Diversifying Options in Learning
New Roles Required in School Education
The evolution of technology has significantly altered our learning experiences. The internet has expanded the learning environment, and recent advancements in AI have ushered in new methods of learning.
In the age of AI, there is a growing demand for creative thinking skills in problem-solving. This includes curiosity, creativity, critical thinking, empathy, and leadership. Consequently, schools may increasingly incorporate group work, discussions, and project-based learning.
However, the goal of education is not just personal skill development. According to UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), if all adults completed secondary education, 420 million people could escape poverty, reducing the global poverty population by more than half, and nearly two-thirds in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.
Education is a crucial element for individuals, societies, and the global community. It not only imparts knowledge and skills but also empowers social change and global progress.
Diversification and Assurance in Learning
Homeschooling, though not common in Japan, offers education at home by parents instead of attending public educational institutions. It allows learning at an individual pace and style.
The main reasons for choosing homeschooling include respect for individual learning styles and values, concerns about school environments, advancements in online education technology, and the demand for customizable education programs.
In many U.S. states, the number of families opting for homeschooling surged during the pandemic and remains high post-pandemic.
Despite the significant parental effort required for homeschooling, there has been no major shift in the proportion of families choosing it, even after many have returned to their previous lifestyles. However, there are concerns from experts.
Firstly, in most states, children who are homeschooled are not required to take any form of tests to measure academic progress, and even in states where testing is mandatory, there are often loopholes. Furthermore, many localities are unable to fully grasp the extent of homeschooling due to its rapid increase.
This situation makes standardizing the quality of education for these children challenging.
However, America is not the only country that recognizes this system. Let’s look at the case of Norway. Norway has a “right to education” rather than a “compulsory schooling” policy, placing the responsibility on parents to ensure their children receive basic education.
Homeschooling is allowed but must follow national standards, with local authorities supervising and subjecting it to academic tests. Some children combine homeschooling with regular school or use it for part of the year.
It’s interesting that the form of education can be so flexible, suiting the child’s personality and family structure. For families who cannot align extended vacations, switching between learning forms can secure family time and educational opportunities.
The focus should be on how to ensure children’s learning opportunities rather than how to educate them, which is worth considering for Japanese education system.
A New Approach to Club Activities
For middle and high school students interested in sports, are club activities always the best option? Club activities have long been conducted under the guidance of teachers as part of school education. However, there are serious issues, such as a decline in member numbers due to the declining birthrate, making it difficult to conduct quality activities, and the considerable burden on teachers who coach even on weekends. We will research efforts to address these issues.
In 2020, the Japan Sports Agency announced a plan to gradually transition school club activities to local sports clubs and sports associations. For example, in Hino City, Tokyo, experienced athletes from local companies coach middle school students primarily on Saturdays. This approach has several advantages, such as:
- Expanding students’ options
- Easier access to specialized coaching
- Potential to streamline teachers’ workload
However, there are also challenges, including:
- Difficulty in securing coaches and venues
- Concerns for students’ safety
- Additional financial burdens for parents
Given this situation, a coordinated transition involving both schools and local communities is needed.
The Japan Sports Agency aims to create an ideal sports environment for students, with club activities being conducted in various forms tailored to the region, school, and type of sport. The author also believes that this approach could make professional athletes more accessible to children, potentially invigorating professional sports. We hope that these new educational forms will provide better learning opportunities for students and support the advancement of Japan’s sports industry.
Domestic Study Programs Fulfilled by Communities
The number of people going abroad for study programs, with various goals such as improving language skills, experiencing different cultures, and enhancing job prospects, is increasing year by year. According to a survey by the Japan Association of Overseas Studies (JAOS), there were 34,304 students studying abroad through 40 JAOS member organizations in 2022. Despite the impact of COVID-19, this number shows a fivefold increase compared to 2021. However, studying abroad can be expensive, and not everyone can afford it. The author also had a valuable experience studying abroad last year, made possible by significant financial support from parents and the university.
Currently, communities in Japan are offering experiences similar to studying abroad. The “Niseko Study Program” in Hokkaido is one example. In Niseko, where many immigrants live, 90% of the people on the streets are from overseas. Signs in restaurants and burger shops are in English, creating an environment resembling an English-speaking region.
In another approach, the “Mountain Village Study Program” is gaining attention, where urban children live in nature away from their parents. The goal is to engage with nature using all five senses. Elementary and junior high school students stay with local farmers, participate in planting and harvesting rice, and learn about the hard work and wisdom of their predecessors. They also practice drumming and dancing to celebrate the harvest, experiencing local traditional culture. In an environment without TVs or smartphones, children realize the importance of new insights and patience.
Programs like the Niseko Study, where English can be learned domestically, could be a new option not only for students but also for adults. Lowering the hurdles associated with overseas travel procedures and costs may expand learning opportunities for adults. Additionally, community-based initiatives that offer new learning environments, like the Mountain Village Study, are also noteworthy. As the demand for diverse and accessible forms of study abroad increases, these initiatives will become increasingly important.