I SUMMERHILL SCHOOL I
MOUVEMENT FREINET AU JAPON
(Tsuneo FURUSAWA, Université Hosei, Japon)
JAPON : Les écoles de la liberté
dès le préau au Japon
Pris en grippe et marginalisés, 10% des «Ijime» tentent de se suicider.
Takasaki dit que son
école ("alternative") a commencé avec trois élèves
et a rapidement évolué durant les dix dernières années
pour atteindre aujourd'hui 50 enfants.
Presque tous ces enfants fuyaient la brutalité qu'ils subissaient dans leurs écoles régulières.
"Ils cherchent refuge dans cette école parce que les enseignants passent du temps à leur parler et à être leurs amis.
Les écoles japonaises forcent simplement les enfants à étudier et ignorent leur développement mental", ajoute-t-il.
Violence entre élèves : au cours des deux derniers mois, au moins sept élèves se sont suicidés.
Une vague de suicides d’élèves victimes de brimades a
suscité une vive émotion au Japon.
Aussi le gouvernement du Premier ministre Shinzo Abe a-t-il annoncé sa volonté de combattre ce problème dans le cadre de la grande réforme de l’éducation actuellement mise en œuvre.
Le conseil chargé de l’organisation de la réforme a ainsi suggéré de responsabiliser davantage les enseignants et les directeurs d’écoles pour les actes de brimades perpétrés à l’intérieur de leurs établissements scolaires.
Mais pour de nombreux acteurs de l’éducation, les enseignants
ne peuvent que difficilement gérer le problème de la violence
scolaire en raison de la rigidité du système éducatif.
Le manque de financement est également mis en avant par certains
spécialistes comme le professeur Hirota de l’université Nihon.
Le Japon, explique-t-il au Financial Times, ne dépense guère
plus de 3,5% de son PIB pour l’éducation tandis que les pays européens
dépensent en moyenne 5% de leur PIB pour ce secteur.
Tragedy of school suicides shifts focus to Japan's education system
Last month a 13-year-old Japanese boy wrote a simple suicide note on a piece of crumpled paper. "Dear Mom and Dad," it read, "Sorry I was an inadequate child. Thank you for everything. I cannot live while being bullied."
Over the past two months, at least seven children in Japan have taken
their own lives after being tormented by school bullies. The problem of
ijime, or bullying, has long been a problem in Japan. But the spate of
recent suicides, coupled with unyielding media coverage, has turned ijime
into a national epidemic.
In response, a government advisory panel on education reform yesterday took the extremely rare step of releasing emergency proposals to address the problem.
The Education Rebuilding Council, in the presence of Shinzo Abe, Japan's prime minister, urged local education boards to punish teachers who left bullying unchecked and called on schools not to cover up instances of bullying. The panel urged schools to "make clear its standards for punishment and to deal firmly with pupils who have bullied".
Mr Abe said: "We will carry out the measures immediately where possible. The government will take firm steps on its part."
The panel, composed of 17 individuals from government, business and academia, also made clear that school principals and teachers were primarily responsible for resolving bullying. It also said that ijime was grounds for a student to transfer schools.
"The first impression I had was that these measures are confused," said Manabu Sato, professor at the University of Tokyo's School of Education. "Schools have already undertaken most of these measures. There is a political reason behind this as well, because Abe's ratings have declined recently, in part due to the mass hysteria surrounding these suicides. In a sense, it is political propaganda."
Although bullying is by no means a phenomenon unique to Japan, the number of recent child suicides has raised questions about the country's educational system and the breakdown in family communication.
The education ministry has received 42 letters from children who complained of being bullied in the past three months. The writer of one such letter, received on November 6, threatened to commit suicide if officials did not respond in two days. The ministry took the unprecedented step of holding a press conference that morning on the issue.
Mr Abe's administration has made revising the education law its top legislative priority, in what would be the first full reform of the law in more than 50 years.
But critics have attacked its new bill for failing to address pressing issues such as bullying, school violence, students' refusal to attend classes, the failure of high schools to teach compulsory subjects and declining academic achievements. The new bill in essence calls for promoting patriotism in the classroom.
The education ministry, meanwhile, has responded by requesting more school counsellors, which should be approved by the end of the year when the government irons out its supplementary budget.
"Teachers these days lack the ability to keep abreast of the behavioural changes in children," says Yuko Kawanishi, a sociologist at Tokyo Gakugeidaigaku University. "But there is also clearly a family problem, with children unable to confide in their parents. The parents blame the teachers and vice versa."
Experts say the rigid structure of the country's educational system allows little room for harried teachers to detect problems among students. Rather, they are faced with trying to ensure that children pass exams and have to cope with increasing amounts of paperwork.
"Teachers are tied up with teaching the compulsory curriculum mandated by the government, coupled with increasing administrative tasks such as evaluations and meetings with the local boards of education," says Teruyuki Hirota, a professor at Nihon University. Prof Hirota notes that Japan spends only about 3.5 per cent of its annual gross domestic product on compulsory education, compared with 5 per cent for Europe.
Prof Hirota says that ijime is deeply entrenched in Japanese society
and will not likely be solved, despite the government's efforts. "The child
suicides, the media frenzy over ijime, this happens nearly every 10 years,"
Un sévère retour de bâton
Ces dernières années, une réforme du système
éducatif japonais a été conduite avec l’objectif affiché
de lâcher la pression pesant sur les élèves.
M.Terawaki a quitté son ministère de l’Education
en novembre 2006, après avoir mené une profonde réforme
du système éducatif nippon. Ce personnage charismatique a
rendu la vie plus légère aux élèves en réduisant
les heures de cours, en délestant les manuels scolaires de 30% de
leur contenu et en supprimant l’école le samedi, entre autres mesures.
Cependant, dès 2003, l’étude Pisa a pointé le déclin
des performances des élèves nippons. En mathématiques,
ils étaient passés de la première à la sixième
place du classement international.
M.Terawaki, remercié, a refusé un poste de complaisance
et qualifie la politique de l’éducation actuelle de "retour au Japon
du 20ème siècle". Lui qui justifiait sa réforme par
la nécessité d’un Japon moderne, éclairé et
créatif à l’aube du 21ème siècle.
The Japan Times - 5 janvier 2007
Return to rigid school system hit
Abe on wrong tack, advocate of relaxed approach says
2005, however, saw a policy shift and the start of a push to again reform the education system and bring back heavier coarse loads amid public criticism that the changed system wasn't working. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who took office in September, is championing this campaign.
But Terawaki, 54, who quit the ministry in November, is not buying into Abe's reforms and still believes an unhurried approach is the best way to build a more mature society, even though parents and others have been complaining about what they see as declining student performance.
"The uniform education system was effective in producing people who could support Japan's rapid economic growth," Terawaki said. "But the times have changed. We need a system that helps children establish their individuality."
In 1987, after three years of discussions, a government panel on reform proposed relaxing the education system, which for a century had placed emphasis on uniform rote learning.
The new system was deigned to motivate children to acquire the necessary knowledge, skills and flexibility to live in Japan in the 21st century -- a time of globalization, advanced high technology, widespread information networks and an aging society.
Class hours for core subjects -- Japanese, mathematics, social studies, science and English -- were gradually reduced. In 2002, Saturdays were dropped from the school week and textbook content was cut by 30 percent to round out the relaxed system. Schools introduced "comprehensive studies" courses that allowed students to carry out their own research projects.
"It's natural that children in a rich society lose motivation to learn. So the comprehensive studies course is offered to stimulate children's curiosity through academic projects," Terawaki said, noting that because kids have no Saturday classes, they can have more time to spend with their families and friends and to engage in other pursuits, including sports, music and art.
The relaxed system bore other fruit -- more youths got involved in volunteer activities, began actively expressing their opinions and started up businesses, he said.
"I realize parents want their children to have better academic foundations. But if children devote themselves only to studying, can they become attractive adults?" Terawaki asked.
"People used to feel they had a happy life if they went to a good school and landed a job at a good company. But that formula no longer works," said Terawaki, himself of an elite background. The Fukuoka native went from the prestigious La Salle High School in Kagoshima to the University of Tokyo before he became a high-ranking education ministry bureaucrat.
In the relaxed system's fall from favor, parents and business circles point to data showing deteriorating academic achievements. The 2003 Program for International Student Assessment test by the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development showed Japanese 15-year-olds fell from the top spot for math in 2000 to sixth place and fell to 14th from eighth in reading.
To improve academic levels, the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry plans to introduce nationwide academic achievement exams in April, the first such tests in 40 years.
Local governments have meanwhile been trying to fuel competition by introducing a system under which children and their parents can select their school of choice.
But Terawaki feels excessive concerns over children's academic performances are unnecessary because education has changed from merely requiring students to memorize history, kanji and English vocabulary into a system that encourages youths to think about pertinent issues and express their opinions logically.
But Abe is pursuing a different course. He formed the Education Rebuilding Council with the goal of improving students' academic levels and the quality of teachers. He is also bent on restoring discipline in the classroom and instilling a notion of patriotism among the nation's youth.
Terawaki is skeptical of Abe's reform push.
"Abe wants to make Japan 'a beautiful country' that respects its culture, but it contradicts business circles' demand for (young people) who will pursue economic development," he said. "I wonder if those who criticize the relaxed education system have conservative, nationalistic views and yearn for (a return to) 20th century Japan?"
Last March, after reaching the limit of promotions, Terawaki was asked to leave the ministry in line with long-standing bureaucratic practice. The education minister asked him to stay on, which he did even though he had to take a demotion.
When he quit in November, after Bunmei Ibuki became education minister in September, Terawaki, not following usual bureaucrat practice, refused to take an "amakudari" job, or golden parachute post in the private sector or at a public organization.
"I loved working for the education ministry. I did not want to work anyplace else," said Terawaki, who now accepts freelance jobs as an education and movie critic.
A frequent moviegoer, taking in than 10 films a month, Terawaki is an advocate of cultural power. While working as a bureaucrat, he often reviewed films for magazines and wrote books on cinema.
"I've always been interested in nurturing culture through education
because cultural wealth, like economic indicators, can be an indicator
to show (the maturity) of a society," said the confessed aficionado of
"manga" cartoons and "rakugo" traditional comic storytelling.