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Culture and Education

Probing the "6-3-3 system"
- Reformation is inevitable -

Tadahiko Abiko
Professor, Faculty of Education and Integrated Arts and Science Waseda University

On the progress of elementary and junior high school unified education

A large headline at the top of the first page of the January 19th evening edition of The Asahi Shimbun reported, "Yokohama city to start unified elementary and junior high school education." The accompanying article stated that in the 2012 fiscal year Yokohama city will begin unified education for all of its 491 elementary and junior high schools, intensifying the cooperation between all of these schools. To say the very least the 6-3 system does not match the present rate of growth and development of the majority of children. Adolescence, both physically and psychologically, now begins about 2 years earlier than it did 50 years ago, in the fifth grade. As a supporter of educational reform, I am delighted at this movement toward an educational system articulation other than that used at present, but I am not necessarily completely happy with it.

This movement is based on the regulations regarding the goals for compulsory education in a nine year period, stipulated in the newly written Article 21 of the new School Education Law. On the one hand, this is welcome news because the new regulations will be stepping stones toward reformation of the education system, but on the other hand, these regulations do not allow any other educational system concept, they control other movements, and they narrow the breadth of the selection of schools by students' parents and guardians. The Yokohama City Board of Education should actually structure its elementary and junior high school unified education in a way that parents and guardians can choose from various kinds of school systems, including the 6-3 system, in the school districts in Yokohama city. Measures should be taken so that the residents of each school district can choose the most suitable articulation in the area for their children and can select from among such choices as a 6-3 system, 4-3-2 system, 5-4 system, 3-4-2 system or 4-5 system.

On the relationship with junior high school and high school unified education

At first glance, when elementary and junior high school unified education is combined with the previous "junior high school and high school unified education," this new direction appears to create a system of "elementary, junior high school, and high school unified education," but in fact it is not simple. This is because "elementary and junior high school unified education" is based on "compulsory education", but "junior high school and high school unified education" is based on the principles of "secondary education," and so the principles of "elementary and junior high school unified education" are not the same as the principles of "secondary education." In other words, on one hand, "junior high school" is handled from the viewpoint of its being the "upper part of compulsory education" while on the other hand "junior high school" is also handled from a different viewpoint as being the "lower part of secondary education," making it impossible to set up an "elementary, junior high school, and high school unified education" system.

Then what should we do? If we want to officially set up a unified elementary, junior high school and high school education system, we must take the viewpoint that "compulsory education" is carried out from "elementary education to the lower part of secondary education." This viewpoint lags somewhat behind the current "compulsory education," but embodies the previous basic concept and therefore, it is desirable. This is one of the most urgently important matters to be studied, and it must be determined and adjusted by the Central Council for Education as soon as possible.

On the relationship with high school-university connection testing

Recently, the "study of high school-university connection testing" was mentioned in one of the reports by the Central Council for Education concerning bachelor's course education in universities. They propose setting up an achievement test called the "high school-university connection test" as a substitute for ordinary entrance examinations for high school students wishing to enter university. Due to the recent diversification of university entrance examinations and admission systems, many students have been entering universities through various recommendations, and large numbers of these students do not have the basic academic attainments needed for university education.

The National Association of High School Principals is said to be positively considering moving in the direction of this new test mainly because it will minimize confusion in high school education. Using the "high school-university connection test" is a good idea from the viewpoint of making the connection between high school and university smoother in the area of academic attainment, but it is necessary to study whether or not the new test should be similar to the high school diploma equivalency test. The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology has already started work on this. An overall review of the ideal way to connect high school and university is urgently needed.

On revision of the 6-3-3 school system

In addition to the above, the Liberal-Democratic Party is seriously considering developing compulsory education at the kindergarten level. If this is done, everyone will want to have a hand in connecting the gaps between the major school divisions: kindergarten-elementary school-junior high school-high school-university. I feel that we have reached a point where we should reconsider the existing 6-3-3 school system. The single-track type school system should be maintained, but, based on the advancement of the decentralization of authority, school articulations can become more diversified.

Recently some regional boards of education have been taking forcible measures for schools and for student's parents and guardians, as the Ministry of Education did in the past. Instead of this system, local residents and guardians in turn should choose the schools for selection and create their own school articulations. This is the ideal of decentralization. Of course, the national government must maintain its common assurance of the quality of education throughout Japan, but educational activities should be provided by a greater variety of individual schools.

Quite a long time has passed since the elementary school grade 1 problem, the first year of junior high school gap problem, and the high school-university connection problem, each attracted public interest, and none of these problems can be ignored any longer. I can say that we are now at the stage where system reformation cannot be avoided.

Tadahiko Abiko
Professor, Faculty of Education and Integrated Arts and Sciences Waseda University

Professor Abiko graduated from the School of Education, at the The University of Tokyo. After leaving the Graduate School of Education, he worked for Osaka University, Aichi University of Education, and Nagoya University. During that period, he held various posts including principal of the junior high school and high school attached to Nagoya University, and dean of the Graduate School of Education and Human Development and the Faculty of Education. Professor Abiko specializes in educational methods and educational assessment, mainly Curriculum Studies and Curriculum Theory (mostly secondary). He has held various posts as a member of third, fourth and fifth term Central Council for Education. Professor Abiko is the Executive Dirctor of The Japanese Society for Curriculum Studies, Director of the National Association for the Study of Educational Methods, and Director of the Japan Society for Educational Technology. He is a Professor Emeritus at Nagoya University and holds a Ph.D. in Education.

Major publications
"New views of academic attainment and basic academic attainment" Meijitoshosuppan 1996
"Uniqueness of junior high school curriculum and its principles of development" Meijitoshosuppan 1997
"Conversion of school knowledge - How to carry out curriculum development?-" (author & editor) Gyosei 1998
" Curriculum organization theory - What is learned in school?-" The Society for the Promotion of the University of the Air 2002
"School reformation carried out by curriculum development" Meijitoshosuppan 2003
"Revised edition: Curriculum Organization Theory - What is learned in school?-" The Society for the Promotion of the University of the Air 2006
"Concepts and practices of teaching to develop ability to make practical use of knowledge" Toshobunkasha 2008
"Yardsticks of Growth" (joint translator) Toshobunkasha 2008
"Junior high school New curriculum management that increases school power" (joint author and editor) Meijitoshosuppan 2008

et cetera