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International Symposium: For nurturing attitudes of learning to learn (social-emotional skills) (2) (First International Conference of the CRN Child Science Exchange Program in Asia)

Japanese Chinese

Presented at the "First International Conference" of CRN Child Science Exchange Program in Asia held in Shanghai, China, March 4-5, 2017.

Moderator: Yoichi Sakakihara (Director, Child Research Net, Vice President, Ochanomizu University)
Panelists: Nianli Zhou (Professor, East China Normal University), Haruo Kimura (Principal Researcher, Child Research Net), Aiping Liu (Senior Researcher, Child Research Net)

Titles and affiliations are of the time of the conference.

Current Status and Issues of Education Reform in Japan (Haruo Kimura)

Currently, the Japanese government is committed to reform of the educational system. There are various difficulties and issues, which may be common to all Asian countries.

Here, I would like to explain the results of a survey targeting children in the fifth grade of elementary school in six cities around the world, as one of the examples. In the survey, we asked children living in Beijing, Tokyo, Seoul, Helsinki, Washington DC, and London about their study time outside of school. The results show that the top three cities with the longest average study time were all from Asia -- the longest being Seoul, followed by Beijing. In contrast, children in the United States and European cities spend the same amount of time as those in Asian cities do in working on homework, but their total study time is about 50% of those of children in Asian cities. (Fig. 1)


Figure 1

As indicated above, children in Asian countries study very hard after school. However, what do their parents think about this? Our survey, targeting parents in five cities in East Asia, revealed that more than 50% of the parents in each city are concerned whether their child is growing and developing properly. (Fig. 2)


Figure 2

Our Institute (BERD) suggests that we should think in terms of 100 years time span when addressing child education. Children today will play an integral part of our society starting from 2040 to 2060. It is said that the era of Asia will have ended by then and the era of Africa will be dawning. Challenges such as how we should develop global human resources, how we can adapt artificial intelligence, etc. are the theme of today's education. Japan's education reform is also being implemented based on such social changes. The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology makes its definition of the objective of developing academic capacities from the following three perspectives. First, knowledge and skills; second, skills in intellection, decision-making, and self-expression; and third, attitudes of learning to learn and humanity. To develop such abilities, the government is working on improving teaching methods and spending more hours on active learning (i.e., subjective, interactive, and deep learning). They are also revising the existing assessment methods to ensure the multilateral measurement of personality and abilities other than knowledge and skills. Under such reform efforts, measures have been taken to enable a smooth transition from early childhood education into elementary school or higher. More precisely, their intentions lie in developing the foundations of knowledge/skills, the foundations of skills in intellection, decision-making and self-expression, and the attitudes of learning to learn and humanity, by adopting a comprehensive learning through play, instead of directly applying the teaching methods of elementary school to early childhood education. (Fig. 3)


Figure 3

With respect to learning in elementary school or higher, it is said that we should make alterations to conventional teaching methodologies. In other words, we should further consider how to teach children to solve problems in their actual life in addition to providing knowledge and skills. According to Professor David Perkins at Harvard University, the conventional learning process is conducted based on the "hierarchical structure." Most teachers impart knowledge to their students within the learning system. However, to solve new issues, it is necessary to interact with other people in different situations. This is a new learning approach based on the "network structure," exchanging and discussing opinions and thoughts with each other. The popularity of the internet may accelerate this new learning model. One of the examples is flip teaching in the US. This is a new learning method where students receive online lectures with their PC and acquire knowledge and skills, and later, they discuss with their peers based on such knowledge and skills to solve problems. Teachers will provide support for them and appropriately control their learning process while clearly understanding the objective of learning. (Fig. 4)


Figure 4

When children are playing, many parents may scold them, saying "Study harder!" Fundamentally, however, learning and playing are not opposed to each other. The process of learning how to solve problems involves various "play" factors because you become absorbed, and thus explore and acquire knowledge of things through interaction with others. Abilities to be developed through play are somewhat similar to social and emotional skills advocated by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Abilities to challenge and achieve goals, cooperate with others, and control emotions are considered as social and emotional skills, which can be developed through play. These skills are also closely related to and can be developed in tandem with cognitive skills. It is said that social and emotional skills will affect the societal success of a person throughout his/her entire life. We tend to focus on cognitive skills only, but it is important to develop both types of skills at the same time. (Fig. 5)


Figure 5

The following charts are the results of our survey, asking parents about their child's play at childcare facilities. We asked parents whether their child can freely choose favorite play, whether they play with new ideas and challenging activities, whether they plan and carry through play and so on, in order to assess how much experience children had in being immersed in play. The results of the survey revealed that the more experiences children have with play, the better they can develop social and emotional skills, that is, "Attitudes of learning to learn." (Fig.6, Fig.7)


Figure 6


Figure 7

Also, I would like to discuss our important findings from another one of our studies. What we found is that some of the abilities seem to correlate with each other, and they seem to develop in a certain order. The objective of this survey was to examine the development process of target children starting from when they were three years old until when they became first graders of elementary school. The results of this survey show that there is a specific order of relation in the development process of cognitive skills such as the "hiragana (Japanese syllabary)/numeracy/logical thinking," social and emotional skills such as "attitudes of learning to learn" and "daily habits." This order of development indicates the importance of developing and establishing "daily habits" before forcing the development of cognitive skills. Children first develop "attitudes of learning to learn" based on these "daily habits" and then, develop the abilities of hiragana/numeracy/logical thinking. These abilities will be integrated gradually and contribute to their learning at elementary school. (Fig.8)


Figure 8

The education reform currently underway in Japan is placing a greater emphasis on social and emotional skills than before, in addition to cognitive abilities such as knowledge and skills. Nevertheless, it is difficult to say that the reform is running smoothly. Considering the concept of "Child-caring Design," the theme of this international conference, there is a gap between the ideal and actual scenarios.

For example, we see the weakening of human relations that support the growth of children in Japan. Fundamentally, children should grow up surrounded by a dense network of human relationships; however, it is difficult for children today to freely enjoy outdoor activities due to security issues brought about by urbanization. Many parents still value cognitive skills, without being able to shift their perception over their children's learning, and some educators are providing early childhood education ignorant of the order of development. The environment for child-rearing is yet to be fully established, including a shortage of facilities which can accept young children. Child poverty is also a serious social issue. I believe that Japan is not alone in this issue, but it is also a common issue for other Asian countries.

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Haruo_Kimura.jpg Haruo Kimura

Principal Researcher at CRN; Deputy Manager in charge of survey research, Research Manager of Higher Education Research Office, and Principal Researcher at Benesse Educational Research & Development Institute
After joining Benesse Corporation, Mr. Kimura took charge of research surveys on the actual conditions and attitudes of children, parents and teachers in the field of elementary and secondary education, research on the concept and methods of learning, surveys on the education market (industry) and so on. He was also involved in research surveys commissioned by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, and the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications. He served as a visiting associate professor at the University of Tokyo (in 2007 and 2014-2016); a member of the “Exploratory Committee to Develop Living Practice for Junior High and High School Children” under the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (2013); a member of the Selection Board for the “Management/Support Business for Living Practice of Junior High and High School Children” (2017); a member of the Expert Panel to realize remarkable “Education Developing Prefecture: Chiba” (2014); an advisor for the Toyama Prefecture Review Conference to improve children’s academic abilities (2014); and a member of the subcommittee of the Soka City Child Education Collaborative Promotion Committee (2014 up to the present). He specializes in social surveys and educational sociology.
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