Complementary, not Supplementary Education?

This post is another result of conversations with Victor Kobayashi at the CIES meetings.

I continue to wrestle with terminology (no good at all other than for very quick communication: ‘cram school‘; better, but perhaps no longer true: ‘shadow education‘; even better, but not evocative for general public or many colleagues and what do I call the actual schools: ‘supplementary education’).

Kobayashi raised the possibility of referring to juku as “complementary education”. He based this partly on the history of juku and its premodern focus on erudition rather than education. The argument then is to say that juku complement conventional schools rather than supplementing them. In my mind, this captures the “shadowing” part of ‘shadow education’ better as it hints at the extent to which juku follow the official school curriculum with very few exceptions.

My hesitancy about ‘shadow education’ stems in part from the fact that much of these activities are no longer in the shadow and that also applies to complementarity. When students across different contexts are reporting that the ‘real learning’ (whatever that is, exam success seems to be hinted at) occurs at juku not in conventional schools, then neither ‘complementary’, ‘shadow’, nor ‘supplementary’ education works any longer.

Just as research on supplementary (or shadow) education may be establishing itself with this label, the brand may be becoming obsolete through the intervention of pesky empirical reality.

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