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Thoughts on Kodomogaku in University Education

An increasing number of university departments and faculties today have adopted the word kodomo or "child" in their name. Many of them are located in the Kansai region, and even though academics and professionals are interested in the work of their peers in the field, they have rarely had the chance to meet face to face. The Kansai Regional Kodomogaku University Conference held at Konan Women's University on April 8, 2006 with the cooperation of CRN, was thus a special opportunity to get together and discuss common concerns and issues.

In the first session, Yuko Inagaki, M.D., Director of International Child Study Center, Professor of Konan Woman's University and Professor Sumio Hamada, Kodomogaku Project, Nara Women's University, both early proponents of Kodomogaku, gave reports on its activities and objectives. This then served as a prelude to in-depth discussion of specific issues by all participants. In the following session, faculty representatives from three universities gave presentations on the histories and features of their respective departments, which furthered our understanding of this course of Kodomogaku in university education. The ensuing discussion focused on how we could maintain close contact and communication in the future.

Holding the conference underscored the fact that many of the participating institutions are grappling with the same issues. Given that Kodomogaku has yet to be clearly defined, one common problem was curriculum creation, an important means of concretely conveying to students the content and objectives of the discipline. At present, each university is engaged in establishing Kodomogaku according to its own interpretation of the field. The conference, however, stressed the importance of pursuing a common direction while validating efforts made thus far as way of realizing Kodomogakuas a discipline in its own right, and all participants were in agreement on this.

Apart from administrative and organizational issues, however, there are practical problems as well. Many of the Kodomogaku-related departments grant teaching certification in the areas of child care, pre-school education, elementary school education, etc. To a large extent, this is in response to the growing significance that student now place on certification, but such an emphasis can lead to education with a disproportionate weight given to skill acquisition at the expense of an understanding of the fundamental principles of Kodomogaku. A number of universities with departments that have embraced Kodomogaku are now dealing with this issue as they consider how to distinguish themselves from a department that focuses on certification training.

The conference succeeded in giving us an awareness of such common concerns, but ended before we were able to move toward concrete resolution. We understood, however, that these were issues that went beyond the individual efforts of institutions on their own. It was also clear that frank communication that transcends institutional boundaries among those sharing common concerns will point the way to resolution. We hope to continue our discussions and hold a nationwide conference in the future.

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