In 2012, in response to new issues and challenges in Japan brought about by globalisation, modernisation, demographic decline and the rapidly changing socio-economic landscape, the Japanese government created the Council for the Implementation of Education Rebuilding. Headed by the Prime Minister, the Council brought together experts from different fields to formulate ten global recommendations, including policy recommendations for developing the Second Basic Plan for the Promotion of Education (2013-17).
Japan is now finalising its Third Basic Plan for the Promotion of Education (2018-22), which includes a National Curriculum Reform organised around three pillars:
According to OECD (2018), the national curriculum in Japan, which is revised around every 10 years, “not only specifies what children should learn, but also how they should learn and what they should be able to accomplish. In that regard, the curriculum seeks to improve the learning process from the perspective of proactive, interactive and authentic learning (active learning).”
Active learning strategies are those that promote the engagement of students in their own learning. Active learning practices typically include class discussion, mock lessons, group work, games and debate. Technology can be a useful tool to support active learning. While some studies reveal a high correlation between the use of these strategies and student performance (Orlich et al., 2013), high levels of teacher self-efficacy are most commonly associated with regular use of active learning strategies and participation in professional development. In other words, the more teachers participate in training activities, the more confident they should feel about their ability to teach, and the more they should use such strategies. (Le Donné, Fraser and Bousquet, 2016; OECD, 2014)
Ensuring the candidate teachers and new and experienced teachers can use active learning strategies is therefore critical to the successful implementation of the new national curriculum. However, transforming teaching from a knowledge transmission model to an active learning one is a great challenge.
In 2017, the OECD was invited to carry out an Education Policy Review to examine the current curriculum reform agenda in Japan (OECD, 2018). In one of its recommendations, the report (p. 161) highlighted the importance of making additional investment in initial teacher education, induction and continuous professional development to ensure that teachers are able to adapt to the new curriculum, focus on effective teaching and learning and that they have flexible resources that reflect active learning and encourage cross curriculum learning”.
In Japan, steps are being made to start to develop a new pedagogy to foster students’ active engagement in learning, in line with the demands of the revised national curriculum.
The OECD Review Team in its visit to Japan from 5-8 September 2016 concluded that aligning the national curriculum with ITE is an opportunity in that:
The OECD Review Team also noted that:
Le Donné, N., P. Fraser and G. Bousquet (2016), “Teaching Strategies for Instructional Quality: Insights from the TALIS-PISA Link Data”, OECD Education Working Papers, No. 148, OECD Publishing, Paris.
OECD (2014), TALIS 2013 Results: An International Perspective on Teaching and Learning, OECD Publishing, Paris, http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/9789264196261-en
Orlich, D.C. et al. (2013), Teaching Strategies: A Guide to Effective Instruction, 10th edition, Wadsworth, Cengage Learning, Boston, MA.
This case study describes a “Promising practice” drawn from an OECD review of Initial Teacher Preparation in Japan from 5-9 September 2016.
The OECD Review Team – Hannah von Ahlefeld (OECD), Francesca Caena (University of Venice), Kjetil Helgeland (OECD) and Danielle Toon (Learning First) – identified a number of “Promising practices” in each country. These practices may not be widespread or representative, but seen in the context of other challenges, they represent a strength or opportunity to improve the country’s initial teacher preparation system – and for other countries to learn from them.
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