Diversity, Decentralization, and Social Justice in School Reforms in Japan
- Kaori OkanoKaori OkanoLa Trobe University, Department of Language and Linguistics
Japan’s two major national school reforms succeeded in helping transform the country from a premodern feudal society into a modern nation-state in the mid-19th century, and after World War II from a militarist society into a liberal democracy. Since then, there have been numerous reform initiatives. The key drivers of the reforms since the 1990s have been neoliberals, neoconservatives, progressive educationalists, and human rights advocates. Reflecting both struggle and collaboration among these groups, the reforms have been multidirectional and not necessarily consistent. The major reform directions identified are (a) decision-making becoming more decentralized, (b) educational offerings becoming more diverse and flexible, (c) the emergence of greater individual choice, (d) recognition of a widening gap among students and addressing equity and social justice, and (e) a greater role for outside-school providers. There is a significant degree of autonomy and discretion for actors in the middle (local governments, education boards, and schools) and teachers (both independently and collectively). They have utilized this in interpreting the national government’s directives, often avoiding direct challenges to the center.