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Educational Reform in Japan in the 1990s: 'individuality' and other uncertainties

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Despite overseas' observers praise for Japanese education over the last 20 years, within Japan the school system has become the focus of increasing discontent because of its supposed rigidity, uniformity, and exam-centredness. This discontent has given impetus to a series of educational reform proposals and policy measures during the late 1980s and 1990s. These reforms have gone under the slogan of 'stress on individuality' (kosei jūshi), and are purportedly aimed at encouraging creativity by introducing more freedom and choice into the education system. However, critics have alleged that the emphasis on 'individuality' masks a neo liberal agenda driven by business demands. This article analyses the reform measures and the surrounding debate. It concludes that Japan's Ministry of Education remains cautious in its approach to reform. The main reform measures to date have favoured a progressive rather than a neoliberal direction.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: May 1, 2001

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