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Interesting Lectures and Seminars

Social Education Seminar ID

Thinking about child poverty and education

Misuzu Nakajima
4th year student at the School of Education

On hearing the words “child poverty,” many people may think that it is something completely unrelated to Japan. Poverty in Japan is not “absolute poverty” where people barely have food, shelter and clothing, but “relative poverty,” which indicates people living on less than half the national average income. According to a 2010 report from the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, the relative poverty rate for children in Japan stood at 15.7% in 2009, meaning that about one in six children were living in poverty. Japan’s relative poverty rate is rising behind a backdrop of issues such as low income of their parents and increasing number of part-time workers.

What surprises me is that public assistance does not play a sufficient role as a safety net against poverty, leading to worsening child-rearing environment. In Japan, because most educational fees are burdened by households, the home and economic situations have led to a gap in academic ability. Furthermore, it remains unchanged that the higher education institutions that one enters affect their employment situation and people cannot break free from the poverty chain.

In facing these issues, our seminar not only read literature and exchanged opinions, but also invited a representative from an NPO actually tackling the education gap as a guest to talk in our lesson. From a perspective of eliminating the education gap, we listened to a detailed talk on how Japan should raise the overall level of its academic ability. This lesson really deepened our thoughts.

Professor Atsuko Kobayashi teaches us daily the importance of the concept of “going out and doing things ourselves,” where we actually see something, listen to people and think about answers. Because this is a lesson where students actively participate through group work, debates and presentations, I get a true feeling of getting into the habit of investigating and thinking about a theme by myself and acquiring skills to deliver information.

Smiling Professor Kobayashi (center) with the seminar students
Nakajima is 3rd from the right in the 2nd row.