CURRENT EDUCATIONAL ISSUES
Declining sense of right and wrong
The 2004 results of survey of first to third graders of public junior high schools in Tokyo, Saitama, and Kanagawa prefecture showed:
14.2% of the children did not consider stealing comic books to be wrong. This percentage increases in the higher grades: 8.7% in the first year compared with 21.4% in the third year.
87.6% considered walking out of class to be wrong and 50.2% disapproved of talking during class.
The survey also showed that children actually refrained from doing what they felt was right. About 55% of both girls and boys replied that whenever they witnessed bullying, they pretended not to notice.
The survey showed the children's sense of right and wrong is correlated with strictness of parental discipline -- a larger percentage of those who stated that they would never shoplift also had stricter parents (75.2% reported that their parents' discipline was strict).
Study Stress & Kyoiku Mamas
The exam war and intense preparation leading up to entrance exams is said to be the chief cause of stress for most middle class children. Children suffer from study stress, from bullying at school, from the effects of kireru, or "flashing out" - the violent behavioral problems due to pressure cooker schooling, as well as the social withdrawal reactions of "acting in" as opposed to not acting out. Symptoms of such stress may include detected violence at home or battered parent syndrome or psychosomatic diseases, or schoolphobia in which long absences from school were tolerated by schools trying to minimize disorder.
Falling School Standards & Decline in Students Who Study
Academic performance and the number of hours that students spend studying at home are observed to be closely linked to the class of society that the student is from. Middle class children are observed to study more, and to have greater exposure to cram schools, educational nurturing and resources then are children from working class families.
The waves of youth suicides related to bullying (beginning with the first wave in 1986) have made ijime the most publicly discussed educational problem of the century. The second wave beginning in 1994, saw over a 18 month-period, 11 suicide cases reported. Nationwide, the first wave saw 55,066 incidents of bullying reported, peaking at 60,096 incidents in 1995. However, the number of incidents at any one school was 1.1 at elementary level, 2.8 at middle level and 1.0 at high schools.
According to investigations by MOE's specialist research group on bullying, of 94 schools that had previously reported bullying incidents, 12% of the students were bullied and that 17% inflicted bullying on others. According to this study, any student could be a target of bullying and that bullying occurs among friends and ordinary classmates (60%). 40% of the elementary school bullies and 30% of the middle school bullies had been bullied before.
Neither teachers nor parents may be aware of bullying inflicted upon their charges and children. Homeroom teachers incorrectly thought that their classes had no incidence of bullying (40%:30%:70% elementary: middle: high schools). Bullied children were unlikely to reveal the happenings to their teachers (70%: 80%: 90% elementary: middle: high schools). Only 40% of the bullied thought their teachers knew about the happenings, and 30-50% thought their parents were unaware of the happenings. About 80% of the parents were actually unaware that their children were bullies.
Causes of Bullying
The causes of bullying are perceived differently by teachers and parents. Teachers blamed bullying on the decline of family-based moral guidance while parents pointed to the children's lack of consideration and selfishness and their poor sense of justice as causes. Others theorise that the conformist nature of schooling (in that those who do not conform are penalized) and process of Japanese socialization (group behavior) are to blame for the bullying phenomenon.
Uniquely Japanese Characteristics
Japanese students are less likely to intervene in bullying than their counterparts in other countries (19.7% Japanese: 39.1% US).
Bullied students often develop a hatred of school and eventually refuse to attend school, becoming futoko children (school refusers). (This is rare in the US)
Japanese youth are more ambivalent about the essentially vicious nature of bullying (64.2% of Japanese students compared to 94.4% US students say that one must not bully others).
10.7% of Japanese boys and 3.8% of girls surveyed say they would join in the bullying compared to 5.2% and 2.6% of their respective counterparts in the US.
Moving up the grades, bullying tends to change from exclusion to violence. Bullying escalates at middle schools showing up more incidents than at elementary schools, while the opposite trend is observed in other countries.
The above characteristics notwithstanding, it has been noted that the reported frequency of school bullying in Japan is lower than that in the US, Holland, Spain and the UK (the comparative figures were around 14% Japan: 25% UK: 20% Australia -- Nijon Seishonen Kenkyusho survey figures).
What Constitutes Bullying?
The most widespread forms of bullying seen in Japan are teasing, verbal threats and exclusion followed by violence.
Profile of a Bully / Profile of a Victim
According to the research study Sense of Normative Behavior and Bullying (source: Child Research Net), the following definitions of bullies and the bullied were given:
Profile of a Bully: Students who bullied were inclined to be good athletes, be trusted by friends, and have a sense of humor. Students who bully tend to be the type who joke around as leaders of the pack. Bullying students share an optimistic outlook for all items. Bullying students have a bright and optimistic self-evaluation and future outlook.
Profile of the Bullied: Students who were bullied do not enjoy school very much, but are studious and try to follow school rules. They also seem to be the serious hard-working type were inclined to follow school rules and like their families. Students who are bullied are optimistic about their jobs in the future and have confidence in their life in old age and feel they will be successful in their professions.
*It was noted that a high percentage of both students who bully and those who bullied claim to have trouble in their relationships with their parents.
What has been done about bullying?
* Homeroom teachers follow-up measures after reports at schools are the most common ways of dealing with bullying.
* MOE's Specialist Research Group on Bullying was set up in 1994, which recommended in 4 separate reports the following concrete measures:
* Teachers to gain counseling skills
* Schools to employ nurse-teachers (yogo kyoin) in the school sick-bay since sick-bays were a place of refuge for bullied children.
* Schools to be more flexible in granting school absence to bullied children, in re-organising homeroom classes mid-year or in arranging school transfers for bullied children.
* Schools to impose an official suspension on the bullying student to protect the bullied student. However, official suspension and referral to police is considered the most urgent of measures, in the face of criticisms about the objectivity of the suspension system and that the suspensions interfered with the bully's right to education and that the official record of suspension would be detrimental to the students' post-school lives.
* A public bullying hotline was set up.
School Refusal or Futoko
This refers to a long-term absence from school for reasons other than poverty or illness (Okano and Tsuchiya). School refusal is of 4 types: school phobia, mental disorder, ordinary truancy, an intentional refusal of the positive kind. Futoko students, instead of attending classes are found typically idling; pursuing their favorite activities about the house; becoming sick in the morning and staying at home; and visiting the school sick-bay. School refusals are more common in urban than rural areas, and in the industrial areas than in commercial and residential areas.
The most important cause of the problem has been identified and established by many studies to be student relationships with friends and classmates. According to a 1994 MOE study, elementary and middle school students listed events at school (44%), individual problems - lack of sociability (32%) and family problems (10%) as the causes. Poor academic performance at school did not rank high at all as a cause.
Important points observed from various studies are: the tendency for school refusers to blame themselves; the fact that children consider their relationships with classmates and friends to be all-important; troubles in relationships with other children cause more compounded forms of response (anger, anxiety, apathy and withdrawal) than troubled relationships with teachers or poor academic performance; half of school refusers return to school because of efforts on the part of the school helping them to find something personally interesting and enjoyable or of the homeroom teacher and classmates telephoning and coming to take them to school. Studies show 80% of school refusers recover adequately to maintain normal human relationships and independence as adults after school (Makihara 1988).
It may be concluded that measures to counter school refusal need to focus on relationships with students, improving students' social skills, and concerted encouragement of school refusers.
School Violence & Delinquency
The Table below shows the:
Number of School Violent Incidents at Junior High Schools (number of students involved):
Year under study 1983 1986 1989 1992 1995 1996
Among students 1978 1262 1904 2309 3530 4682
Towards teacher 1139 624 744 724 883 1316
For more statistics on bullying, see Sugita's webpage
Education in Contemporary Japan
Sense of Normative Behavior and Bullying, Child Research Net
(Table 5) Ministry of Education "Problems on Students Instruction and the Policy of Ministry of Education," 1997. (Table 6) Ministry of Justice, "White paper on Crimes," 1997. Ministry of Education "Present Problem on Student's Instruction and Ministry of Education" 1997)
Divided Japanese and Education Divided by Daiijiro Hida
Merry White explores the symptoms of dysfunctional families: exam study stress, bullying, acting in or acting out, etc. in Families and the Discontents. There is a veritable industry of educational reform, of course, attempting to bridge the widening gap between the conflicted goals of schooling (egalitarian opportunity in a democratic society vs. harsh selection criteria for "making it" in a meritocratic but rigid hierarchical system of value) and kids' realities. The latest solution is yutori kyoiku, or "relaxed education" in which school time is cut to five day weeks and curricular content has been lightened to make room for imaginative and creative learning. This does not change the fact of entrance examinations to high school and college, that send anxiety waves downward through junior high school and elementary school. And now those parents who can afford it, will load on more juku, more katei kyoshi, to fill those remaining Saturday mornings with more advantage. The opportunity gap between social classes will only increase.
|Back to Main Menu||All Rights Reserved.||Contact Us|