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    The meaning of ‘Kyōyō’ and the paradigm shift in the Japanese educational system

    Cichorei Kano
    Cichorei Kano

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    The meaning of ‘Kyōyō’ and the paradigm shift in the Japanese educational system Empty The meaning of ‘Kyōyō’ and the paradigm shift in the Japanese educational system

    Post by Cichorei Kano Wed Oct 30, 2013 12:22 am

    A trend comes and goes in Japan. It is not restricted to fashion but includes many areas that should be neither trendy nor passing. A recent phenomenon of the interest in Kyōyō (教養) might be another trend that comes and goes.

    What is Kyōyō? It is a difficult word to translate, because depending on the historical context that you are using the word, the meaning changes. Like many more recently constructed words in Japan, the concept behind Kyōyō comes from the west. It has at least three distinct meanings.

    The word Kyōyō was initially used in the Meiji (1868-1912) and Taishô (1912-1926) eras to connote the German concept of Bildung (“education” or “formation”). It was used among select university students and was a necessary part of intellectual and moral formulation of bureaucrats.

    After World War II, the word Kyōyō still provided a moral and intellectual standard for university students and intellectuals. But the meaning began to shift in the late sixties and early seventies. During this period, it was used more or less interchangeably with “culture.” Kyōyō even extended to the knowledge of popular music and flower arrangement, for example. It thus lost the political connotation.

    With the meaning of Kyōyō shifting to that of “culture,” many universities in the late seventies did not see the value of maintaining a separate Kyōyō curriculum. So it was often marginalized in Japanese academic settings.

    More recently, however, the return of Kyōyō has been reported by various media. Many magazines have featured Kyoyo along with extensive booklists ranging from politics to art history (within last twelve months, all the major economic magazines have featured the topic of liberal arts education). In this recent context, Kyōyō began to be equated, more or less, with “liberal arts.”

    Why then did another shift in the meaning of Kyōyō take place in recent years? The emphasis on liberal arts in Japanese schools was largely due to a paradigm shift in the mode of production in the late nineties and early 2000s. With IT technology and the emphasis on innovative products such as iPod, the traditional Japanese corporate culture started to struggle. The mass-produced and mass-consumed culture no longer worked especially when other developing nations like Korea, China, and India could do it much cheaper.

    Also, with the end of the Cold War, the larger ideological framework vanished. Now the people had to think and decide for themselves. The victorious capitalism and liberal democracy gave more questions and uncertainties than before. In addition, as more global business opportunities became available, Japanese business people had to know about the world much more widely and deeply. Liberal arts education offers a good tool in this context. I am sure there are many more reasons why there is a renewed interest in Kyōyō as liberal arts in Japan. But let us ask how Japanese people understand liberal arts to be.

    Unfortunately, there is a great confusion as to what liberal arts education in Japanese universities or in business world. Because of the recent trend in liberal arts, many universities and colleges try to sell that they offer liberal arts curriculum, often many schools simply offer what was considered “cultural” classes in the seventies.

    The meaning of 'Kyōyō' and the paradigm shift in Japanese educational system

    As for the features on liberal arts in business magazines, they are no more than booklists on various topics. They do not have a clear and well-defined notion of liberal arts. Nor do they offer a good system or methodology in which various types of knowledge can be organized.

    So the recent trend does seem like it is another passing trend or an attempt of the declining publishing industry to make a few bucks by featuring the currently hot topic of liberal arts. So would this “trend” in Kyōyō end up passing into oblivion in time? I certainly hope not. It not only deals with an aspect of economy and business but also the way Japanese people think about knowledge.

    Japan, along with many Asian countries, is notorious for rote memorization. It works particularly well for economically developing nations. Developing nations need their citizens to have the basic knowledge of reading, mathematics, and physical science. It also works well for ruling regimes, for their citizens are not taught to question their authorities.

    So the demand for a shift in school curriculums and educational systems even due to the economic paradigm-shift would slowly influence how people think about their lives and politics. The people would be eager to think for themselves. They might think beyond immediate economic transactions that only benefit their immediate surroundings.

    Since the paradigm of business and economic model is definitely shifting in Japan, the mentality and education of the people must shift as well. Would this change be enacted with the emphasis in liberal arts for the betterment of Japanese social life and politics? I think it can if a clearer definition and conception of liberal arts is presented along with a good method to acquire liberal arts education. Of course, this takes a bit more than reading a few featured articles in business magazines, but it can be done. A trend can be a beginning. If we are lucky, the current trend of Kyōyō might be a catalyst for a bigger social and intellectual change in Japan.

    (Source: Hasegawa Maseo, in Daily Press, May 13, 2013)
    Ben Reinhardt
    Ben Reinhardt

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    Post by Ben Reinhardt Sat Nov 23, 2013 10:56 am

    Any signs of inroads of this trend into how judo is taught in Japan ?


    Posts : 1298
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    Post by NBK Sat Nov 23, 2013 5:04 pm

    There is a new move in Japan to revamp the high school ethics instruction program. It is controversial, as you might expect.

    Government-OK’d ethics texts may hit schools
    Expert panel recommends subject be made official part of curriculum; critics
    slam feasibility
    NOV 7, 2013

    An expert panel of the education ministry has recommended that ethics should be
    upgraded to part of the official curriculum in public elementary and junior high
    schools and that government-authorized textbooks should be used in teaching the
    subject, a source said.

    Amid skepticism among critics and caution within the ministry and the ruling
    coalition about the feasibility, the expert panel examining measures to beef up ethics
    will present a draft report on the proposal at a meeting Monday before putting
    together its final view by the end of the year.

    In February, the government’s education task force, created in response to Prime
    Minister Shinzo Abe’s wish for education reform, proposed ethics be built into the
    school curriculum. This was suggested to foster awareness about social norms in the
    hope of reducing bullying. It failed to attain endorsement from a higher advisory body.
    At elementary and junior high schools, “ethics” is assigned one hour per week for a
    total of 35 hours per year as “an extracurricular activity.” Teaching materials prepared
    by the ministry or books picked by teachers are used. There are no officially screened
    texts, unlike other subjects such as history.

    Some education ministry officials questioned whether it would be appropriate to
    formulate a detailed code of moral conduct that could trample on an individual’s
    freedom of thought and values.

    Because a detailed official code could lead to imposition of specific values by the
    government, a senior official said the ministry will probably be able to work out an
    extremely loose set of standards.

    However, imprecise standards could cause confusion in schools. A lawmaker from the
    ruling Liberal Democratic Party, which has been keen to promote ethics “for the public
    good,” said, “there would be various textbooks from the right and the left. If that
    happens, there would only be confusion in classrooms.”

    Some members of the LDP and its coalition partner, New Komeito, have called for a
    cautious approach, which could encourage the Central Council for Education to
    modify the proposal.

    The council ditched key ideas in an earlier proposal by Abe’s education task force —
    using government-authorized textbooks, evaluating students’ knowledge about
    “moral” conduct through testing and licensing teachers specifically for the subject. The
    council judged they would be difficult to implement.

    There is deep-rooted concern among teachers over the idea of formally evaluating
    children on ethics.

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