Japanese Educational Problems and My Trial in Miyagi University of Education

Miyako Furiya

Ten years ago, the US Ministry reported that Japanese education was the highest in the world. This report continued to state that the secret of the great economical development in Japan depended on the Japanese educational system. Nowadays Japan has a serious educationalproblem. Pupils who do not go to school are increasing year by year. The number of pupils who do not want to go to school and also who do not go to school, has increased two times compared to 10 years ago. More than 110,000 pupils stay at home for more than three months a year, and about 110, 000 high school students decide to quit school every year. The numbers of pupils who stayed at home more than fifty days because they dislike schools are 77,449 and those numbers increased 10,575 from the previous year. Pupils who stay at home do nothing but sleep and then act violently toward their parents. Many of those pupils have begun to steal items from stores, however this is not for reasons of need but rather because of the thrill and excitement it brings.

> This year a 13 year old boy killed his teacher in his school and

>this was due to a build up of stress on the boy's part and incidentally was

>not a planned but an impulsive action to release that stress. Another

>boy, also the same age stabbed his friend with a knife. Almost every class

>has serious bullies, pupils can not trust each other, and don't feel that

>they can talk about these things to their teachers or even their parents.


> Nowadays because of this issue, teachers can not teach

>effectively and the classroom atmosphere has been destroyed. Pupils can not

>sit still nor even listen to others speak.They can not concentrate.

> Their lives are very isolated and they do not have time to play

>with their friends. They always feel very tired. Many children have a TV,

>CD player, computer games and personal telephone in their bedroom . They

>feel they are lonely and so live in solitude. At other times they are

>strongly urged to study very hard to succeed in the entrance

>examinations of prestigious schools by parents and teachers. They do not

>know the reason for their study and so do not have a purpose or dream to

>live. They do not feel happy to live. This is the situation of some

>Japanese pupils. And at the same time, the problems of drugs are

>increasing year by year.

> Another serious problem is the decrease in the number of

>children in families. Newspapers reported the average of one woman giving

>birth to children (in one family) has already dropped to 1.5 and this

>figure is the smallest in Japanese history. Women do not want to give birth

>to children, because social welfare does not give enough support for them

>to be able to work while having children. However, despite the fact of the

>number of children decreasing in families, the number of pupils in classes

>from kindergarten to high school has not changed from an average of 40 pupils

>in each class. I think that it is the best time to fundamentally change

>Japanese education for unhappy Japanese children. They must live happily.

>The average of 40 pupils must be decreased to 30 or less for teachers to be

>able to keep the attention of all children. Unfortunately the Japanese

>ministry of Education does not think so! Due to the decrease in the number of

>children, students who graduate teacher training universities can not get

>educational jobs.@This year, the competition to get the job of a teacher

>is 19 times harder in Miyagi prefecture. Students can not have the purpose

>nor passion to learn at a teacher training university any more.

> Finally, the Japanese ministry of Education decided to reduce the

>numbers of students and professors of teacher training universities. At

>present, there are forty eight teacher training faculties in Japanese

>national universities . The total capacities are 13255 , and the

>educational ministry has decided to reduce their students to 5000 by the

>year 2000. Thus, the license law of teacher training , and the curriculum

>of teacher training must be expected to be changed by the year 2000. The

>educational ministry thinks that teacher training universities should train

>primary school teachers only. Now Japanese teacher training universities

>train teachers from primary to high school .They also think that compared

>to a speciality or major, teaching technique is more important in teacher

>training . In Japan, the educational system is strongly controlled and

>this situation is the same all over the country. Now what can we do or

>what must we do for future education ?

> As you know the Japanese are sometimes shy and are not used to

>expressing themselves and so give the impression of having no personality

>or individuality. It is said that Japan is not a creative nation and

>Japanese are very good at imitating. I think that this characteristic comes

>partly from our historical community producing rice. In the past, there

>were no useful machines and the weather was very harsh, e.g. sometimes no

>rain, or some times no sunshine, very hard work conditions and people had

>to work almost at the same time with the same tasks. The difference of the

>rice field brought fewer products or no products. Japan had no custom to

>seriously discuss issues, so they could understand or make conclusions.

>However they did not show nor express themselves, and followed the custom.

>As a result, the Japanese seem to have little creativity.

> Nowadays Japanese farmers have strong machines, and people do not

>need to work together, and nowadays producing rice is not such an important

>industry in Japan. Everything has considerably changed, yet the

>aforementioned Japanese characteristic is still somehow the same. Japanese

>education has not recognized the importance of individuality and the

>expression of oneself for a long time. Now the world has changed , and we

>feel the world is very international. The earth is full of danger as we

>draw closer to the end of the earth, for example wars, famines and nuclear

>weapons . We must keep the earth. No more famines, no more wars , no more

>atomic bombs!

> The communication and understanding with different nations is

>the most important educational task in the world. Now the ministry has

>strengthened individuality and creativity in the national educational

>guidance , and they said the ability to communicate is very important.

>Nevertheless, even now teachers are not good at educating students in order

>to help establish individuality or the ability to communicate in their

>teaching .

> Students in Miyagi University of Education do not like to show

>their individuality and like to have the same quality in their community.

>I would like to tell you about my experiment in my classes. I have tried to

>teach Japanese traditional children's play songs which are called

>"Warabeuta". There are millions of "Warabeuta" in Japan. Children used to

>play singing with other children of many different ages -using "Warabeuta".

>In Warabeuta there is fundamental Japanese traditional culture, customs,

>vocabulary, and musical tradition. Our musical tradition differs from

>Western tradition. For example, we have no harmony , we have five tone

>scales, and so on. Playing "Warabetuta" is the best way to communicate ,

>because first of all playing while singing is a fun way for children to

>learn. In Warabeuta, children should touch each other's bodies or hands while

>playing , so that communication will be more effective and easily

>understood.(e.g. shake hands, tap shoulder etc.)

> With the same purpose to establish the ability to communicate, I

>have tried to make students create their own story in groups which have a

>human message. Students must express their own opinions and discuss these.

>If they do not do this, they can not create their own story. Every time

>they tell me , that the most difficult task is to communicate with each

>other, and to create a new story that will have a human message. Then,

>the students have to make a short musical based upon the story which they

>created. They should compose the music, dances, drama , and then finally

>they must perform this story on a stage. To make and perform their own

>musical which must be created by themselves from their own story is

>intended to establish creativity and the ability of self expression.

>Students have told me that that kind of task is the most difficult task

>for them, and that was the first time to experience such a task in their

>school lives from primary school to university.Some times my student's

>musicals were a success and other times not. This winter I was deeply

>impressed and felt that I could respect them and that I was able to be

>proud of them. Naturally their musical was crude, but every musical had a

>human message and they acted to the best of their ability, so the audience

>was impressed.

> I have taught international cultural music, for example,

>Indonesian Bali Gamelan, Senegal percussion ensemble, Bulgarian Voice,

>European Gregorian Chants, Renaissance choral music, Contemporary music,

>South African protest songs and Japanese traditional music. The purpose for

>this is that if students can play such kinds of music and can enjoy them,

>then their minds can be more opened to receive another culture. Also if

>students can understand different cultures, I am sure they can easily

>understand other countries.

To teach "Warabeuta "and international cultural music and to help

>students make a simple musical has been my little experiment for 17 years

>in my university life. In the future I think we have the task, to establish

>in students the ability to communicate,create and also to understand other

>nations and, so that the 21st century will be better and children can live

>happier lives.