Japanese Education and Society in Transition
A Sociology of Education Reforms, Opportunities, and Mass Education
Routledge – 2014 – 224 pages
Japanese education drew great attention and praise from overseas observers in the final decades of the 20th century: Japan was seen as destined to dominate the world economy or even as a threat to the West and its education system appeared to be one of the keys to its manifest economic success. During this time a large number of English language works on Japanese education were published.
Despite the successful image of education outside the country, Japanese educators, policy makers, and media had long seen its own education system as problematic, specifically lacking in flexibility and respect for individuality. Japan thus embarked on a three-decade long period of reform trial and error: attempting to change in the face of increasingly social and economic problems such as expanding inequality and declining opportunities for youth employment. Japan’s education reforms over these ‘lost decades’ can therefore provide an illuminating test case: reflecting what challenges Japanese education faced, how reforms attempted to solve its problems, and what results (including unintended ones) they produced.
Given that there is only a very limited number of books published in English to trace the recent changes in Japanese education and the global economic crisis of 2008 has threatened a ‘lost decade’ for youth globally, this book is timely and important. Its detailed quantitative and qualitative analyses of the continuous series of trials and errors in Japanese education reforms during the ‘lost decades’ is a call for a wider exploration of the goals of education reform in our contemporary, interconnected global age.
Takehiko Kariya’s Japanese Education and Society in Transition is a significant contribution to knowledge in the field of Japanese social and educational studies. The author provides a uniquely relevant, sociological analyses of education and social stratification in contemporary Japan, making available to the English-reader a wealth of detail concerning this critical area of Japanese education and society. -- Akito Okada, Tokyo University of Foreign Studies
Introduction 1. Education Reforms under Globalization 2. Egalitarianism in Japanese Education 3. Resource Distribution in Compulsory Education and Reform Effects 4. Incentive Divide Emerging From Overly Idealistic Education Reforms 5. From Credential Society to "Learning Capital" Society 6. Expanding Opportunities for University and Social Inequality 7. Credential Inflation and ‘Japanized’ Consequences of University education Conclusion
Takehiko Kariya is Professor in the Sociology of Japanese Society, Nissan Institute of Japanese Studies and Department of Sociology; Faculty Fellow of St. Antony’s College; and Director of Graduate Studies for the master's programmes in Modern Japanese Studies, University of Oxford. He was a professor of sociology of education at the Graduate School of Education, University of Tokyo, for two decades.