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International Comparison of Conflict Resolution Strategy Depicted in Elementary School Textbooks

A comparative analysis of conflict resolution strategy reflected in elementary school textbooks in East Asian countries (Japan, China, Korea and Taiwan) and European countries (Germany, France and UK) revealed differences not only between East Asia and Europe but also among neighboring regions in East Asia. Through the content of textbooks it is possible that these conflict resolution strategies will be relayed to the next generation in each country. We will need to convey to children strategies that foresee the coming global society.

Keywords: Elementary school textbooks, China, South Korea, Taiwan, Germany, France, UK, conflict resolution strategy, international comparison
Elementary School National Language Textbooks Reflect Values

Elementary school textbooks are created by adults at certain periods of time in various countries and areas as important tools to educate children, often funded by generous national budgets. Although the selection and usage of textbooks differ from country to country, guidelines for developing them usually exist. For instance, textbooks are created by nongovernmental companies in Japan, and there is a censor review system in Japan. In the UK and Germany, there are national curricula and guidelines for writing textbooks.

This report introduces international comparison of values reflected in national language textbooks for elementary schools by focusing on conflict resolution strategies. Wars, conflicts and disputes between countries occur in any era and anywhere in the world. In East Asian countries around Japan, there are many issues that need to be solved between nations. How we handle them is important, and differing resolution strategies by nations and regions can prolong conflicts or become triggers for subsequent disputes. Resolution strategies are influenced by values constructed in history by the people of each country and area. Nations are involved in creating textbooks, as stated previously, reflecting values that adults wish to relay to the next generation. Therefore, by analyzing the contents of textbooks, we are able to compare the characteristics of dispute resolution strategies of the different countries.

Nations and Regions in the Analysis and Analysis Method

Four East Asian countries and regions (Japan, China, South Korea and Taiwan) and three European countries (Germany, France and UK) were subjects of the analysis. In each case, narratives in national language textbooks published in 2000 were selected. These textbooks aim to educate children from grades one to three (from six to nine years old) who speak the national language as their mother tongue. As for Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, all textbooks published in 2000 by all publishers were analyzed. As for China, textbooks published by People's Education Press were selected as they were the most widely used in China. Textbooks in Europe follow a free-publishing system, thus a certain standard was set up and all textbooks meeting the criteria were studied. With regard to the works and content that were analyzed, narratives with an introduction, development, turn and conclusion were selected for analysis. In particular, we analyzed how the main characters deal with situations or other characters' behavior that impede the main character's wishes and behavior. Refer to Tomo (2008) for details.

Some may argue that textbooks for the social sciences or moral education are more suitable to analyze conflict resolution strategies. The primary objective of national language textbooks is to teach children to read and write, and unlike textbooks for the above subjects, developing ethical values and ideals are regarded as secondary. Therefore, the conflict resolution strategies in national language textbook content are relatively natural for the society and adults in that era and at least do not seem inappropriate. Furthermore, national language textbooks basically exist in every country; they are appropriate material to be used for comparison (Tomo, ed, 2005).

Comparison in Conflict Resolution Strategies Described in Textbooks in East Asia and Europe

First, a quantitative comparison was conducted for the characteristics of conflict resolution strategies in textbooks in East Asia and Europe. The main character's behavior described in 1,278 narratives in national language textbooks for elementary schools in seven countries (Japan: 154 texts; Taiwan: 290; South Korea: 135; China: 88; UK: 99; Germany: 214; France: 298) was classified into two groups. One type is a "Self Transformation Type," in which transforming one's way of behavior and thoughts is depicted by adjusting to another's in order to solve a problem. The other is a "Self Consistency Type," which absolutely sticks to one's individual belief. As seen in Figure 1, the main characters in narratives in Asian textbooks reveal a tendency to be more of the "Self Transformation Type," compared to Europe. Among East Asian countries, the "Self Transformation Type" was more prevalent in Japan and South Korea, while the "Self Consistency Type" appeared more in Taiwan and China (Tomo, 2008).

Further analysis of the "Self Consistency Type" in three European countries indicated that the main characters lean toward remaining firm in adhering to their way against "other characters" that impede the main characters' behavior, whereas in China and Taiwan, they do so against the "situation" which causes obstruction to the main characters' behavior. An example of "other characters" can be seen in a German narrative where a character does not change his mind despite his friend's advice. On the other hand, an example of the "situation" was seen in a Chinese narrative in which the main character makes efforts to succeed even in an economically harsh situation. The "Self Consistency Type" differs in meaning between the group of three European countries, and China and Taiwan.


Comparison in Conflict Resolution Strategies Reflected in Textbooks in East Asia

Qualitative research was undertaken to ascertain characteristics of conflict resolution strategies of the main characters depicted in textbooks in four East Asian nations and regions upon discovering different propensities in quantitative research among the East Asian regions (Tomo, 2011).

First of all, narratives in Japanese textbooks illustrate a main character avoiding conflict by innocently believing the enemy. Take an example of "Nya-go (Miao)" (Miyanishi, 2000) in a textbook for grade two in elementary school. The little mice skipped classes and had not listened to the teacher talking about how frightening cats are. A scary looking cat appears, saying "Nya-go (Miao)." The little mice do not think cats are their enemies. They innocently ask, "Who are you?"..."You just said 'hello' to us, didn't you?" and go peach picking together. In the end they kindly share their peaches with the cat. The genuine innocence of these little mice transforms the cat's mind. The cat had intentions to eat the mice at the beginning, but gradually loses interest. At the end of the story, the cat says goodbye to the mice without eating them. The kindness of the little mice melts the heart of the cat, originally an enemy. This is a type of conflict resolution strategy only found in Japanese textbooks and not in other countries.

Secondly, the main characters in narratives are expected to face enemies in Chinese textbooks. For instance, in Hui yao wei ba de lang (Wolf Shakes His Tail) (People's Education Press, ed. Primary-level Chinese Text Book Division, 2000), a wolf who has fallen into a hole tries to fool a sheep in order to be rescued. The main character, a sheep, was not fooled. Despite the wolf asking for help, the sheep left the wolf behind, saying "a hunter will come to put you away" in the end. As stated above, our quantitative research shows fewer "Self Consistency Types" in interaction with "other characters" in Chinese textbooks compared to Europe. However, compared to Japan, textbooks in China reveal more conflict resolution strategies in which one sticks to one' own idea as s/he encounters the "other characters,"

Thirdly, in Korean textbooks, the characters are expected not to succumb to a situation brought on by enemies. For instance, Sok Ju-myong (ed. by Korea Institute for Curriculum and Evaluation, Department of Education, 2000), includes a narrative in which Sok Ju-myong, who was born in the dark era when the country was occupied by Japan, becomes patriotic after joining the March 1st Movement. Children in South Korea are encouraged to clearly differentiate between friends and foes, and express themselves as not surrendering to enemies.

Fourthly, in Taiwan, as in China, textbooks published until 2000 show characters not surrendering to the enemy. For example, one narrative describes a Taiwanese objecting to a Japanese military instructor during the war. Textbooks published after 2010, at least for first to third graders, no longer carry characters confronting the Japanese Army. Instead, the beauty of Mount Fuji and the lure of bullet trains in Japan begin to appear. The values of other nations given to children in educational fields differs from era to era. There is a possibility that the conflict resolution strategy changes with the times.

Different conflict resolution strategies between East Asian and European regions were detected. Further, conflict resolution strategies among the neighboring East Asian regions also varied. Nonetheless, this does not indicate which strategy is the best. People in each country and area attempt to solve various issues inside and outside of their specific localities based on values developed in historical contexts. However, in the coming global society with diverse values, there is a probability that values, the base of conflict resolution strategy, also can transform. We need to analyze in detail the values that each nation and region intends to carry into the next generation, and increasingly consider better resolution methods for each other in the future society.

I would like to express my gratitude to the following people for translating textbooks. Thank you very much.
Takayuki Dewa, Yeonkyeong Kim (South Korea), Soon-ja Choi (South Korea), Kozan Ko (China), Leefong Wong (Taiwan), Chao-Huei Tung (Taiwan), Lin Huimin (Taiwan), Lin Ichen (Taiwan), Yoko Kawaguchi (France).

  • People's Education Press Primary-level Chinese Text Book Division, ed.. (2000). Hui yao wei ba de lang (Wolf Shakes His Tale). National Language No. 5 (Grade 3). People's Education Press, 156-158.
  • Korea Institute of Curriculum & Evaluation Department of Education, ed.. (2000). Sok Ju-myong. National Language 3-2. Daehangyogwaseo publishing Co., 30-33.
  • Tatsuya Miyanishi. (2000). Nya-go (Miao), Shintee Atarashii Nihongo (Newly Revised New Japanese) 2 Vol.1., edited by Akiho Yamaguchi, Tomio Watanabe et al.. Tokyo Shoseki Co., Ltd. 48-55.
  • Rieko Tomo, ed.. (2005). Ajia no Kyookasho ni Miru Kodomo (Children Described in Asian Textbooks) , Nakanishiya
  • Rieko Tomo. (2008). Kyookasho ni Egakareta Hattatsu Kitai to Jiko (Expectation for Development, and One's Self Depicted in Textbooks). Jiko Shinrigaku (5) Paasonariti Shinrigaku e no Apuroochi (Self Psychology 5: Approach to Personality Psychology) edited by Tsutomu Okada, Hiroaki Enomoto. Kanekoshobo, 148-166.
  • Rieko Tomo. (2011). Higashi Ajia no Kyookasho ni Egakareta Jiko Hyooshutsu (Self Expression Depicted in East Asian Textbooks). Jiko Shinrigaku no Saisentan: Jiko no Koozoo to Kinoo wo Kagakusuru (Forefront of Self Psychology: Study on Self Structure and Function) edited by Hiroaki Enomoto. Airi, 241-254.

Rieko Tomo, Professor at Department of Childhood Studies, Faculty of Contemporary Social Studies, Doshisha Women’s College of Liberal Arts

Completed PhD coursework without dissertation at Department of Developmental Psychology, Graduate School of Liberal Arts, Shirayuri University. PhD (Literature). Clinical Developmental Psychologist. Specializes in developmental psychology and cultural psychology. Her research varies from macro-analysis of international comparison among conflict resolution strategies, genders and parent-child relationships depicted in elementary school textbooks, to micro-analysis of identity and language development of children who experience transfer from one culture to another. Her publications include:
Kodomo no Ibunkajuyoo—Ibunka Kyoosei wo Hagukumu tame no Taido Keisei (Children Adopting to Different Culture—Attitude Formation To Nurture Multicultural Co-Existing) (Nakanishiya, 1999)
Ajia no Kyookasho ni Miru Kodomo (Children Described in Asian Textbooks) (Nakanishiya, 2005)
Ibunkakan Kyooiku no Toraenaoshi (Re-Grasping Cross Cultural Education) (Co-Publishing, Akashi, 2016)
A Cultural Comparison of Conflict-Solution Styles Displayed in the Japanese, French, and German School Texts, Psychology Research 2,(12) 719-728. (2012), etc.
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