Category Archives: CIES 2011

“Enduring Contexts”: The Shifting Balance of Power or Points of Initiative within Japanese Education Policy

Fascinating discussions on contemporary Japanese education with a specific focus on educational policy over the last two days in Montreal.

12 researchers gathered by Chris Bjork (Vassar College) and Gary DeCoker (Earlham College) to talk about “Japanese Education in the Era of Globalization: Enduring Issues in New Contexts”. Lots of specific points to write about from the presentations and discussions, but one of the main themes that struck me in the course of discussions was the changing role of the Ministry of Education in Japan.

While the pre-Asia Pacific War ministry was almighty, its postwar reincarnation was initially limited in its policy-making power by the U.S. occupation. With the end of the occupation, the Ministry was able to pull some of its administrative and policy-making power back into the centre in Tokyo (this is a crucial part of my analysis of postwar history education). Over the postwar period, the only significant opposition to the Ministry was 日教組 (Nikkyoso, the Japanese Teachers’ Union). I have thus been accustomed to characterize the Japanese education system through the high growth era as highly centralized with the Ministry representing the pinnacle of decision-making, as well as the source of policy initiatives.

This does not mean that the Ministry tightly controlled all aspects of education. History education might provide an example here. While textbook approval is supervised and organized by the Ministry (this has led to the frequent mistaken perception that Japanese textbooks are “government textbooks”), this approval process generates a list of approved textbooks that are then selected by prefectural and local authorities.

However, most of the discussions across a great variety of aspects of education (making these past two days fascinating, especially as they followed on a similar gathering with some overlap in the participating scholars at the AAS meetings) suggest that more and more policy initiatives originate in local efforts at the school or community level. The Ministry thus continues to set the context for education throughout Japan, but the leeway for local experimentation is expanding. And, some of this experimentation is leading to change in national policies or recommendations as well.

Beyond the examples discussed over the past two days, one of the most striking examples of this is the introduction of school choice in the past decade. While limited choice had been available to high school students in the past, enrollment based on catchment areas has been supplemented with various means of choosing an elementary and middle school as well.

This development was clearly spearheaded by authorities in Tokyo’s 品川区 (Shinagawa Ward), though with the approval of Ministry officials. After the introduction of school choice in Shinagawa in 2001 (I think), the system has spread to many other jurisdictions, though it has not become national policy as such. (For a discussion of the impact of these changes, see my article “Japanese Shadow Education: The Consequences of School Choice” [in Forsey, Davies & Walford, eds. The Globalisation of School Choice?. Oxford: Symposium Books, 2008.]

CIES Mongolia Presentations

These are the CIES presentations on Mongolia that I’ve been able to find in the program:

Tuesday, May 3

• Session 240. 10:15-11:45h Providing opportunities through educational reforms in Mongolia: From primary education to higher education

“Impact analysis of innovative reading program in rural schools”  Khishigbuyan Dayan-Ochir, Rural
Education and Development Project (READ), Mongolia

“ICT use in primary schools: Comparative analysis of 5 rural provinces”  Junko Onodera, Tokyo
Institute of Technology, Japan; Shinobu Yamaguchi, Tokyo Institute of Technology, Japan

“Web-based teacher training: Analysis from prototype development”  Dalai Morigen, Tokyo Institute of Technology, Japan; Shinobu Yamaguchi, Tokyo Institute of Technology, Japan

“Reaching increased access, better quality, and relevance of higher education: Lessons learned
from twenty years of transitional experience” Bat-Erdene Regsuren, Ministry of Education,
Mongolia; Sukhbaatar Javzan, Institute of Finance and Economics, Mongolia

Wednesday, May 4

• Session 404. 13:45-15:15h Policy and Curriculum

“Transformation of teacher knowledge into classroom teaching: A case of Mongolia” Oyunaa Purevdorj, Independent Consultant, Mongolia

CIES Presentation Park: Comparing the Impact of Private Tutoring in South Korea and the United States

I’m grateful to EJ Park for sharing her abstract.

Sunday, May 1: Session 57, 13:45-15:15h, Queen Elizabeth Hotel Floor C – Saint Laurent


The growing demand for private tutoring around the world is often regarded as a policy problem reflecting a weakness in public school programs.  Private tutoring poses potentially adverse impacts on the educational environment, because it is sometimes viewed as worsening social inequalities. In South Korea, for example, data show that expenditures on private tutoring by the wealthiest 10 percent were twelve times the amount spent by the poorest 10 percent of households. In contrast, private tutoring in the United States is used primarily for remedial purposes, and thus it occurs primarily for lower income students. The goal of this research is to test whether the use of private tutoring differs between the Korea and the United States, and whether private tutoring is associated with student achievement outcomes.  Our conceptual framework is an input-output model, where student achievement scores comprise the outputs and school resources/programs and student family background make up the inputs.  The data used for this research is the 2006 PISA Survey (Programme for International Student Assessment).  Our analytic approach will have two parts: (1) tabular comparisons and analysis of variance to compare tutoring patterns between South Korea and the U.S., and (2) OLS regression and hierarchical linear modeling to test the effect of private tutoring on students’ achievement outcomes, controlling for socioeconomic and school factors.   Although results are preliminary, there is a significant relationship between private tutoring and achievement in both countries, but the association is positive in South Korea and negative in the United States.

CIES Presentaton Mori: Determinants of Supplementary Tutoring in Japan, Korea, and the Unites States

Sunday, May 1. Session 57. 13:45-15:15h, Queen Elizabeth Hotel, Floor C – Saint Laurent

Thanks to Izumi Mori for sending me her abstract.


The purpose of this paper is to examine individual and school characteristics that are associated with students’ participation in out-of-school-time lessons in mathematics in three countries. Previous studies on supplementary tutoring have revealed confounding factors that determine students’ use of out-of-school tutoring as follows: 1) students’ academic performance, 2) deficiencies in formal schooling in terms of instruction and resources, 3) family’s socio-economic backgrounds, and 4) parental involvement. Using the 2006 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) data for 15-year-olds, I conducted multilevel logistic regression for each country and found the following results. In Japan, SES except for family wealth has positive influence on student participation in tutoring. School resources and ability grouping have positive effect at the school level. In Korea, all SES measures but parents’ occupation have positive association with tutoring. Private school students are more likely to be tutored after controlling for other characteristics. In the United States, SES including parental education and occupation are not significant predictors after controlling for students’ test score. Public school students tend to participate more in tutoring, and higher student-teacher ratio and teacher shortage are associated with more participation in tutoring. The effect of test score varies in three countries: neutral in Japan, positive in Korea, and negative in the U.S. In all three countries, home educational resources (e.g, desk, place to study, books to help schoolwork, dictionary) are strong predictors of supplementary tutoring even after controlling for SES and school characteristics. These similarities and differences suggest the importance of examining supplementary tutoring at the cross-national level.

CIES Presentation Brehm-Silova: The hidden privatization of public education in Cambodia

William Brehm and Iveta Silova have kindly sent me the abstract for their presentation.

Monday, May 2: Session 99. 8:30-10h, Queen Elizabeth Hotel, Floor C – Saguenay


The contemporary practice of private tutoring in Cambodia is a complex phenomenon. Since government school lasts only four hours/day and primary teachers earn about $44/month, it is impossible for students to receive the full national curriculum (longer than the actual school day) and for teachers to earn a livable wage without conducting private tutoring. What results is a system where teachers charge students to learn the remaining curriculum after school hours, often times inside government school buildings. In addition, students can hire a teacher for individual tutoring (called “extra special tutoring”), which takes place in the student’s house, or students can attend private tutoring lessons offered in another government school.

Although Cambodian private tutoring has recently been linked explicitly to educational inequity (Bray, 2005) and teacher corruption (Dawson, 2009), the system is far more complex and historically rooted than observers are likely to recognize at first glance. Notwithstanding the cost barriers or lack of governance, private tutoring functions in a Foucauldian sense to order society along traditional hierarchical lines as a mechanism to cope with the five decades of rapid and often conflicting geopolitical transitions (see Silova, 2009 for examples of private tutoring as a mechanism of coping for rapid transition in Central Asia). In this presentation, we will argue that the modernity project in Cambodia (with all of its rhetoric of education access and equity) has been no more than a carefully appropriated façade, concealing the real system of education that rests on notions of hierarchy, inequality, and absolutism—ideas traditionally associated with Cambodia since the rule of God-King Jayavarman II (Mannikka, 1996)—ordering society into the people who have (neak mean) and people who do not (neak kro). The aim of this presentation is therefore to situate the emergence of the system of private tutoring within the Cambodian context and then to explore how it, together with the modern institution of education, (re)orders society along traditional lines of power and hierarchy.

My CIES Presentation: Private-Sector Innovations in Primary and Secondary Education in Japan

Wednesday, May 4: Session 416. 13:45-15:15h, Queen Elizabeth Hotel Floor C – Saint Charles


The Japanese government has long publicly disavowed the existence of a large-scale supplementary education industry (juku and yobiko). Recently, waves of moral panics regarding education  (bullying, breakdown of classroom discipline, decline of academic abilities, school refusal, etc.) have led to a profound sense of insecurity among parents. This overall decline in trust in public education is leading to local policy innovations like the creation of extra lessons on Saturdays paid for by Boards of Education, but offered by private businesses. Tellingly, such nascent local reforms are reforms of form, not of substance in that they do not signal nor do they follow curricular innovation. Likewise, the most dynamic areas of innovation in private-sector education focus on delivery methods. There is a general trend toward individualized instruction and tutoring. Larger supplementary education businesses especially are investing enormous sums into various delivery technologies. Yet, other areas of possible investment, such as teachers training, remain largely neglected by the public and private sector.