7 The Development of Special Education

The history of special education in Japan dates back even to the time of the terakoya during the Edo period when a relatively large number of handicapped children such as the blind, deaf, dumb, crippled and mentally retarded were reported to be enrolled in terakoya. In the early Meiji era two special education institutions of particular interest were Kyoto School for the Blind and Dumb (Kyoto Moain), which began operations in Kamigyo Ward (Ku) of Kyoto in May, 1878, and Tokyo School for the Blind (Kunmoin), which opened two years later at Tsukiji in Tokyo. By the 189Os the idea of special education was generally accepted and the 1890 Elementary School Order set forth brief provisions concerning schools for the blind and dumb (moagakko), but it was especially from the end of the nineteenth century that we find a marked increase in the establishment of these schools.

Be that as it may, practically all of these schools were small impoverished institutions supported largely by donations, and their administrators were constantly confronted with financial difficulties. And thus most special schools were unable to develop a proper curriculum, acquire special equipment, or provide attractive employment conditions to teachers. In 1922 after some fifteen years of petitions from interested groups, in order to alleviate these various problems, the Ministry of Education began drafting an independent order governing schools for the blind and dumb as well as prepared subsidies for such private schools. And on August 28, 1923, the Order concerning Schools for the Blind and Schools for the Deaf and Dumb was promulgated. In that same month, the Ministry of Education issued Regulations concerning Local Public and Private Schools for the Blind and Schools for the Deaf and Dumb. Both the Order and the Regulations came into force on April 1 of the following year. Thereafter schools for the blind (mogakko) and schools for the deaf and dumb (roagakko) became less dependent on charity and within a brief space of time they were able to develop a level of instruction competitive with that of the ordinary elementary schools.

Over the next years many private institutions became local public and other schools were set up by local governments. In 1924 there were 72 (one government, 21 local public and fifty private) schools for the blind and 38 (one government, seventeen local public and twenty private) schools for the deaf and dumb. By 1939, the number changed to 78 (one government, 51 local public and 26 private) schools for the blind and 63 (one government, 47 local public and fifteen private) schools for the deaf and dumb. According to these figures, the total number increased but the number of private institutions decreased.

During the early years of the modern educational system, some schools included special classes where efforts were made to teach mentally retarded children. Then in April, 1907, the Ministry of Education issued instructions (kunrei) on the purpose of the 1907 Normal School Regulations issued at that time, which provided for the introduction of special classes for the handicapped at elementary schools attached to normal schools and encouraged research into the problem. Unfortunately there were few qualified teachers or funds for this project and several classes set up at that time were all abolished within less than ten years thereafter except for a special class for the handicapped at the elementary school attached to Tokyo Higher Normal School. However, after World War 1 the nation developed a keen interest in democratic ideas, including the idea of mutual respect, and thus people began to pay more attention to training for the mentally retarded children. In educational theory and practice there was a shift to more psychological approaches which relied on such devices as IQ tests and scholastic achievement tests. In 1917, a relief division was set up within the Local Affairs Bureau of the Ministry of Home Affairs for the purpose of child welfare and at the same time the government in conjunction with the larger cities adopted a child welfare policy and established consulting centers and a committee on child welfare.

In 1924, the Social Education Division was set up in the General Education Bureau of the Ministry of Education, which began to devote its attention to the promotion and encouragement of education for the handicapped other than the blind, deaf and dumb. Then from 1928, the newly created Physical Education Division, which replaced the former School Hygiene Division, initiated many study groups, conferences and training courses. The development of special classes for mentally retarded children made significant progress during the twenties through the early thirties. The Physical Education Division of the Ministry of Education reported that by 1935 there were 49 schools which included government subsidized special classes for mentally retarded children. Altogether there were 53 of these classes having a total enrollment of 912 children.

A survey was completed by the Osaka City government in 1939 of all school children in that urban area. Following this survey in September, 1940, the City government opened the Shisai Shogakko, the nation's first elementary school devoted exclusively to the education of mentally retarded children.

There are many early examples of crippled children being cared for in orphanages and child care centers but the first specialized agency to care for crippled children was the Kashiwa Gakuen founded by Kashiwakura Matsuzo in Tokyo in May, 1921. By the early thirties a number of similar facilities had been established but there was as yet no clear concept of just what constituted a crippled child. The Komyo School at Azabu in Tokyo, which was set up by the Tokyo City government in November, 1932, was the first miscellaneous school for crippled children to be conducted along the lines of an elementary school. Although no other schools of this type were opened in the prewar days, the establishment of the Komyo School attracted the attention of other localities, and special classes for crippled children were soon being conducted in existing elementary schools. For example, special classes for crippled children were set up in Ibaraki, Mie, Osaka and Kumamoto. Altogether prior to the outbreak of World War 2 there existed fourteen special classes for crippled children, which offered instruction to approximately one hundred children.

Concern for the welfare and education of feeble children grew with the general improvement in the lot of the common man following the Sino-Japanese and the Russo-Japanese Wars. In the years just prior to World War 1 the most pressing children's health problem was tuberculosis. In order to alleviate mainly the menace were set up the welfare facilities for feeble children. Meanwhile social concern increased in regard to the training and care of physically and mentally handicapped children following World War I. The first instance of a permanent welfare facility for feeble children was the Awa branch institute of Tokyo City Training Center (Tokyo-shi Yoikuin) set up in 1910, but the first educational institute for these children was the special school established at the health resort area of Chigasaki in Kanagawa by the corporate White Cross Group in August, 1917, and other special open air schools or classes for feeble children followed. Later, these institutions increased until eventually there were about 25 centers.

The earliest examples on record of special classes for feeble children as set up at elementary schools were those set up at Tsurumaki Elementary School at Ushigome in Tokyo in the spring of 1926, and at Kojimachi Elementary School in Tokyo in 1927. Each year thereafter the number of such special classes increased as they were set up in elementary schools in large cities such as Tokyo, Osaka, Kobe, Okayama and Fukuoka. By 1927 there were eighteen schools and 27 special classes in operation throughout the country. The number of special classes increased to 87 by 1932 and to 146 by 1934 accommodating a total of 8,028 children.

In accordance with the instructions of October, 1929, the Ministry of Education urged that school nurses be assigned to kindergartens and elementary schools, and beginning in 1931 training courses for the personnel of facilities for feeble children were held annually.


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((C)COPYRIGHT Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology)

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