Political discourse and education reforms concerning “equality of educational opportunity” in Japan

On Thursday 25th February 2016, Professor Akito Okada, Institute of Global Studies, Graduate School, Tokyo University of Foreign Studies. delivered the first in a series of lectures delivered by an alumnus of the Department and jointly convened by the Oxford Education Society and a Departmental Research Group, in this case the Centre for Comparative and International Education (CIE).

The lecture, held at 15 Norham Gardens, was introduced by Dr David Johnson, convener of the CIE Centre, and Dr Roger Higton, representing the OES Committee.

This event came about as a result of a contact made by Steven S.K. Kwok, OES Country Champion in Hong Kong. Akito, who has been in the UK as a visiting fellow at University College London, kindly offered to give the lecture before his return to Japan in March. An abstract was agreed within the Department as being suitable for a joint presentation and so arrangements were made by the OES committee for its organisation. The lecture was attended by students and academic staff from the Department and the Institute of Japanese Studies as well as OES members. In the Common Room afterwards, Professor Okada performed a brief extract of a Noh dance to thank the OES and audience members for their attendance and attention to his talk.

It is hoped to arrange further collaborations between Departmental research groups and alumni in the future.

This presentation aims to throw light on the evolution and historical transformation of the concept of equality of opportunity as applied to educational policies in Japan from the end of World War II to the present day. It analyses the Central Council for Education’s (CCE: Chūō kyōiku shingikai) reform proposals in recent years, and places them in the context of developing the concept of equality of educational opportunity in the years since 1945, when the post-war education system was established in Japan.

More specifically it addresses the following questions: What kinds of equality of educational opportunity have the central administrative bodies (Ministry of Education or the CCE), the political parties (mainly Liberal Democratic Party) and teachers aimed to achieve since the war? How have they applied equality of opportunity to educational policies? What kinds of criteria are used by them to measure equality of educational opportunity?

This presentation is also to expand on the existing literature on educational policies in contemporary Japan by examining how the current educational reform efforts have affected equality of educational opportunity among children from different family backgrounds.

Dr Akito Okada is an alumnus of the Department of Education having completed his DPhil in Comparative and International Education in 1998 under the supervision of Professor Roger Goodman and Professor David Phillips. Akito is currently Professor at the Institute of Global Studies, Graduate School, Tokyo University of Foreign Studies and a visiting fellow at University College London from October 2015 to March 2016.

He is central coordinator for the international students’ education program (ISEP TUFS), and responsible for the delivery of lectures from the doctoral to undergraduate and research students.

His research interests include comparative and international education, intercultural communication, education reform and policy, international student education and education for international understanding. He is the author of “Education Policy and Equal Opportunity in Japan”.