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.

2 responses to “Complementary, not Supplementary Education?

  1. Victor Kobayashi

    i see the traditional juku (not the gakushu juku that are clearly “supplementary” if not part of the “service” industry) as “enrichment schools” that are part of the “self-cultivation” emphasized by Confucius. Here children and adults learn and hone arts and skills like calligraphy, abacus, shamisen, jazz singing, golf (i’m not sure about golf, but it is a sign of belonging to the leisure class), etc. “skill” to me is interesting in that the expression of it and its display –especially if non-purposely — Zen ) is part of aesthetic quality (eg. a ceramic object that displays such skill is also a part of its beauty–eg. transgressive art that displays maimed victims, but somehow done skillfully so as to communicate a kind of beauty, albeit grotesque–eg. Rembrandt, Damien Hirst, Kuniyoshi). Today’s juku, I agree are “supplementary” (but can be complementary depending on the individual kid, who would be probably unusual), and also part of education as a consumer industry (rather than as a world bank investment industry). From the point of view of “education as investment”, learning the koto would be “education as a consumer industry” Aren’t movies (using old fashioned film) “shadow education” (or “shadow mis-education”)?
    Keep up your wonderful work that is a pleasure to read!

  2. Victor Kobayashi

    “juku” before the advent of the entrance exam “shadowʻʻ schools were more varied, and usually centered around a master in some field, In some ways, the popularity of the entrance exam schools changed the image of “juku” especially to foreign observers. At the same time, old type “juku” became private “supplementary” schools that taught specialties such as piano, violin, calligraphy, and also jazz singing (Martha Miyake) and as things often go in Japan, are not viewed as “juku” Tamagawa Gakuen Daigaku, was originally built on the “juku” ideal, according to my discussions with the late founder Kuniyoahi Obara, almost half a century ago, as part of many experimental schools established in Japan during the late Meiji- Taisho period. Some of the juku in the past also were transformations of iemote system of private schools (ikebana for example) So all this mixup and confusion is not unusual in Japan as not only do schools of various sorts change, but the “name” changes in meaning so different “genres” of school may be closer to more traditional forms, while new ones get established, and some of the traditional forms change to more modern styles, This seems to be a feature of Japan–a kind of evolutionary model that leads to diversity, with minimal natural selection, as the social cultural environment change and get synthesized and also diversified and in that sense “richer” and more like a whole ecosystem! Note also that Keio has giJUKU in its name, thanks to its founder, Fukuzawa Yukichi.

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