Toward Professionalisation or De-Professionalisation? Teacher Education Over the Past 40 Years: A Japanese Retrospection

From Section:
Trends in Teacher Education
Nov. 01, 2014

Source: Journal of Education for Teaching, Vol. 40, No. 5, 524–542, 2014
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

In this article, the author discusses how to enhance Japanese teacher education. After sketching teacher education from the mid-1940s to the 1960s, he sums up the main topics people discussed through each decade of the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s.

The general scheme of teacher education after 1945

An historical retrospective overview on the background of the current form of teacher education and training in Japan may evoke several types of critical responses. Teacher education and training was given before 1946 in the normal schools which were graded as secondary educational institutions. The graduates from the normal schools were recruited to the primary schools in urban and local areas. The Higher Normal Schools trained and supplied the secondary school teachers. The graduates from universities could obtain the qualifications for teaching either at secondary or at primary schools.
Under the new Law of Teaching Certificates enacted in 1949, the teaching certificate courses were to be developed and provided by the new universities. The system was open to any university to provide the courses of teaching certificates.

After 1950, Japan’s political climate became conservative and some elements of the old regime were revived in national politics and industry. At the same time, the school enrolment numbers grew steadily higher year after year. Opportunities for learning were remarkably expanded, not only for boys but also for girls. School accountability and teachers’ professional capabilities were scrutinised closely as an important issue for post-war education. This changing political climate had an effect on teacher education.

Tides and trends in teacher education – 1960s and 1970s

During the three decades after 1945, Japanese education was set up to cope with the demands from the trade, commerce and industrial groups for a highly educated work force. The industrial faction wished to expand possible networks with universities in order to obtain a work force well prepared for industry.

After 1945 the Japanese teacher education had closer links with universities in general. When the Ministry of Education introduced the revised Law of Teaching Certificates in 1964, it recommends that state universities should be divided into two groups: (a) professional university for teacher education (PUTE) and (b) general university for academic and vocational education (GUAVE). Almost all of the local universities in the public or state sector could be grouped into the PUTE. This was the first time the graduate schools or postgraduate advanced courses had to work within a formal teaching certifying system. However, the quality of teacher education was not always guaranteed in the diversified dual system. The government staff expected that the PUTE would enhance the standards of teaching qualifications. On the contrary, the graduates from the PUTE group did not always satisfy the professional groups of head teachers and school advisers.

The gap between academic and professional staffs tended to be wider. The government decided to introduce a new type of graduate school for teacher education. In 1978, the first one was established at Hyogo-Ken (prefecture); the second at Joetsu in Niigata-Ken in 1978; and the third in 1981 at Naruto in Tokushima-Ken. All three opened courses for acting school teachers and graduates from universities nationwide.
Contrasting these graduate schools for school teachers with the Seven Grades of Tertiary Institutions displayed by the Central Council on Education in 1971, it is clear that the government had introduced another dual system of teacher education and training which consisted of the PUTE university without a graduate school or courses (type 6-like) and the new PUTE Graduate School (type 2-like).

The new tidal waves in 1980s and in 1990s

In 1982, Mr Nakasone, the President of Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party, became the Prime Minister, and he set out a reappraisal of the post-war political history of Japan. He introduced an act establishing the National Council on Educational Reforms in 1984. The Council worked for four years and was disbanded once its final report was issued in 1987.
The government responded to the reports’ recommendations. Regarding teacher education and training, the Ministry of Education introduced a new bill in 1988, enacted as the Revised Law of Teaching Certificates. The main points of revisions were related to the types (general, specified and temporary certificates) and the grades of certificates (advanced, first and second grades). In 1987, a new advisory body for the Minister of Education was created, the University Council. The Council discussed the higher standards of learning at universities, and on the internationalisation of university education. What was most relevant to teacher education was the deregulation of the university standards which changed the minimum requirements of graduation from university, and for granting first degree.

Through the three decades from 1970s to 1990s, society at large and state governments, both central and local, voiced in unison the mantra ‘the school matters’. It was not the first time the government had considered the feasibility of graduate schools in enhancing teaching quality through the teacher education institutions. By the end of 1990s, almost all of the teacher education universities (PUTE) had graduate divisions, and the Ministry of Education had established three Graduate Universities for Teacher Education. All of them provided on-the-job-training of teachers who were working at schools within the local administrative frames where the universities stood.

The present day: 2014

Under the revised Law of Teaching Certificates, all school teachers have to renew their certificates after serving 10 years. They have to renew their certificates by studying for additional credits. The supplementary courses are provided by the universities, by the education committees or by the Ministry of Education itself.
The Ministry of Education might want to reorganize all teacher education universities under the umbrella of the Graduate School of Teaching (GST), so as to achieve a higher standard for the teaching profession, and plans to add teacher education to the general MA courses that have been provided already by the teacher education universities (PUTE).

The author concludes by proposing an ideal network for promoting teaching expertise.
He proposed establishing education networks in which universities, junior colleges, schools, education authorities, youth and children, teachers, parents and communities could join together with equal partnership to discuss almost all of local education plans. The networks should be expanded internationally. The author hopes that in such ways, all teachers could be educated, trained and recruited as independent intellectuals who could serve education within the national–international–global contexts of higher education-based teacher education.

Updated: Nov. 20, 2019
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