A Japanese journey

| March 17, 2014 | 0 Comments

Two years after the March 2011 9.0 level earthquake that triggered a tsunami and destroyed a nuclear power plant, in Fukushima, Japan, residents must still deal with contaminated land around their houses and schools.

But, reports the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), surprisingly, part of coping with the disaster has included dissolving tensions between the private and state school systems and between traditional and more innovative ways of learning. The changes were led by Okuma Junior High School, which was in the immediate vicinity of the nuclear plant and had to be relocated to Aizu Wakamatsu City. Traditionally, Japanese people are unfriendly towards newcomers.

The Okuma community, however, was determined to live by new rules underpinned by creativity, problem solving, judgement and engaging with the local community. Other schools have followed Okuma’s example. In Date City, in northern Fukushima, teachers at Yanagawa Junior High School are working with their pupils and the community on pollution problems that are threatening the livelihoods of small farming enterprises.

The ripples of innovation continue to spread as academics at Fukushima University – previously regarded as a typical tertiary ‘ivory tower’ – study how Japan can use what these schools are doing post-Fukushima to reform the country’s entire education system. Masahiro Kozuki, deputy director-general of the education ministry’s lifelong learning bureau, said the ideas that have emerged from Fukushima could be used to design new policies.

The ministry hopes that the country can now move from a fixation with degrees to ‘education for life’, a term that embraces practical skills and global citizenship. Further, the ministry wants Japan’s education institutions to move from standardisation, conformity and compliance towards ingenuity and initiative.

Category: Autumn 2014

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