool education to primary education in Wales. So the vectors of reform seem contrary, but the two countries have the same issue to address: that is, the difficulty of the realization of principles of early years education within the primary school framework.