Primary School in Japan
Self, Individuality and Learning in Elementary Education
By Peter Cave
Published November 30th 2007 by Routledge – 264 pages
The balance between individual independence and social interdependence is a perennial debate in Japan. A series of educational reforms since 1990, including the implementation of a new curriculum in 2002, has been a source of fierce controversy. This book, based on an extended, detailed study of two primary schools in the Kinki district of Japan, discusses these debates, shows how reforms have been implemented at the school level, and explores how the balance between individuality and social interdependence is managed in practice. It discusses these complex issues in relation to personal identity within the class and within the school, in relation to gender issues, and in relation to the teaching of specific subjects, including language, literature and mathematics. The book concludes that, although recent reforms have tended to stress individuality and independence, teachers in primary schools continue to balance the encouragement of individuality and self-direction with the development of interdependence and empathy.
"Peter Cave carefully documents the trajectory of educational reform in postwar Japan, highlights the significance of those policies, and connects them to initiatives that have addressed similar objectives. This combination of insights about national policy trends and their implications on classroom practice makes Primary School in Japan a valuable contribution to the research literature. The book should attract a broad readership, including teachers, anthropologists, comparative educators and policy makers." - Christopher Bjork, Vassar College, Poughkeepsie
‘This book makes a very important contribution to international and comparative education … exceptionally well researched and written in a fascinating and interesting manner. … It is recommended reading for a wide audience, including educators at all levels, education policy makers, sociologists, anthropologists, and researchers’ -Priscilla Mary Anne Blinco, Comparative Education Review; 53:1 (Feb 2009), pp. 141-142
‘This book is a pleasure to read thanks to Cave’s clear and eloquent writing style. It is certain to become a required text for all those interested in Japan’s schools’ -Robert Aspinall, Japan Forum; 20:3 (Nov 2008), pp. 431-433
‘This is a meticulously researched work. Cave’s judicious review of the relevant literature, stress on Japan’s "multiplicity of discourses of self", and careful descriptions greatly contribute to our corpus of studies about Japanese education’ - Brian J. McVeigh, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute; (N.S.) 15: 2 (2009), pp. 451-452
‘Throughout the book, Peter Cave skillfully moves between the macro and micro levels … This combination of insights about national policy trends and their implications on classroom practice makes Primary School in Japan a valuable contribution to the research literature. The book should attract a broad readership, including teachers, anthropologists, comparative educators and policy makers’ - Christopher Bjork, Pacific Affairs; 82: 1 (Spring 2009), pp. 141-142
"Despite worldwide interest in Japanese elementary education among both education researchers and classroom teachers, there are just a few book-length scholarly treatments of Japanese elementary education. Peter Cave's Primary School in Japan: Self, Individuality and Learning in Elementary Education is a welcome addition to the bookshelf." - Catherine C. Lewis, Journal of Japanese Studies, 35:2 (2009)
Introduction: Self, Society and Education in Japan 1. Education and Individuality in Japan 2. Groups and Individuals at Primary School 3. Stories of the Self 4. Mathematical Relationships 5. Learning Gender 6. Ceremonial Creations 7. The Next Stage – 2002 and All That. Conclusion
Peter Cave is a lecturer in Japanese Studies at the University of Manchester, and was formerly lecturer in the Department of Japanese Studies at the University of Hong Kong. His main research interest is Japanese education in comparative context.