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Challenges to Japanese Education: Economics, Reform, and Human Rights

June A. Gordon, University of California, Santa Cruz and I have organized a symposium entitled "Challenges to Japanese Education: Economics, Reform, and Human Rights." The symposium will take place on April 8 at UC Berkeley Alumni Center.


The symposium will bring leading Japanese scholars together with American researchers and graduate students who are engaged in related research, for a day of in-depth discussion on critical issues in Japan today. The focus of study is how the Japanese educational system, and, as a result, Japanese society itself, is being challenged by a range of factors. These include national reforms which have left teachers unprepared to deal with the demands of a contemporary classrooms; political reforms that are moving more young people into private institutions; a declining birth rate that has altered, if not compromised, admission criteria to high schools and universities; economic crises that have limited resources and reshaped how they will be used; permanent immigration without accommodation; policy changes in Dowa Education impacting the Burakumin and other marginalized groups; declining respect for teachers and the loss of faith in education as the avenue to decent jobs; increased youth unemployment, marginally employed youth, and social isolates; and the resultant altered attitudes and aspirations of young people regarding their future life options. The focus will be on the role that schools or other organized educational settings play in shaping the broader social and cultural response to the continuing global movement of people, ideas and organizational forms.

The Japanese scholars involved have based their careers on the sociological study and public understanding of how these issues impact schooling and the cultural development of Japanese at all levels of education and professional life. Unfortunately, few of their reports and publications are available in English and only a small group of American scholars have integrated their work into an understanding of Japanese society. Despite the fact that the Japanese educational system continues to be discussed in U.S. policy circles and the media, few high quality studies have made an impact at this level. This symposium will provide an opportunity to expand awareness of the issues facing Japan, as well as provide the groundwork for the publication of a book representing the work and reflections of top scholars from both sides of the Pacific.

Format of the Conference

The format of the symposium will feature an opening session with three successive panels of three Japanese scholars and one non-Japanese scholar discussing their views on critical issues facing Japanese education today. Professors George DeVos, Harumi Befu, and Thomas Rohlen have agreed to serve as chairs.

Symposium Sponsors

-UC Berkeley Institute of East Asian Studies
-UC Berkeley Center for Japanese Studies
-UC Berkeley Institute for Area Studies
-Stanford University Center for East Asian Studies
-The Pennsylvania State University College of Education

Major Papers

Education Reform and Teacher Professionalism in an Age of "Glocalization": A Japanese Case.
Fujita Hidenori, International Christian University

School Experiences of Buraku Women --- From the Research of Life History in Eastern Japan.
Kanegae Haruhiko, Senshu University.

The End of Egalitarian Education in Japan?: Policy Changes in Distributing Resources among Compulsory Education and their Effects.
Kariya Takehiko, Graduate School of Education, University of Tokyo.

The Process of Latency and Manifestation of Koreans in Japan - The Current Condition and the Future.
Kim Taeyoung, Fukuoka University of Education

Poverty, Diversity & Inequality in Japanese Schools: Academic Achievement of Burakumin and Low SES Children.
Nabeshima Yoshiro, Osaka City University

Education of Minorities in Japan: Voices of Amerasians in Okinawa.
Noiri Naomi, University of the Ryukyus

Students' Career Decision-making and Support Activities to Help Them Enter Universities: The case of an Urban Commercial High School.
Sakai Akira, Ochanomizu University

High School Cultures and College Entrance Examination: Teachers' Perspective.
Tsukada Mamoru, Sugiyama Jogakuen University

Teachers and the Contemporary Educational Reforms in Japan.
Fukushima Hidetoshi, Hitotsubashi University


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