Education in Japan (Natalie Collar)
In elementary and junior high schools throughout Japan, children are given a special lesson in morals once a week. This subject, called dōtoku in Japanese, has great merit in teaching students to think about how individual actions affect others. The goal of this subject is to develop students’ abilities to see the world in a holistic way, where they recognize differences in values and points of view.
Although moral education is not yet an official subject within the curriculum and students do not receive an official grade for their participation, it will become a graded subject beginning in the 2018 school year. In preparation for this curriculum change, MEXT recently held its second forum in Tokyo to discuss the evaluation of this subject. Roughly 300 instructors and administrators participating in the meeting to speak of their experiences in evaluating students and make suggestions for official grading standards. There was also a panel discussion among three specialists who attended this meeting. They exchanged opinions about how a curriculum ought to be established.
Currently, most teachers face difficulty in uniformly evaluating their students, because moral education is a qualitative class, opposed to most other subjects, which are quantitative in nature. From the experienced teacher’s perspective, there are many legitimate concerns. Some instructors have noticed that if their feedback is too general, students don’t experience personal growth. Other teachers question how important the issue of empathy is in evaluating students, are they trying to see the value of others’ opinions? Another worry teachers have is whether students who are quietly pondering ideas expressed in class may receive a lower grade if the evaluation guidelines are made to reflect those of quantitative subjects. Suggestions of written activities were made in order to give these students a chance to express their ideas and provide content for evaluation.
Although teachers and school administrators all over Japan are taking great steps toward establishing acceptable evaluative guidelines, this is an ongoing, important task that will likely take more time. However, because of the information-filled society of today, there seems to be some doubt concerning the teachers’ abilities to effectively teach the content and assess students appropriately.
- YOMIURI ONLINE「３００人参加しフォーラム、道徳の評価方法議論」, 2016/12/26. http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/national/20161226-OYT1T50072.html
- 産経ニュース「道徳の成績評価 教師の力量こそ問われる」, 2016/07/25. http://www.sankei.com/column/news/160725/clm1607250001-n1.html