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The History of Modern Japanese Education

The History of Modern Japanese Education: Constructing the National School System, 1872-1890

Copyright Date: 2009
Published by: Rutgers University Press
Pages: 434
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  • Book Info
    The History of Modern Japanese Education
    Book Description:

    The History of Modern Japanese Education is the first account in English of the construction of a national school system in Japan, as outlined in the 1872 document, the Gakusei. Divided into three parts tracing decades of change, the book begins by exploring the feudal background for the Gakusei during the Tokugawa era which produced the initial leaders of modern Japan. Next, Benjamin Duke traces the Ministry of Education's investigations of the 1870s to determine the best western model for Japan, including the decision to adopt American teaching methods. He then goes on to cover the eventual "reverse course" sparked by the Imperial Household protest that the western model overshadowed cherished Japanese traditions. Ultimately, the 1890 Imperial Rescript on Education integrated Confucian teachings of loyalty and filial piety with Imperial ideology, laying the moral basis for a western-style academic curriculum in the nation's schools.

    eISBN: 978-0-8135-4648-3
    Subjects: Education, History, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. List of Tables
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
    (pp. 1-8)

    Japanese historians invariably designate the beginning of modernism in their country with the restoration of imperial rule in 1868, which ended the 250-year era of the feudal Tokugawa regime. Japanese educational historians, by contrast, date the beginning of the modern era in education with the issuance in 1872 of the Gakusei, literally the “education plan.” Since the Gakusei was specifically designed by the newly formed Ministry of Education as a national system of public education, a more appropriate reading renders it the First National Plan for Education. Regardless of the name, the Gakusei of 1872 represents the single most important...

  7. Part I The Feudal Foundation of Modern Japanese Education

    • 1 Education of the Samurai in Tokugawa Schools: NISSHINKAN
      (pp. 11-27)

      The movement for educational modernization that followed the 1868 Meiji Restoration did not begin in an educational vacuum. It emerged from a formidable foundation of schools designed to educate the hereditary samurai class, 5 percent of the population, which ruled Japan during the Tokugawa era.¹ A significant majority of those who planned and implemented the epic transformation from feudal to modern Japan originated from the ruling samurai class. whose educational background was of paramount importance in determining the course of modernization. In Bernard Silberman’s study of the social background of senior ranking officers of the Meiji government during the initial...

    • 2 Education of the Samurai in the West: LONDON UNIVERSITY AND RUTGERS COLLEGE, 1863–1868
      (pp. 28-46)

      Among the samurai youth of feudal Japan, a limited number had the opportunity to study in the West. Two stand out for their contributions to the construction of the first national public school system. Originating from the most powerful clans that led the Restoration movement, Satsuma and Chōshū, Itō Hirobumi and Mori Arinori launched their careers as members of covert student missions to the West during the 1860s, the last decade of the Tokugawa era. Their careers reached fulfillment nearly thirty years later with the completion of a public school system for a modern state in the Meiji era through...

    • 3 The Meiji Restoration: REEMERGENCE OF TOKUGAWA SCHOOLS, 1868–1871
      (pp. 47-58)

      With the overthrow of the Tokugawa government in 1868, the Meiji Restoration marks the beginning of the modern era in Japanese history. The Restoration does not, however, mark the beginning of the modern era in Japanese education. During the initial three-year period after the Restoration, education for the ruling samurai classes took preference over education for the masses, as it did in the Tokugawa era just ended. After three and a half centuries of uninterrupted rule by the Tokugawa regime, revered educational institutions founded during that period of unparalleled stability predictably resurfaced under the new Meiji government.

      The process began...

  8. Part II The First Decade of Modern Education, 1870s:: The American Model

      (pp. 61-76)

      Educational historians traditionally attribute the beginning of modern education in Japan to the Gakusei, the First National Plan for Education, issued on August 8, 1872.¹ Implemented from April 1873, five years after the Meiji Restoration, the Gakusei is the most significant historical document in the annals of Japanese education.² The one Japanese who more than any other laid the foundation for, and set the general purposes of, the First National Plan for Education was the towering intellectual Fukuzawa Yukichi. He thus deserves recognition as a pioneer of modern Japanese education, a characterization not infrequently attributed to him. Although not an...

    • 5 The Iwakura Mission: A SURVEY OF WESTERN EDUCATION, 1872–1873
      (pp. 77-96)

      On November 12, 1871, amid befitting pomp and circumstance, a high-powered delegation of government officials left Yokohama on board the U.S.S.Americabound for Washington, D.C., the first major destination.¹ Led by Iwakura Tomomi, titular head of government, the Iwakura Mission departed on a two-year survey of modern societies in the United States and Europe. The huge delegation of fifty members included half of the senior-ranking members of the ruling oligarchy. Upon their return in 1873, they were expected to apply those aspects of western societies deemed appropriate to modernize Japanese society. The ultimate goal was a modern state that...

    • 6 The Modern Education of Japanese Girls: GEORGETOWN, BRYN MAWR, VASSAR, 1872
      (pp. 97-111)

      The year 1872 marks the dawn of the modern era in the history of education for Japanese women. During that year, just four years after the Meiji Restoration, two seeds were planted that gradually blossomed into movements that eroded centuries of feudal attitudes toward female education. The first stems from the nation’s initial attempt to implement a national school system, the Gakusei of 1872. The intent was to provide a public elementary school education for all children regardless of gender. The second was the dispatch of five Japanese girls to the United States in 1872 to receive an American education....

    • 7 The Modern Japanese Teacher: THE SAN FRANCISCO METHOD, 1872–1873
      (pp. 112-129)

      The year 1872 marked the beginning of teacher training in modern Japan. Through an unusual set of circumstances, an obscure elementary school teacher from San Francisco made one of the most decisive contributions to Japanese education. Marion McDonnel Scott was given the responsibility by the Ministry of Education in 1872 to set the curriculum, determine the textbooks, and develop the teaching methods for the nation’s first national system of modern public elementary schools scheduled to open in 1873. It was a remarkable opportunity for an unpretentious American, the vice principal of an elementary school in San Francisco, to teach English...

    • 8 Implementing the First National Plan for Education: THE AMERICAN MODEL, PHASE I, 1873–1875
      (pp. 130-159)

      With the proclamation of the Gakusei, the First National Plan for Education, on August 3, 1872, the Ministry of Education faced an enormous challenge.¹ It was charged with implementing a truly ambitious plan at the opening of the following school year in April 1873. The responsibility for enforcing the primary provision, which called for an elementary school in every community to accommodate every child, was suddenly placed upon the ministry that had been organized for only a year. Two unlikely individuals were placed in charge of the ministry to carry out its unprecedented mandate. Tanaka Fujimaro, former samurai from Nagoya,...

    • 9 Rural Resistance to Modern Education: THE JAPANESE PEASANT, 1873–1876
      (pp. 160-171)

      When the First National Plan for Education, designed to serve every Japanese child of elementary school age, became official in 1873, 80 percent of the population consisted of peasant farmers. Many lived in isolated rural communities in mountainous areas where every member of the family was brought into the rice growing process at planting and harvesting time. Young children were not exempt. For a typical farmer, there was no need for their offspring to learn to read, write, and calculate in a full-time formal school in order to plant and harvest rice. What children learned informally at home was sufficient...

    • 10 The Imperial University of Engineering: THE SCOTTISH MODEL, 1873–1882
      (pp. 172-181)

      The main focus in modern Japanese education during the early Meiji period was elementary education, and the Ministry of Education concentrated its resources primarily at that level from 1873. But meanwhile, major educational developments were taking place independently of the ministry. Among them, one of the most important was an institution that trained the first corps of Japanese engineers, who served the country by engineering an infrastructure of the nation’s roads, buildings, water plants, and so on, for the modern era. The school was designed by a Scotsman, Henry Dyer, who dubbed it the Imperial University of Engineering.¹

      Japanese interest...

    • 11 Pestalozzi to Japan: SWITZERLAND TO NEW YORK TO TOKYO, 1875–1878
      (pp. 182-197)

      Until 1875, three years after the First National Plan for Education was launched, the primary method for introducing modern ideas from the West depended upon foreign specialists classified as oyatoi gaikokujin, hired foreigners, as a necessary stopgap measure to be revised as soon as feasible. The government made a critical decision in 1875 that set a new policy in motion. In contrast to hiring foreigners to introduce western ideas into Japan, it carefully chose Japanese students to study the latest western ideas in various western countries. It was a coordinated effort to fill specific positions upon their return, replacing the...

    • 12 Scientific Agriculture and Puritan Christianity on the Japanese Frontier: THE MASSACHUSETTS MODEL, 1876–1877
      (pp. 198-218)

      In 1876, while Takamine Hideo and Isawa Shūji were in America studying the latest methods in teacher education, the Japanese government set in motion a project to introduce modern agricultural education from America. Dr. William Clark, president of the Massachusetts Agricultural College in Amherst, was employed to open a college of agriculture in the northern island of Hokkaido. He was destined to leave an indelible mark on modern Japanese history with a simple challenge to his students, “Boys, be ambitious!” It became one of the most recognizable injunctions in prewar Japan. William Clark also became one of the most recognizable...

    • 13 The Philadelphia Centennial: THE AMERICAN MODEL REVISITED, 1876
      (pp. 219-229)

      In 1876 Tanaka Fujimaro, director of the Ministry of Education, made his second trip to the United States to attend the Philadelphia Centennial celebrating the one hundredth anniversary of American independence. David Murray, his senior advisor from America, was also sent by the Japanese government to attend the event. During his first trip in 1871–1872, Tanaka had traveled to America as a junior member of the Iwakura Mission from the Ministry of Education to investigate the educational systems of western countries, as we saw in chapter 5. Upon his return home in 1873 he assumed the top position in...

    • 14 The Second National Plan for Education: THE AMERICAN MODEL, PHASE II, 1877–1879
      (pp. 230-254)

      When Tanaka Fujimaro, director of the Ministry of Education, and David Murray, his senior American advisor, returned to Japan in January 1877 from the Philadelphia Exposition, they intensified their efforts to modernize Japanese education. After spending six months in the United States visiting schools, intermittently attending the international educational conference held in conjunction with the American Centennial, Tanaka was intent on returning to his primary pursuit in life. Japanese education, in perpetual crisis under the Gakusei, the First National Plan for Education implemented from 1873, required major revisions. Inspired by his recent experiences in the United States, Tanaka was ready...

  9. Part III The Second Decade of Modern Education, 1880s:: Reaction against the Western Model

    • 15 “The Imperial Will on Education”: MORALS VERSUS SCIENCE EDUCATION, 1879–1880
      (pp. 257-283)

      In the spring of 1879, Tanaka Fujimaro’s grand design to modernize Japanese education on the American model hung in the balance. In spite of widespread opposition from the Imperial Household, conservative government leaders, and senior Ministry of Education officials, it was carefully structured to respond to the political, economic, and social complexities of the nation about to enter the second decade of the modern era as Tanaka understood them. Titled simply the Kyoiku Rei, the Educational Law, the revisions were sufficiently broad to consider it the Second National Plan for Education since the Meiji Restoration. Tanaka, as director of the...

    • 16 The Third National Plan for Education: THE REVERSE COURSE, 1880–1885
      (pp. 284-313)

      When Tanaka Fujmaro, head of the Ministry of Education since 1873, was unceremoniously transferred to the Ministry of Justice in early 1880, the way was cleared for the second decade of educational modernization in the Meiji era. It was launched with a rapid succession of conservative educational reforms. They demonstrated that Motoda Nagazane had triumphed over Itō Hirobumi, and that his “Imperial Will on Education” was more persuasive than Itō’s “ Educational Affair.” The reforms also revealed how widespread the opposition to Tanaka’s liberal reforms within his ministry actually was.

      In the transition, Kōno Togama became minister of education (Mombukyo)...

    • 17 Education for the State: THE GERMAN MODEL, 1886–1889
      (pp. 314-347)

      During the last half of the 1880s, the system of Japanese education in place since 1873 underwent another period of major reforms. It began with a meeting that took place in Paris in September 1882 between the future minister of education, Mori Arinori, and the future prime minister, Itō Hirobumi. A new interpretation of the purpose for modern Japanese education emerged from that historic meeting: the school was perceived by these two as an instrument of nation building, and the “Prussian notion of education” was chosen as the model.¹

      Itō Hirobumi had traveled to Germany in 1882 to undertake a...

      (pp. 348-370)

      As the second decade of the Meiji Restoration ended, one final ingredient in the construction of modern Japanese public education for the twentieth century remained inadequately addressed. Ironically, it concerned the role of traditional values and customs of Japanese society. Within the Fourth National School System designed and implemented from 1886 to 1889 by Minister of Education Mori Arinori, the role of Confucian morality as well as the imperial tradition had not been appropriately defined. Powerful interest groups remained dissatisfied with the state of educational affairs. The final piece in the mosaic of modern education in Japan had yet to...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 371-406)
  11. Index
    (pp. 407-416)
  12. Back Matter
    (pp. 417-418)