Something's (Very) Strange! Inclusive Education in Japan (11) A Groan for MEXT Minister's Response - Director's Blog



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Something's (Very) Strange! Inclusive Education in Japan (11) A Groan for MEXT Minister's Response

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In the previous blog post, I stated somewhat harshly that Japan had only two possible paths: reform the segregated system of education or reject ratification of the agreement and take another path alone and away from the rest of the world.

But that was a bit simplistic and naïve! The government had another plan that was neither option.

Upon receiving the results of a review conducted by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) immediately held a press conference to explain the Ministry's position on the results. *1

The Minister announced that there were no plans to discontinue (the current) special needs education and the auditing results (counsel) of the United Nations would not be accepted.

Since there are no penalties for not accepting the audit results, this was not a matter of indulgently selecting "one or the other," as I had discussed in a previous blog post, but rather a stance of refusing to accept recommendations or simply ignoring them. However, there is no mention of the fact that "special support education" in Japan is something different from inclusive education.

It is obviously doubtful whether the newly appointed MEXT Minister truly understands where inclusive education and Japan's special support education differ. After the above-mentioned comments, the Minister continued on to mention being requested by the United Nations to withdraw MEXT's notification announced in April this year. It stated that MEXT sought to set the time spent in "regular classes" (exchange classes) by children enrolled in special needs classes to less than half weekly. Although the response of the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to MEXT's announcement was apprehensive and sought withdrawal of the notification, the Minister argued that , the notification is something that promotes inclusive education and "being requested to withdraw it is truly disappointing."

For members of the United Nations committee who understand the basic tenets of inclusive education, this comment must have been truly puzzling. To have special needs students studying in regular classes (exchange classes) is the backbone of inclusive education, so they must have surely been taken aback by the strong rebuttal that restricting exchange classes promotes inclusive education and the comment that "being requested to withdraw it is truly disappointing."

As a person who seeks the development and growth of inclusive education in Japan, the situation is a miserable one that leaves me to groan. The Minister is basically a spokesperson for the policies of MEXT, so this is not directed to her personally, but what about the civil servants, the bureaucrats, who are actually knowledgeable about inclusive education in Japan? How do they continue with this contradictory policy? Don't they feel the contradiction in their hearts?

sakakihara_2013.jpg Yoichi Sakakihara
M.D., Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, Ochanomizu University; Director of Child Research Net, Executive Advisor of Benesse Educational Research and Development Institute (BERD), 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 working with Ochanomizu University.