Category Archives: Social Relations in the Classroom

Cultural Capital in/through Supplementary Education

Among educational institutions in contemporary developed countries, juku seem somewhat unusual in that they don’t appear to confer cultural capital, at least not in the classical sense that Bourdieu identified to be so important to class reproduction in Western Europe.

In Distinction Bourdieu proposed “cultural capital” as a helpful notion to understand intergenerational class-reproduction in postwar welfare states. If the state equalizes economic capital and safeguards workers’ rights and livelihoods to some extent, how come we still see intergenerational class reproduction, was the question he was addressing. One element in the answer was that education not only confers skills (human resources), but that it also confers prestige and subtle familiarity along class-lines that individuals can display (cash in on, to stay in the language of capital) at later stages. For example, highly-regarded secondary schools may not teach any content in a particular different way from any run-of-the-mill lycée, but students at these institutions (drawn largely from a class-homogeneous population) may be taught a curriculum that emphasizes highly-validated content or ways of talking about this content that distinguish graduates of such an institution.

{Note that this is obviously a very simplified and painfully simplistic version of Bourdieu’s concepts and their influence.}

High Cultural Capital in Juku?

While plenty of arguments can be made that cultural capital may be playing a different role in different cultural/national contexts and over time, this is one of the concepts that has clearly inspired a lot of research in the sociology of education over the past three decades or so.

Now, cultural capital and juku?

In their public and private self-representation, juku certainly don’t claim to be a place to acquire cultural capital, at least not of the high culture variety. Jukucho would immediately point to the predominance of standardized testing that would not make it possible for applicants (to higher education, to jobs, etc.) to display (and thus cash in) any cultural capital. There is also no evidence that juku attendance leads to lasting social ties of the kind that some secondary school and university clubs do (most famously baseball and rugby teams, for boys at least). This seems to be the case even though attendance at juku may stretch out over a much longer period (some time in elementary school through secondary education, and for some students on into higher education when they “return” to a juku as a teacher). So the immediate answer on (high) cultural capital would have to be, no, juku don’t seem to confer this.

Learning How to Learn

What about the kind of cultural capital that is more focused on study/learning skills. So, how to organize homework as opposed to knowledge of classical composers. Here, juku certainly claim that they are infusing students with cultural capital, specifically by teaching students how to learn. While the kind of learning that is being taught in juku with its focus on processing speed, correctness of answers selected from multiple choices, etc. is very particular, long-term attendance at a juku would certainly seem to reinforce this kind of cultural capital, and it is this kind of learning that may lead to greater chances at success at later stages in education that do in turn confer cultural capital, particularly the prestige associated with specific institutions of higher education. Takehiko Kariya (Oxford and 東大) has been arguing that learning capital is one of the crucial variables in Japanese stratification (see his Asia Pacific Memo for related arguments).

The Future of Cultural Capital in Juku

Juku will change in the future. From succession problems in small juku to a decrease in the competitiveness into higher education institutions due to the decline in the number of children, to some mild tendencies to broaden the access points to higher education, it seems like juku’s role may be declining in significance. Countervailing trends could be seen in the potential of juku to gain a more formal standing as alternative schools.

In terms of cultural capital, the greatest question may be whether juku will gain some kind of role as an arbiter of cultural capital. The current prominent role of three graduates of the Matsushita Seikei Juku in the Noda cabinet may be an example of such a role, though an exceptional one.

Another avenue for cultural capital to begin mattering more would be through a greater prevalence of admission to universities “by recommendation” rather than entrance examination. Perhaps some of the more well-known juku will gain the “right” to nominate students in the future?

Or, if students’ perception that the “real learning” occurs in juku gains in prominence, perhaps companies will begin hiring on the basis of which juku an individual attended?

This seems unlikely to me, but may be the case in the future.

Two Immutable Laments about Juku

I’ve confessed to cultural relativism before, and have also noted how much my research in juku has changed my mind on some aspects of the large presence of juku in the Japanese education system.

However, despite the dedication among some juku-cho that I see as charismatic educators, despite the social benefits that centre on juku (childcare, neighbourhood ties, etc.), and despite the joy that some students obviously derive from their juku instruction, two aspects of juku continue to jump out as elements that do seem to have a clearly negative or at least lamentable character, a) double-schooling, and b) the lack of content variety, especially when accelerated learning creates time for more varied content.

Double-Schooling or Hypereducation

At times, I catch myself observing a gifted juku instructor thinking, “this would be a nice classroom for my children to participate in”. Then I glance at my watch and realize that it is 17:30h and that some of the students in the classroom have been in school for most of the day. Obviously, notions of how much learning is enough/too little vary significantly. Take contemporary France as an example where students are in school until around 17h, though that is more a matter of childcare rather than learning necessarily.

I also see nothing wrong with children learning in the afternoon instead of the morning. I’m sure that such a schedule would please many Canadian children, including most teenagers.

What I do lament is the growing perception that the real learning is occurring in juku rather than in schools and what this implies. If this perception is correct (i.e. if the perception is wide-spread, or if we could document the share of learning from different sources), should we not reconsider compulsory education so as to avoid that children are being forced to attend schools that they (or their parents) perceive to be useless? Should we also not reconsider the giant education budgets that we invest in these schools (public and private)? My answer is, yes, but the solution is not a libertarian free-for-all that abolishes public schools in my mind. Rather the solution should be a concerted attempt to re-adjust the balance between schools and supplementary education. Much of this re-adjustment may have to come in the form of a specific campaign to understand the learning that occurs in supplementary education vs. the learning that occurs in conventional schools, but also a concerted campaign to combat negative perceptions of schools that are not rooted in fact.

Wasted Time in Supplementary Education

To me, one of the most disheartening moments in my research can be when a juku-cho proudly introduces me to a group of grade 10 students and tells me that they’ve finished the entire curriculum for High School a year or two early. That’s fantastic! If there are kids who want to and can learn more quickly, great!

Then I ask, so what are they doing in this class now and it’s the answer to this question that I find so disappointing. “復習” (review). The point of 進学 (accelerated learning) instruction is thus to finish the curriculum early, so that it can be reviewed more.

If 11th graders have finished the curriculum, why not go in-depth on a particular subject that they’ve finished? Why not read novels? Focus on constitutional history? Study Confucius?

Acceleration for the purpose of making time for further review strikes me as a great waste of time.

Breakdown of Classrooms?

One of the several moral panics that has swept the discourse about Japanese education in the past several years has been 学級崩壊, the breakdown of classroom (discipline).

While a number of different kind of phenomena are grouped under this term, the fundamental message is that the number of unmanageable (due to student behaviour) classrooms has increased, students are loosing their respect or at least not behaving in a respectful manner toward teachers, and bullying and violence toward other students is on the rise.

Now, the OECD has released an analysis of PISA data (PDF) that looks at reports of disciplinary problems in classrooms.
Japanese responses easily top the chart at 93% of students who confirmed that “the teacher ‘never or hardly ever’ or ‘in some lessons’ has to wait a long time for students to quieten down”.

Yet another case of domestic perceptions differing wildly from a perspective on Japanese education from abroad?

Note that the average for students’ responses to this question was 72%.

The fewest disciplinary problems were reported in: Japan, Kazakhstan, China (Shanghai only), Hong Kong, Romania. Students in the following countries reported the most problems: Argentina, Greece, Finland, Netherlands, France.

Finland? That model to all education policy-makers? Unruly, but great learners? Maybe students forgetting to turn off their Nokias.

Special Needs Education in Juku

During the course I taught through UBC’s Continuing Studies, the topic that engaged the participants most (perhaps because I was deliberately provocative) was special needs education. When asked about the availability of special needs education in Japan, I replied that “There are no special needs.” Obviously, that is quite untrue on many levels.

However, as far as perceptions by most stakeholders are concerned, that provocative over-simplification seems to describe the state of affairs reasonably well.

Before I get myself into really hot water in an area that I have only looked at through the words/eyes of my interview informants, let me stick to the juku perspective on special needs.

I’ve only seen one child with an obvious physical disability in my 45+ juku visits. Obviously, I may not have spotted disabilities that are less visible.

I would, however, include school refusal in the category of potentially requiring special needs attention. 不登校 (school refusal) has emerged as a major  concern in Japan over the past several years. As far as I can tell, this term encompasses a whole range of behaviours that fall along a continuum stretching from mild (“I don’t like my teacher, so I don’t want to go to school”) to more severe (mental health issues, including agoraphobia, etc.).

I have encountered school refusers in virtually all the juku that I’ve visited. Somewhat embarrassingly to me as a researcher, the jukucho will often point these students out to me quite explicitly. Beyond their presence in all juku, I have also visited two juku that specialize in the more severe cases of school refusal.

Initially, I was astonished to learn that there are school refusers who are attending juku instead of conventional school. If you come to this situation with notions of exam hell structuring the school experience of secondary school students, and of juku focusing on cramming for entrance examination, then one might not expect students to “flee” to juku away from the senate.

At the milder end of the school refusal spectrum, some students may simply not be getting along with fellow students or teachers. For this category, juku attendance would seem to make sense, as switching schools is very unusual in Japan, so that juku presents itself as a ready alternative. As authorities are clearly tolerating juku attendance (or even complete school refusal by staying at home) as an alternative to compulsory education, juku may really be the obvious solution. That would also explain the fact that a significant number of school refusers at the lower secondary level, re-enter school for senior secondary schooling. Clearly, these have to be relatively mild cases of school refusal.

Towards the other end of that spectrum, I visited two juku that specialize in special needs students. One of them was even more unusual in that it is run on a volunteer-basis, i.e. not-for-profit. This is in part possible because the jukucho owned a large apartment building that a) provided him with an income, and b) made some basement space available for the use of the juku. This was probably also the juku that had the coolest (or any) toys available for students in the form of constructor-set-like things.

The other juku is also in metropolitan Tokyo and caters more specifically to students who are challenged by social interactions. I had obviously read about otaku and even about hikikomori (shut-ins), but this experience at this particular juku definitely gave me a new perspective on these phenomena.

There were only five students (all middle school) in this classroom, but it was very clear right away that these students were different from the students I usually saw in Tokyo juku. There was something very physical about their social interaction disability, the way they held themselves and held their body when interacting with others. Then, during class, some of them would simply seem to clam up, turn inward and tune out, even when simple questions were addressed to them. Coupled with the dinginess of the juku surroundings, this visit was pretty eye-opening.

Interestingly, even these students (who looked to this layman like they fell in the mental health portion of the spectrum of behaviours), were planning to re-enter high schools through entrance examinations to complete their education.

It also turned out to be a mouth-watering visit, however, in that the jukucho had returned from a trip to Denmark (if I recall correctly) some years earlier where he had visited a program that offered vocational training to at-risk youths. He had been impressed and subsequently opened a Ramen shop that is staffed by his students. The noodles were actually quite good.

To return to the question of the absence of special needs education, the current post-triple-disaster fiscal situation probably makes a large-scale public investment unlikely, especially since this would most likely come in local budgets, rather than national MEXT contributions.

Given that fiscal constraint, but a growing awareness of the desirability of special needs services (social interactions, Japanese-as-second-language-learners, otaku/hikikomori, etc.) among parents, perhaps the juku industry will respond to this more flexibly than conventional schools are able to (especially in the current context).

If the fairly unusual juku that I mention above are ahead of the curve on this topic, then we might expect not only a growing awareness of special needs, but also a growing servicing of these needs as juku turn themselves more and more into more comprehensive education providers and consultants.

Juku Photograph I

Here’s a photo of the classroom in a juku in a relatively wealthy neighbourhood in the southwest of downtown Tokyo.

From my visits to numerous juku around the country, a number of things are typical about this particularly classroom.

The first thing would be the nearly ubiquitous world map on the right-hand wall, accompanied of a similar map of Japan in this case.

Nest, this is an example of a juku that occupies space that was intended for some kind of office/commercial use. As the slanted wall/ceiling and the use of a partition on the right to block off the next classroom suggests, this was not intended as a classroom.

Not visible in the photo are two more rows of desks, this classroom thus accommodates about 16 students and classes at this particular juku typically consists of 8-12 students.

The classroom furniture here is the nearly-universal Kokuyo furniture that will be familiar to anyone who visits Japanese schools regularly as well

Previous Exchange on the Absence of Single-Sex Juku

In 2008, I had posted a version of my “why are there no girls’ juku” puzzle to SSJ-Forum and received some replies.

For example, Ron Stewart (Prefectural University of Hiroshima) wrote:

I think you will find there are no single-sex hagwon(juku) in Korea either. […]

Evidence that choice of university in Japan is not purely driven by university rankings, can be seen in the in the rise and falls in enrollments in various university departments. It can also be seen in the seemingly endless reshuffling of old departments and creation of new courses, majors and faculties at Japanese universities in order to attract students.

“Humanities (which have for a long time been the focus of womens universities’ curriculums (the idea of refinement through arts) are losing appeal in favour of vocational training (once the realm of senmon gakko and tandai) and some more ‘unrefined’ and ‘masculine’ areas such as rikei. I think this change is across most of tertiary education here in Japan.


Another example is the rush in recent years by many Japanese universities to create, nursing, welfare, health and pharmacology courses and departments, geared towards giving students qualifications for an ever expanding health and old age care sector. So I think the attraction to traditional womens universities curriculums (literature, art, music, culture, and language) is being erroded these days. Some public womens universities are being phased out through a need to expand through mergers, to offer more options and services to students and put them on more sound financial footing, as they are being forced to become public foundations these days (koritsu hojin). […]

As many womens universities here are Christian (there are examples in Tokyo, Okayama, Nagoya, Hiroshima and other places), they may well stick to ideas of women being able to study more effectively away from the ‘immoral temptations’ or ‘moral corruption’ of having males in close proximity, and stick to ideas of being a primary socializer and producer of ‘refined’ ‘feminine’ women. Maybe reading these universities’ rationales on there homepages and comparing them to those of juku may offer some clues as to with both exist and how they differ in worldview/ideology.

Merry White (Boston University) responded:

Some time ago when I looked at juku I found that there were, effectively, boys’ juku – by economic selection.
That is parents were more willing then to spend extra money for a son’s educational enhancements than for a daughter’s; the investment in her future wouldn’t have the same payback, or wouldn’t be needed through juku.

And for top, high-standard juku the effect seemed even greater. I think, though I am not sure, that the gender-based investment strategy no longer holds as couples have fewer children and invest in their educational futures in a gender-neutral way. Juku by the way used to refer to all kinds of classes – including music lessons. We are talking here about academic advancement juku, yes?

No Niches in Education Markets? Really?

This is continuing an exchange with “HeritageOfJapan” and now “japanexplorer” on the Education in Japan Community Blog that refers in part back to my previous posts (1 | 2 | 3) on the puzzle of the absence of single-sex options in the Japanese supplementary education industry.

In a further comment, “japanexplorer” writes,

The news trend in recent years on juku stability and profitability suggests that it is getting more competitive and that many juku branches face closure, hence the huge number of mergers seen in recent years.

Yes, I agree entirely. This is a trend that I will certainly be commenting about in the future on this blog. Briefly, kojinjuku are being squeezed geographically by the outward expansion of chains in metropolitan areas, and by the lack of children and the lack of competition for entry into higher education institutions in rural areas. They also face a very serious successor problem as many of the original founders of the first juku boom are retiring. Finally, they are facing a competitive squeeze from chains based on ICTs innovations and investments. At the same time, the supplementary education market is clearly also consolidating at the corporate end.

Yes, in a few cosmopolitan centres, juku attendance remain strong, but all round the figures suggest with falling numbers of student population, any strategic moves must be cost-effective for the entire chain.

But note that juku of all kinds are pushing hard into smaller and smaller groups of instruction suggesting significantly higher per-student revenue than even five years ago.

I am still convinced that juku operators will not divide the classes on the basis of sex. That is not to say if parents overwhelmingly demand for it and UNLESS some juku’s president someday decides single-sex edu will be a great competitive marketing strategy(this is not unconceivable).

Okay, so why hasn’t some jukucho decided to adopt this as a competitive marketing strategy? That is precisely my argument in trying to understand my original puzzle better.

Theoretically, it makes no sense in my mind to argue that operators shouldn’t divide their potential customers and exclude some. Businesses do this all the time, whether they are geographically rooted or not. And if anything, Japanese managers are well-known for pursuing niche strategies in a number of consumer markets. Anyone remember the Nissan Figaro, for example? Take another example: hair stylists seem to include single-sex as well men’s and women’s salons. Someone who is setting up a women’s salon is also given up on 50% of the customer population, but that seems obvious, even though there are no physiological differences between male and female hair (I assume).

Given the nature of the juku industry as really approximating an unfettered consumer market (at least in the big cities), there is no reason to think (at least none that comes to my mind) that nice strategies shouldn’t work.

Empirically as well, this argument doesn’t convince me. Juku operators are pursuing lots of niche strategies that are excluding a much greater proportion of the potential market than the 50% that a single-sex strategy would suggest.

Many juku thus specialize (sometimes even exclusively) on specific grades. If the argument about the lack of a viable niche strategy were true, this niche shouldn’t exist. Likewise, I’ve interviewed the operator of a fax-based juku. Not only did this strike me as somewhat quaint (even recognizing the greater penetration of the fax machine in Japan), but it is clearly a relatively small niche of parents/students who would be willing to communicate by fax.

I’ve also visited a juku that deliberately capped the number of its students at 24. In this case, this was obviously a very high-end strategy, but it also is a viable niche.

In fact, many kojinjuku cap the number of students, generally at about half of their historical maximum enrollment which typically came in the early 1990s.

Even the chain juku stratify students within grades on a fairly minute achievement/test result basis.

So, a niche strategy is not viable? I am not convinced.

As “japanexplorer” him/herself acknowledges, “Whatever the large juku operators that you are talking about may say, the nature of the juku market is niche-marketing.” Precisely, so why no single-sex juku?

What each juku chain sells is the reputation of its methodology or material/curriculum package that has a proven track record or that has worked with parents themselves.

Note that it is reputation not “proven track record”, as the only evidence of a track record offered is usually the number of “graduates” who succeeded in entrance examinations. There’s no attempt, nor do parents seem to demand, any kind of value-added evidence that would actually isolate the impact that a juku and/or its teaching methodology had on entrance examination success. Likewise with grade improvement for juku that are focused more on remedial instruction (another way in which the market is stratified, BTW).

Secondly, many of the jukus cater largely to parents who cannot afford the private schooling route, and who therefore have already in fact decided to forego the ‘luxury’ factor of the better schooling environment/atmosphere (both physical and social), to make-do with the barebones goal of academic achievement.

While this is certainly true for some segments of the juku market, I would doubt the “many” characterization. There are no statistics to my knowledge that would allow us to quantify such a portion of the market. Many students at private schools attend juku as well and there are plenty of relatively low-cost juku options, especially when you take into account that juku attendance is also a form of child care.

Re your other comments: earlier in my survey of private schools and in putting together the pte school directory, I came across news articles in which schools like Kaiyo Academy and other new ones, suggestions that the singe-sex environment was a key consideration.

That is very interesting as it contradicts the sense I had gained so far of the absence of pedagogical motivations. Any pointers for where to look for this information?

In my mind the debate continues and I welcome all further contributions.

Some Explanations for the Absence of Single-Sex Juku

Earlier today, I responded to a post on the “Education in Japan Community Blog” that addressed motivations for choosing single-sex education. “Heritageofjapan” (no name offered) had a couple of replies to my comment:

1. “Jukus are run as small, lean, profit-oriented commercial entreprises and in localized areas where competition from other jukus is likely and the number of students they can draw upon is limited … and due to high rentals and precious space resources, (single-sex edu would require the doubling of classrooms and teachers) it simply would not be cost-effective for them to split their classrooms into single-sex rooms.

This is akin to the argument that Mark Langager’s students at ICU offered which prompted my original post.

Essentially, the argument says that within the small geographic area that small juku draw on, there are not enough customers/students for juku to pursue a specialization strategy.

While this is certainly true for rural areas, it is also certainly not true for metropolitan areas, not just in Tokyo. Many of the small juku that I visit for research, are in fact limiting their intake of students, just not on the basis of gender. This is not a market that is shy about pursuing niches (geographical, delivery methods, etc.).

For large/chain juku the limited number of students argument doesn’t apply at all as they sub0categorize within student groups along other lines as well.

2. “Another reason is that the rationale for single-sex environment is a social/psychological one – jukus lack the socialization element that public or private schools have – the kids who come know that they come with the single-minded purpose of academic prep and competitive “warfare”, and so kids are for the most part streamed or moved along according to their paces/abilities/performance. Socialization considerations almost doesn’t figure at all

This is a line of reasoning that I find much more persuasive. However, it is clearly subject to the caveat I wrote about earlier, namely that many Japanese parents who select single-sex schools don’t to so on pedagogical grounds.

I would continue to argue, however, that juku include a very significant socialization element and that – if anything – this element is growing in significance.

3. “Parents who do care about single-sex education (and there are many) almost invariably seek out private school education for their kids, and I personally know many parents who do choose single-sex schools for the pedagogical benefits. But single-sex are all private schools because public policy that underlines public school education is based on egalitarian and non-discriminatory grounds. And this obviously disqualifies a great many parents who do want single-sex education for their children due to financial reasons.

When I claim that pedagogical reasons are not dominant in Japanese parents’ choices of single-sex education, I am simply reporting the answer I get on this question from juku operators. I would be delighted to see any empirical information on the choice of single-sex education as this would help me think through my puzzle some more.

The anti-egalitarian ethic is also a powerful one in Japan and I’m quite interested in “heritageofjapan”‘s argument in this regard. However, juku are increasingly advertising themselves as the place where that egalitariasism doesn’t dominate, so why no single-sex offerings?

Single-Sex Education Caveats

My previous post raised the question why there are no single-sex juku, even though single-sex conventional schools continue to thrive in Japan.

Just a quick first caveat: There are some single-sex juku that specifically cater to students preparing for entrance examinations to single-sex conventional schools. If a juku thus specializes in preparation for entry into school X where school X is a girls’ school, clearly all the jukusei will be girls. There are examples of such juku, of course.

Here comes the second, more substantive caveat on the question of the predominance of coeducation in juku as it continues to puzzle me. Part of my puzzle is rooted in a North American/European belief in the (conditional) desirability of single-sex education for pedagogical reasons. There clearly is a large (and growing, it appears) literature that investigates whether educational outcomes for girls (and increasingly boys) may be better when the learning occurs primarily in single-sex classrooms. From arguments about inherently different learning styles, to investigations of teacher-student relations and their impact on learning, this literature is interpreted (probably second and third-hand at best) by some parents as supporting a decision to eschew co-education for pedagogical reasons. An example of this kind of reasoning can be found in a recent blog post focused somewhat on Japan as well.

My sense is that the choice of single-sex conventional schools by Japanese parents and students is not primarily rooted in such pedagogical aims.

Some of the juku owner-operators to whom I have posed my question about the absence of single-sex juku have pointed to the social motivations behind the choice of single-sex conventional schools. Of parents themselves may have attended these (primarily private) schools and are thus keen to send their child(ren) to the same school out of alumni loyalty.

Others view single-sex schools as providing a particular social setting that they desire for their child(ren), i.e. more discipline-oriented boys’ schools, or girls’ schools that continue to cater to notions associated with ‘finishing schools’.

Yet other simply accept the single-sex nature of particular private schools as an element in that school’s profile that they are willing to accept and possibly even embrace because of the school’s academic standing or ranking.

None of these reasons speak to a particular belief in the pedagogical desirability of single-sex education and none of these reasons replicate easily in the juku setting.

Family tradition? Since virtually all contemporary juku were founded since the first 塾ブーム (juku boom) of the early 1970s and would have focused in their exam preparation on (predominantly coeducational) public schools initially, there are no ‘old school’ juku that are single-sex.

The fact that some parents send their children to neighbourhood juku that they attended themselves has been one of the real surprises in my research. One juku in particular enrolls some current students who are the children of one or two parents who attended the juku themselves. The owner-operated at this particular school has mentioned to me that he will finally retire when the first 3rd generation student, i.e. the grandchild of a juku graduate, enrolls.

Yet, the absence of juku that had been founded as single-sex juku (I’ll have to follow up on one of my next research trips to ask whether there had been single-sex juku in the 1970s), means that even a preference for sending children to the juku that parents attended wouldn’t lead to the appearance of such juku today.

While juku clearly involve a very particular social setting for learning and are (increasingly, in my mind) taking on functions of socialization in loco parentis, they are not commonly looked to “officially” to offering such socialization in that more military-style (whatever that means in a postwar Japanese context) boys’ schools are.

Despite thus admitting that part of my puzzle about this issue is misdirected by my assumption that the choice for single-sex education is rooted in pedagogical preferences, the puzzle remains.

“Enduring Contexts”: Bjork/Fukuzawa

Chris Bjork and Becky Fukuzawa presented a fascinating attempt to compare school-based research on “guidance” in the 1980s and the 200s. Diachronic fieldwork without resorting to the use of a time machine, wonderful!

The gist of the much more elaborate and interesting discussion in the paper was that discipline, sometimes backed up by corporal punishment, prevailed in 1980s schools and that “guidance” meant the enforcement of school rules covering hair length, clothing, etc. By the 2000s schools had largely given up on the enforcement of this kind of guidance. While the nature of a diachronic comparison of ethnographic fieldwork precludes conclusions about the extent to which this conclusion would apply across Japan and across school types, it’s an observation that rings true to many scholars who have been involved in research on education in Japan for a longer period.

Bjork and Fukuzawa in their discussion of the 1980s refer back to Tom Rohlen’s classic (certainly for our field) Japan’s High Schools (Berkeley: UC Press). In his discussion, Rohlen summarizes the reliance on discipline as an element in guidance under the motto of “intimacy coupled with severity” (p. 201)

I frequently see remnants of this kind of attitude in juku as well. While I see much genuine warmth in the relationship between juku students and teachers/operators, some of these teachers also do not shy away from moralistic admonishment of students in a way that takes me aback at times, just because some of these lectures seem to belittle or browbeat students more than anything else. Rohlen’s original understanding of this “intimacy coupled with severity” approach channeled by Bjork and Fukuzawa helps me make a bit more sense of this dynamic.

By contrast, however, the operators and teachers of small juku at least, put very little stock in outward appearances like uniforms that were and to some extent are the focus of guidance within schools.

This kind of guidance provided especially by some of the “charismatic educator” type of juku-cho clearly goes much beyond subjects or matters directly related to lessons, homework or schooling. Moral guidance thus becomes an element in some of the in loco parentis consulting that juku increasingly seem to offer parents and students.

Vic Kobayashi contributed a wonderful footnote to Bjork and Fukuzawa’s discussion of “guidance” when he pointed out that in the immediate postwar years, guidance was generally used in Japanese schools as an imported word, i.e. ガイダンス. Privately, this notion was often derided as 外ダンス (a foreign dance). While this is admittedly a bit of a nerdy pun, I hadn’t left as hard about anything in a discussion of Japanese education in quite some time. The notion that supported this pun, was of course that Japanese teachers had traditionally (i.e. in the prewar/wartime education system) engaged in plenty of moral guidance and that this was now being performed in the guise of a foreign dance or perhaps a dance for foreigners.