Alternate Schooling in Japan
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Alternate Schooling in Japan

Japanese education system is similar to western systems. All the schools follow a standard curriculum which is approved by the Japanese Ministry of Education. The students study only the prescribed text books and there is no room for innovation or reading other than the approved text books. This makes for a highly centralized education system. But there is a change coming now and other forms of schooling are coming up

Generally education is understood as attending the local school and then proceeding to a college or university. This is the conventional form of education that has been adopted all over the world with mild variations. The elitist public schools also come within the purview of conventional education. There is now a concept that this form of education may not be the best and other ways to educate a child are in the offing. These are called alternative schooling methods and do not conform to the conventional schools with a set curriculum.

The Japanese were always a closed society till they opened   to foreigners and the West after a brief naval engagement with the United States navy led by Commodore Perry in 1854. After the signing of the historic treaty opening the Japanese ports, the Japanese learnt about western educational methods. They adopted them in their school system.

Japanese education system is similar to western systems. All the schools follow a standard curriculum which is approved by the Japanese Ministry of Education. The students study only the prescribed text books and there is no room for innovation or reading other than the approved text books. This makes for a highly centralized education system. There are a few Public schools which can deviate from this regimen, but they are costly with high tuition fees and competitive examinations which are not every child’s cup of tea.

 This education system which has been in vogue for many decades, served its purpose. Now with increasing globalization this system is seen as something that is not ideal.  Since the eighties of the last century a factor that has appeared in Japan is student violence. This takes the form of attacks against other people or destruction of property. The system has also brought in ragging and bullying by senior students. Many students thus fear going to school and the refusal syndrome has appeared. This has led in many cases to social withdrawal and in extreme cases suicide.

In such a scenario alternative forms of education have come into prominence in Japan. Many non profit groups have come to the fore that has started Fee schools. These schools give specialized care to children who have developed a refusal syndrome of not attending conventional schools. Also referred to as democratic schools these started in 1985. Initially these schools started as shelters for students, who did not wish to attend conventional schools. In a short time they began to form an alternative avenue of education for the children. The experiment of starting these democratic schools has been a success and now there are tens of such schools spread all over Japan.

 Japan moved ahead and in 1987 the first of seven Waldorf schools were established in Japan.Waldorf education is a humanistic approach to education of children based on the theory laid down by the Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner,

Another facet of alternate education in Japan is the homeschooling movement.  This movement involves educating the children at home. The children are tutored by parents and private tutors and do not attend any formal school.

Realizing the importance of alternative education the Japanese government introduced in 2003 special zones for schools which would impart alternative education. In 2005 the first school under this law opened. There is greater awareness in Japan of alternative education than before.

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