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Part 3 Approaches to Enhancing Educational Functions of Families
In an environment in which comments were being made concerning the downturn in the educational functions of families, the “Report for Home Education Support: Facilitation of Cooperation between the Government and Parenting Support Organizations” (a report by the Study Research Committee for Home Education Support on Cooperation between the Government and Parenting Support Organizations) was released in March 2004. This report identified contemporary issues in supporting home education, pointed out the need for cooperation between the government and parenting support organizations such as parenting circles and parenting networks,(notes) and recommended strategies for cooperation. Taking this report into consideration, MEXT has sought to enhance cooperation between the government and parenting support organizations while working to improve support for home education by providing learning opportunities and information on home education.
In addition, MEXT will lead a private-sector led national movement entitled “Early to Bed, Early to Rise, and Don’t Forget Your Breakfast” that aims to improve children’s lifestyle rhythm with the cooperation of PTA groups and other organizations in order to respond to the issue of a breakdown in basic lifestyle habits among children, which has been pointed to as one factor in the downturn in the academic and physical abilities of children today.
1.Supporting Learning by Each and Every Parent
(1) Providing Learning Opportunities for Home Education
To improve the educational functions of families, parents need to have access to places where they can learn about and gain experience in being a parent. Such occasions promote understanding about parenting and provide opportunities for parents to reflect on their own parenting. Therefore MEXT has, under its General Program to Promote Home Education Support (hereinafter, “General Program”) launched in FY2004, entrusted several tasks to Community Home Education Promotion Councils staffed by representatives of government and parenting support organizations so as to provide learning opportunities on occasions in which many parents participate.
More specifically, MEXT has been holding, according to different stages of child development, child-rearing courses that utilize courses at health centers in which both parents and pregnant mothers participate, and ones that utilize the opportunity provided by parents visiting the health center for health examinations for infants/newborns, preschool-aged children, and children about to enter elementary school. In addition, given the outbreak of serious incidents involving pubescent children, MEXT holds child-rearing lectures for parents with pubescent children. It also advances efforts that target lower and upper secondary school students – the parents of tomorrow – to deepen their understanding of parenting from an early age, providing them with opportunities to interact with infants/newborns, children, and parents raising children.
(2) Provision of Information About Home Education
Two booklets were published starting in FY1998 Home Education Handbook and Home Education Notebook in order to provide momentum for parents to reflect on their views on home life and have confidence in parenting. From FY2003, the books were revised into three volumes so as to respond better to children's developmental stages: Doki Doki Parenting (for parents of infants/newborns), Waku Waku Parenting (for parents of lower elementary school students), and Iki Iki Parenting (for parents of upper elementary school to lower secondary school students). In addition, their content was also expanded to cover child abuse, the use of cell phones and personal computers, and the safety and health of children. The Handbooks are given out free of charge to parents when they are issued maternity passbooks or through elementary schools to offer parents a collection of hints on day-to-day parenting. The Handbooks are also used in a variety of lectures and workshops.
A variety of home education videos that discuss parenting from pregnancy through infancy all the way to puberty have been prepared, including “A Rousing Cheer from the Heart: Early Adolescence, a Wonderful Time for Both Parent and Child” that covers the characteristics of children going through puberty and “Give It Your All, Dad! A Documentary on Fathers’ Parenting Struggles,” that looks at the participation of fathers in home education. These videos are utilized as learning materials in community halls and health centers around the country and are lent out for PTA meetings and parenting circle learning sessions.
(3) Development of Support Methods for Using IT in Home Education
With the aim of providing precise support for home education to as many parents as possible, efforts have been instigated since FY2005 for advanced means of support for home education using IT terminals such as mobile phones or personal computers, in order that parents with little time to learn about parenting and parents who are prone to become isolated even when worrying and uneasy about parenting can learn, gain advice and acquire information pertinent to parenting at their own leisure and in any location.
Specifically, the efforts include consultations on parenting using mobile phones and personal computers, provision of information on parenting through such means as mail magazines, and provision of learning opportunities on parenting using personal computers, which enable learning in the home. MEXT intends to compile the results of that efforts that support home education using IT and disseminate them nationwide.
2.Supporting Home Education by the Regional Communities and the Whole Society
To improve the educational functions of families, an environment is required in which regional communities and the whole society support home education. From FY2000 to FY2003 MEXT designated parenting supporters nationwide who were trained to provide a consultation service and in-depth advice on parenting and child discipline for free. Based on such efforts, in the course of implementing the General Program, MEXT has from FY2004 been training parenting supporter leaders who are active over wider areas, encouraging mutual cooperation between parenting supporters, and providing opportunities for information exchange in order to further enhance counseling systems within communities. In FY2004, approximately 1,000 leaders were trained.
Furthermore, since FY2005, parenting supporter leaders have started to pay visits to families with worries over parenting issues and offer support for education in the home as part of their activities, with the collaboration and cooperation of the child welfare and mother and child health divisions of the local governments. This program is known as the on-demand home education support program. In specific terms, utilizing the opportunity of mother and child health-related activities including home visits by public health workers to see new babies, parenting support leaders have been able to gain access to families experiencing some sort of trouble and provide parents with consultations and information on parenting circles and parenting lectures in the community.
Moreover, to facilitate participation of fathers in home education, MEXT has organized gatherings to help fathers reconsider their participation in home education and symposiums on community activities designed to promote father-child interaction and the participation of fathers in home education.
In addition, since FY2004 MEXT has been holding a National Home Education Forum at which home education, the educational functions of communities for child-rearing, and the role to be played by businesses are considered through keynote addresses and panel discussions. This National Forum aims to create awareness of the importance of home education among each and every person in the country, including those not directly involved in parenting, and nurture the momentum of the society as a whole to support parents in raising children.
Parenting networks are groups that bring together parents currently raising children, experienced parents who have finished raising children, leaders of parenting circles, and experts on parenting for the purpose of providing broad-ranged support to parents raising children; these networks not only link parents raising children with parenting circles but they also offer a wide variety of learning/educational opportunities such as daycare support, parenting counseling, information and exchanges (as described in the “Report for Home Education Support: Facilitation of Cooperation between the Government and Parenting Support Organizations”).
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