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Home > White Paper > FY2005 White Paper on Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology > Chapter2 Part1 Current Status and Issues of Educational Functions of Communities and Families


Chapter 2 :
ENHANCING EDUCATIONAL FUNCTIONS OF COMMUNITIES AND FAMILIES

Main Points of Chapter 2

As a backdrop to repeated aberrant offenses being committed by juveniles, and various other issues including bullying and non-attendance at school in recent years, it has been pointed out that there has been a “downturn in educational functions” of communities and families.

Given this current situation, the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) is implementing a variety of measures designed to enhance the educational functions of communities and families. Moreover, through cooperation among schools, communities, and families, measures are being taken to create a safety management structure at schools that encompass school routes, as well as measures to raise children in a sound and healthy manner.

This Chapter explains the current status and the issues of the educational functions of communities and families, introducing through specific case studies the various measures that are being undertaken to enhance such educational functions.

Part 1 Current Status and Issues of Educational Functions of Communities and Families

At the beginning of the 21st century the world is truly becoming a “knowledge-based society.” Japan, which lacks natural resources of its own, must recognize anew that human resources are what fundamentally constitute its resources and base its actions on the principle that children are “treasures of society and the nation” while recognizing that the protection and nurturing of robust human resources that possess a richness of spirit capable of leading the way to a new era is an important task for society as a whole including schools, communities, and families.

However, as detailed in Chapter 1, taking a look at the current situation of education in Japan, it becomes apparent that confidence in the system is fading and that education faces significant challenges. In addition to problems such as bullying and non-attendance at school, aberrant crimes by juveniles are taking place frequently outside school in a manner that was until now inconceivable. Moreover, a number of issues including child abuse is being witnessed in the family environment, which until now has been the starting point for education.

In the background to this are changes in the economy and society including the declining birth rate and trend toward nuclear families, urbanization, and the shift to an information society, coupled with the attenuation of human relations and links within the community, which are pointed out to have caused a downturn in the “educational functions” of communities and families. In addition, other issues concerning children have been raised, including their non-acquisition of basic lifestyle-related habits, a lack of hands-on experiences and direct interaction with nature as well as a disinclination to read, lower academic and physical ability, and poor communication skills, which are combined with the downturn in children's motivation to learn.

Japanese society is now required to directly face these worrisome situations that are related to social issues and to children's well-being, and measures to resolve these issues need to be further promoted in society as a whole, including schools, communities, and families.

Part 1 provides an explanation of the current status of and the issues facing educational functions of communities and families. Part 2 and thereafter introduces various efforts being made by communities and families, sometimes in cooperation with schools, to ensure a sound upbringing for children, including specific case studies.

1.Current Status and Issues of Educational Functions of Communities

As stated in the Main Points, as a backdrop to repeated aberrant offenses being committed by juveniles, and various other issues including bullying and non-attendance at school in recent years, it has been pointed out that there has been a “downturn in educational functions of communities.”

MEXT implemented the Survey on Educational Functions of Communities in FY2005, according to which, when asked about “educational functions of communities,” 55.6% of parents or guardians involved in the upbringing of children responded that compared to their own childhood such functions had “deteriorated from previously.” This demonstrates the high degree of awareness that exists concerning the downturn in educational functions of communities (Figure 2-1).

Figure 2-1 What do you think of the status of “educational functions of communities” in comparison to those during your own childhood?

Changes in the economy and society, as well as the attenuation of human relations and links within the community are thought to be part of the causes for the downturn in educational functions of communities. The same survey resulted in the following points being cited most often as factors in the downturn (Figure 2-2):

  (1) Permeation of individualism (Unappreciative of involvement of strangers)
(2) Communities are no longer safe, leading to increasing resistance to children interacting with strangers
(3) Lack of opportunities to deepen amicable relations with neighbors
(4) Fewer feelings of affinity with locality of residence

Figure 2-2 Causes of the downturn in “educational functions of communities”

With regard to the status of the interaction parents or guardians have with the community, the survey showed that compared to interactions with people acquainted through their children's school, jyuku (tutoring school), or cultural activities, relatively few parents or guardians engage in interaction with their neighbors in the community (Figure 2-3). In addition, with regard to the locations in which children may be found after school and on weekends, the survey showed that most children spend these times at their own or a friend's homes, with only a small proportion venturing outside, which suggests that children's lifestyle and activities are becoming less visible from the perspective of the community (Figure 2-4).

On the other hand, in response to the question about what efforts should be made in the community in order to ensure that children are brought up in a sound and healthy manner in the community, the following responses were the most frequent (Figure 2-5):

  (1) Activities to ensure the safe of children within the community
(2) Promotion of interaction between people with different ideas and people of different ages
(3) Increase opportunities to learn about and experience history, culture, and the natural environment of the community
(4) Enhance education that brings out children’s individuality through sports and cultural activities, etc.

Based on such circumstances, from now on it will be important for society as a whole to raise children through cooperation among schools, communities, and families. To this end, various learning opportunities can be provided through interaction between children of different ages and people in the community of different generations to arouse independence, creativity, and sociality in children, as well as direct, hands-on experiences to enrich their emotions. It is now required that while ensuring children's safety, an environment be created in which adults, NPOs, and private-sector companies in the community can combine their efforts in nurturing children.

Figure 2-3 Status of interaction by parents or guardians

Figure 2-4 Places children spend time with other children on weekdays and weekends

Figure 2-5 Things the community should do to enhance educational functions of communities

2.Current Status of Education in the Home and Issues for the Support of Such Function

(1) Current Status of Education in the Home
Education in the home is the starting point for all education, and it plays an important role in equipping children with basic lifestyle habits and abilities, enriching their emotions, nurturing basic morals such as compassion for other people and the ability to differentiate between right and wrong, independence of mind and self-control, and social manners.

However, changes in the fabric of society surrounding the home and family in recent years, including urbanization, the trend toward nuclear families, declining birth rate, and the attenuation of links within the community, have been pointed to as factors that have led to a downturn in educational functions of the family (Figure 2-6).

Figure 2-6 Downturn in educational functions of the family

1) Changes in communities and families
In the past, most families were comprised of three-generation households, and children came into contact with many adults besides their parents. These people collectively played a role in home education. Links to people in the community were closer than they are now and people watched over and raised children as “children of the community.” In this way, a structure and environment were in place that supported child rearing, with children having the opportunity to come into contact with children of different ages in the community and older children having the opportunity to take care of younger ones.

However, as a result of urbanization, the trend toward nuclear families, and the attenuation of links within the community, communities today often experience the situation in which there are no longer people in the vicinity who can be asked to help with or consult about child rearing.

In addition, with the advent of the declining birthrate, many of the younger generation grow into adulthood having had few opportunities to come into direct contact with babies and children in their actual day-to-day life, nor to watch over younger brothers or sisters. For this reason, there is an increasing number of parents who feel unsure about raising children, due to lack of awareness about the realities of what children are and how to interact with children as a parent.

2) Diverse awareness and issues among people
There is great diversity in people's lifestyles and awareness, and likewise the various issues that are faced are not uniform. For example, working parents worry that they do not spend sufficient time in child rearing, whereas full-time housewives tend to worry about becoming isolated in their daily child-rearing routine. In addition, although there are parents who effectively make use of support from people around them in child rearing, there are also those parents who are so engrossed in child rearing activities on their own that they go beyond their limits, and furthermore, there are also parents who show no interest in child rearing. In addition, there are also parents who are balancing work and child rearing together due to divorce or other reasons, and such people require more support from those around them.

The problem of child abuse is also becoming more serious. At consultation offices for children, the number of cases of child abuse handled in FY2004 stood at approximately 33,000, representing an approximate 30-fold increase in such cases from FY1991 (Figure 2-7). Moreover, in recent years, children have been involved in accidents or other incidents, of which not a small number of children have suffered damage. Another important challenge is therefore to ensure the safety of children.

Figure 2-7 Number of child abuse cases dealt with by consultation offices for children

(2) Issues for the Support of Education in the Home
Given the current situation detailed above concerning education in the home, the following issues can be identified in enhancing support for education in the home.

1) Support for education in the home from the community and society as a whole
The downturn in educational functions of families today is not merely a problem for individual parents. As indicated above, given the significant changes in the community and society surrounding parents and children, the environment that supported learning and nurturing for children and parents alike in the community and society as a whole has been disintegrating. In addition, it must also be noted that other factors exist, such as the increasing tendency to prioritize jobs and work, and an employment environment that makes it difficult to relieve mental pressure and time constraints for child rearing.

Accordingly, not only is it necessary to provide opportunities for individual parents to learn and consult about child rearing, it is also necessary to create a better environment and the momentum toward support by society as a whole, including communities and private-sector companies.

It has been pointed out that children today are exhibiting a breakdown in even the most basic of lifestyle habits that are accepted as natural and vital for a child’s upbringing and growth, namely, exercise, nutritious food, and sufficient sleep. For example, in the MEXT Survey on Compulsory Education (FY2005) it was found that approximately 14 % of elementary school students go without breakfast on some days, and that the figure for lower secondary school students is 21 % (Figure 2-8).

It has been pointed out that this breakdown in basic lifestyle habits brings about a downturn in the desire to learn and physical fitness, in addition to which it also plays a part in delinquency. Therefore, an important issue is how to nurture these basic lifestyle habits and the proper rhythm of everyday life (See Figure 2-9 for Relationship between Eating Breakfast and Marks in Written Tests).

2) Support aimed at all parents for education in the home
To date, projects to support education in the home have largely been ones in which parents seeking support have gathered at citizens’ public halls where lectures and programs have been established to provide learning opportunities about parenting. As a result, the participants in such programs were by and large parents with an interest in child rearing and who were seeking to learn for themselves. It was found to be difficult sometimes to extend this kind of program to support for other types of parents, for example, those who tend to be isolated and those who have little time to learn. In addition, another important issue is to promote the participation of fathers in education in the home. In recent years, a phenomenon has spread nationwide in which groups of fathers gather together to engage in fathers’ meetings where they consider modality of education in the home and come up with activities with a view to interacting with their children.

From now it will be necessary to move from “support aimed at parents seeking to learn” to “support aimed at all parents” when providing support for education in the home, and to actively promote measures that will “resonate in every home and catch the heart,” bearing in mind the need to appeal to parents to whom it has been difficult to reach to date.

To this end, what is now required is not merely a reliance on support initiated by government or administrative bodies, but the creation of an environment in which opportunities for learning and consultation can be provided without the need to make time to attend the citizens’ public hall and other specific locations at a predetermined time. Such an environment could be created through cooperation with child rearing support groups composed of parents engaged in child rearing such as parenting circles, and also through the utilization of mobile telephones, personal computers, and other information technology (IT) methods.

Figure 2-8 Proportion of children who do not eat breakfast

Figure 2-9 Relationship between eating breakfast and marks in written exams

3.Deliberations in the Subdivision on Lifelong Learning of the Central Council for Education

Given the concerns raised over the downturn in the educational functions of communities and families as detailed above, in June 2005, the Minister of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology instructed the Central Council for Education to examine “promotional measures for lifelong learning in a new era.” One of the instructions from the Minister was to engage in concrete deliberation and examination on policy to create communities in which local residents pool their resources and improve the environment for child rearing in families and the local community. Given these instructions, in July the Subdivision on Lifelong Learning of the Central Council for Education established the Special Committee on Improving the Educational Functions of Communities and Families, where deliberations are being advanced.

In recent years, efforts have been seen in every region of Japan to create new communities, but from now it will be necessary to enhance cooperation among schools, communities, and families, and to combine the capabilities of adults, NPOs, and private-sector companies in the community in promoting the creation of a child rearing environment as well as the vitalization of communities. For this purpose, in order to formulate policies that will foster public spirit for each local resident to participate in and contribute to the creation of the community voluntarily to fruition in community building, as well as policies that seek to utilize the power of the community in improving the child rearing environment, consideration is being given from a broad perspective to concrete policies that have been gleaned from across nation, based on the experiences of and situation surrounding local governments which have taken proactive measures in this field.

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