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(2)Education for Commoners

In the feudal society commoners were inculcated with those virtues appropriate to members of their class and were trained in those skills needed in everyday life as befitted their station. Of considerable importance for commoners was the training through apprenticeships (for both sexes) as well as daily activity groups such as the youth activity groups (wakamonogumi). Centers of popular education called kyoyujo developed for the lower classes, and among these the shingakukosha as well as the hotokusha of Ninomiya Sontoku (1787-1856) played especially important roles. However, for formal education in reading and writing, the commoners depended on the terakoya.

The origin of the terakoya goes back to the end of the medieval period; and they may be regarded as having developed from the educational facilities founded at Buddhist temples. It was from the middle of the Edo period that the number of these schools began to increase and by the end of that period they were quite common in the large cities of Edo and Osaka as well as in many smaller towns. Terakoya could be found even in the rural villages of the remote coastal and mountain regions and numbered in the tens of thousands. Due to the many terakoya, after the Education System Order (Gakusei) was proclaimed in 1872, it was possible within a very brief period to open elementary schools throughout the country.

Instructors at the terakoya were known as shisho or tenarai shisho and many of them were administrators as well as teachers. Taking the nation as a whole, the majority of these teachers were commoners, but many samurai and Buddhist clergy were also engaged in these schools, and a few terakoya were administered by Shinto priests and medical doctors.

The terakoya differed from the fief schools in that the level of education received in the latter was of a much higher caliber, whereas the former concerned themselves with practical matters and elementary education important to the daily life of the common people. The bulk of instruction in the terakoya was in reading and writing. While calculation with the abacus was very important for those in the commercial class, this was taught mainly in the homes though it was sometimes taught at specialized abacus schools. However, by the end of the Edo period terakoya offering abacus calculation along with reading and writing increased in number. In this way terakoya came to resemble modern elementary schools.

The curriculum began with calligraphy which the pupils practiced by imitating examples provided by the instructor. These model examples were called tehon. Upon completion of the initial stages of study, the pupil next graduated to textbooks known as copybooks (oraimono or oraihon) which had been compiled by Japanese men of letters.

The copybooks date back to the Heian period (794-1192) and were chiefly used during the Middle Ages for purposes of samurai education. In the early period they were composed in the Chinese classical epistolary style, but gradually some came to be written in the so-called kana-majiri form of writing in order to render them more accessible to the common people (Kana-majiri is a form of writing in which Chinese ideographs are used in combination with the native Japanese syllabaries.).

Most copybooks of the Edo period contained the famous treatise on household procepts (teikin orai), which had been handed down from the Middle Ages. Many also included suggestions for daily conversation. Thus the main content of the material used in the terakoya tended to fulfill a direct need in the daily lives of the people. The second most common copybooks focused on geography. This came about as the scope of the life of the common man broadened due to the growth of and numbered in the tens of thousands. Due to the many terakoya, after the Education System Order (Gakusei) was proclaimed in 1872, it was possible within a very brief period to open elementary schools throughout the country.

Instructors at the terakoya were known as shisho or tenarai shisho and many of them were administrators as well as teachers. Taking the nation as a whole, the majority of these teachers were commoners, but many samurai and Buddhist clergy were also engaged in these schools, and a few terakoya were administered by Shinto priests and medical doctors.

The terakoya differed from the fief schools in that the level of education received in the latter was of a much higher caliber, whereas the former concerned themselves with practical matters and elementary education important to the daily life of the common people. The bulk of instruction in the terakoya was in reading and writing. While calculation with the abacus was very important for those in the commercial class, this was taught mainly in the homes though it was sometimes taught at specialized abacus schools. However, by the end of the Edo period terakoya offering abacus calculation along with reading and writing increased in number. In this way terakoya came to resemble modern elementary schools.

The curriculum began with calligraphy which the pupils practiced by imitating examples provided by the instructor. These model examples were called tehon. Upon completion of the initial stages of study, the pupil next graduated to textbooks known as copybooks (oraimono or oraihon) which had been compiled by Japanese men of letters.

The copybooks date back to the Heian period (794-1192) and were chiefly used during the Middle Ages for purposes of samurai education. In the early period they were composed in the Chinese classical epistolary style, but gradually some came to be written in the so-called kana-majiri form of writing in order to render them more accessible to the common people (Kana-majiri is a form of writing in which Chinese ideographs are used in combination with the native Japanese syllabaries.).

Most copybooks of the Edo period contained the famous treatise on household procepts (teikin orai), which had been handed down from the Middle Ages. Many also included suggestions for daily conversation. Thus the main content of the material used in the terakoya tended to fulfill a direct need in the daily lives of the people. The second most common copybooks focused on geography. This came about as the scope of the life of the common man broadened due to the growth of traffic and the development of economic activity during the Edo period. Next in popularity were textbooks concerned with commercial pursuits such as the shobai orai and the hyakusho orai, a kind of farmer's almanac. Another type of copybooks consisted of a collection of lessons on moral precepts for the common man.

Use of the abacus and calligraphy occupied an important position in the economic life of the tradesmen of the fumes. For this purpose a textbook was compiled called the Jingoki. By the end of the Edo period, the ability to calculate with the abacus became widespread, and thus when arithmetic was introduced from the West a strong foundation was already in existence.

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