Learners and Learning in Japan

Structures, Practices, and Purposes

Authored by: Peter Cave

Handbook of Asian Education

Print publication date:  December  2010
Online publication date:  November  2010

Print ISBN: 9780805864458
eBook ISBN: 9780203816318
Adobe ISBN: 9781136721298


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This chapter takes a broad overview of learning in Japan, from the early years, through the different stages of the education system, and (briefly) into the workplace. The considerable research conducted since the 1970s on Japanese education has thrown much light on learning in preschools and primary schools in particular, though there is still more to learn about secondary and tertiary education. The many excellent studies have revealed a number of threads that run through attitudes to and practices of learning in Japan; however, they also show sharp discontinuities and variations. This should be no surprise. As in other societies, approaches to education in Japan are based on ideas that are widely shared in Japanese society about what human beings are like and what comprises human good. But, again as elsewhere, Japan is a dynamic society in which educators and others are constantly exchanging ideas and debating practices with a view to improving learning. There are significant disagreements about what children should be learning, how, and to what purpose. Moreover, the education system is divided by institutional barriers which generally minimize interflow of personnel and practices between its different stages, resulting in discontinuities.

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