From Kyoko on HEM-Networking:
Mainichi Daily News, Tokyo, Japan, 12 February 2007, Students grapple with classroom bullying as adults blame each other
The boy was isolated and desperate. A victim of bullying, he was shunned by other kids, and even one of his teachers picked on him in class. Hours before his death, a group of students tried to pull his pants down in a rest room.
Too ashamed to seek help, the 13-year-old finally snapped, hanging himself on Oct. 11 in a barn at his home in southern Japan. “I am bullied and can’t go on any longer,” read one of the suicide notes he left behind.
Keiko Okuchi, director of Tokyo Shure, an alternative school for bullied children, blamed a 2003 government recommendation against leniency for students refusing to attend school because of abuse by classmates or teachers.
That resulted in increased pressure on kids to stay in schools even if they’re being bullied, she said.
“Kids wouldn’t go so far as to kill themselves if they were physically separated from bullies,” she said.
So far, education outside of school is not permitted in Japan despite nearly a decade of concern and work by activists.
News Watch, HEM Online, March-April 1998, In Japan, Alternative Ed Linked To Truants And Dropouts
“Can Truants, Dropouts Find an Alternate Road to Education?” Mick Corliss, The Japan Times, January 4, 1998, pp. 1 & 2
In this one of an eight-part series of articles for this English language newspaper, reporter Mick Corliss takes a look at alternatives to state education in Japan. These alternatives appear not to be successful, viable family options, but options for kids who are truant or drop-outs, “the overlooked casualties of the rigid educational system.”
“More than 77,000 students missed more than 50 days of school in 1996 for the expressed reason that they ‘hate school,'” states Corliss, admitting this is merely an official number, and when you add in those “who missed more than 30 days for other reasons, such as illness…the total exceeds 180,000.”
Corliss notes a gradual change in society’s attitude toward these students; instead of problem youth they are “labeled” nonattendance students. Even the Education Ministry has been forced to acknowledge the country has a problem and accepts that “school refusal” can happen to any child and is not “akin to a sickness requiring treatment.”
However, “If a student’s principal acknowledges it to be in the best interest of the child, attendance at alternative institutions can be recognized as credit toward a diploma, as long as it is deemed to be helping the student return to the mainstream education system.” Not exactly what many of us think of as a liberating educational alternative, is it? Yet the alternative institutions are called “free schools,” with some, like the best known Tokyo Shure, at least a bit “freer” than others.
Kyoko Aizawa, who runs the homeschool support organization Otherwise Japan and who attended the GWS conference last August, points out that Japan needs alternatives that are “not under government control.”
Genji Tsuda is an attorney who specializes in child welfare law.
“Ever since the Meiji Era,” says Tsuda, “Japan’s educational system has been designed to strengthen the nation-state. The emphasis has been on producing people who can help Japan become a great power…The inertia of the status quo has preserved this antiquated system, embedding it deeply in the social psyche.” I’d say Tsuda has put his finger on the pulse of what is wrong not only in Japan, but in America and elsewhere.
Perhaps this is why the Tokyo area has seen a recent boon in what are termed “support” schools where dropouts (1 in every 50 high school attendees) “who want degrees but don’t want to attend public schools” can go for help with correspondence courses.
Alternative schools, Corliss points out, “are often expensive and, in the case of children under 15, designed to return students to the fold of mainstream education.” All the more reason to rally for true home education in a country where those who practice it “could be considered violators of the School Education Law and subject to fines.”
“‘Because information is scarce, existing options are obscure and parents remain ignorant that they have a right to educate their children outside of school,’ Aizawa says.”
“‘…people are beginning to see that the current system is not necessarily in the best interest of the child,’ Tsuda says. ‘The time is coming for everyone to work together to rethink the system.'” The information Kyoko Aizawa points to is key. Let’s hope Mr. Corliss continues to watch and report.
posted by Valerie