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Something's Strange: Inclusive Education in Japan (1)

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After living for more than sixty years, there are things I don't understand but I have come to see that there are certain reasons for the way things are. Even so, there are still many matters that I can't comprehend. You might wonder why I would want to write a blog about something I don't really understand myself, and you would have a point. But this topic that escapes my understanding is part of a field that is my main specialty and also one that has captured much interest in society. For this reason, I will write about it in two posts, although the topic may not seem suitable for a blog, it is a difficult and serious topic. As you can see from the title, I am referring to inclusive education, the key concept that will inform future policies in the field of special needs education.

What is inclusive education? On the internet, I looked up the definition of inclusive education in Europe and North America where it was adopted early on.

On the homepage of InclusionBC, an NPO in Canada, I found the following:

Inclusive education means that all students attend and are welcomed by their neighborhood schools in age-appropriate, regular classes and are supported to learn, contribute and participate in all aspects of the life of the school.

The Q&A section on the homepage adds the following:

Is inclusive education for everybody?

The simple answer is YES. However, individual needs may mean that some students need to spend time out of regular class for a particular purpose. There are always exceptions, but they are in fact EXCEPTIONS: if needed, they are individualized in the student's community school.

On the webpage of "PBS Parents" in the United States, it is concisely defined as follows.

Inclusive education happens when children with and without disabilities participate and learn together in the same classes.

As it is clear from these definitions, the meaning of inclusive education in short, is that it takes place when all children in the district study in the same classroom.

In this sense, can we say that special needs education in Japan is inclusive? By attending special needs classes and schools for special needs education, are students getting an inclusive education?

Let's take a look at the section titled "Promoting Special Needs Education to Create an Inclusive Education System to Form an Inclusive Society" on the website of Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT). The report titled "Building an Inclusive Education System to Form an Inclusive Society" states the following:

"According to Article 24 on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, an inclusive education system does not exclude persons with disabilities from the general education system. ..."
Furthermore, it states,
"In an inclusive education system, it is important to provide elementary and preschool children who have special needs with various and flexible means of learning as well as the means to pursue learning in the same classes with other students. ... It is necessary to provide regular classes in elementary and junior high school, instruction in special classes for students with disabilities, classes for students with special needs, and schools for special needs education, all as connecting 'diverse environments of learning'."

What can we make of this? There is a clear difference between inclusive education in the United States and Canada, where education outside regular classes is allowed only as an exception, and Japan, where importance is placed on schools for special needs education, etc., citing the need to have a variety of educational environments. According to the above website in the U.S., a system in which students are separated into regular classes and schools for special needs education cannot be defined as inclusive education. In my next post, I would like to consider why inclusive education is defined in this way in Japan.

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Sakakihara_Yoichi.bmp Yoichi Sakakihara
M.D., Ph.D., Vice President, Ochanomizu University; Director of Child Research Net, President of Japanese Society of Child Science. Specializes in pediatric neurology, developmental neurology, in particular, treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Asperger's syndrome and other developmental disorders, and neuroscience. Born in 1951. Graduated from the Faculty of Medicine, the University of Tokyo in 1976 and taught as an instructor in the Department of the Pediatrics before assuming current post.
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