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Analog & Digital Drawing by Yuno B. and Works for University of Florida. (©Yuzunoki)

Diversity Education in Japan and the United States

Globalization Pot

This illustration is created for the Globalization Art and Education class at the University of Florida. Instead of the traditional meaning of Melting Pot, I wanted to express that each country does not necessarily need to assimilate into one; rather, I wish each nation to cherish its own identity and work together for a better global life and sustainable nature.

Diversity 3D Flower Mural

Introduction video for Diversity 3D Flower Mural lesson plan.

Diversity Education in Japan and the United States

Learning about diversity in this class and experiencing how the U.S education system includes diversity in various field and nurture students to be an inclusive, global citizen, I found an interest in exploring diversity awareness in Japan, which is where I am from. From my daily experience living in Japan for 30 years, I broadly felt that diversity education is not so common; however, I have never looked deeper into the issue. Now, understanding the problem itself is the starting point of learning forward; I decided to explore diversity awareness and education in Japan, including statistics. I am by no means to accuse Japan itself; there are many systems in Japan that I am proud of and hope to continue. That being stated, this paper focuses on the issues that should be considered for Japan’s future regarding diversity and globalization, and help children become inclusive, global citizens. I will first introduce the statistic of foreign nationals living in Japan and children of those who need assistance in the Japanese language. Next, gender gaps in politics, and finally, Japan’s stance for LGBT individuals.

Numbers of Foreign Nationals living in Japan. Do Children Receive Adequate Education?

Drawn from the statistics of the Immigration Services Agency of Japan, about 2% of the population in Japan are foreign nationals as of the year 2020. Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology released the statistics that the number of foreign national children who need assistance in the Japanese language is 40,485. It is 17.9% higher than last year and is also the highest on the record. The statistics also show that 1 out of 5 students are not receiving the language assistance they need. The right to learn is not guaranteed for children who need extra assistance. Furthermore, about 20,000 foreign national children do not attend schools because their education is not mandatory by the law. In comparison, in elementary schools and daycares in the U.S, teachers ask families what languages are spoken at home to help students learn efficiently and keep good communication between teachers and families. The equal education Opportunities Act of 1974 provides that no state shall deny equal educational opportunity to an individual on the basis of race, color, sex, or national origin. Education is set up for all children equally depends on the child’s needs.

Gender Gaps in Politics.

In the Global Gender Gap Report by the World Economic Forum in 2021, Japan ranked 120th overall, 147th in Political Empowerment, and 117th in Economic Participation and Opportunity out of 156 countries. The gender parity in politics has been extremely low, with only 9.9% for women in parliamentary positions and 10.0% in ministerial positions. (Japan Ranks 2021.) A senior U.N. official said gender gaps remain significant in Japan as traditional roles for men and women are strongly reinforced in society and through mass media, leaving many women accustomed to restrictive norms and limited opportunities (Kyodo,2020). Nakamitsu, the highest-ranking Japanese at the United Nations, explains that the roles of men and women are modeled to the public in various ways, including through popular media. As a result, children are conditioned to accept gender boundaries as a natural part of society, and such norms have been internalized to a highly abnormal degree in the country.

Stance for LGBTQ Individuals.

Since gender roles are deeply rooted in Japanese society, even if there are equal educational opportunities, there is often a bias on genders. This may inhibit gaining an understanding of sexual minorities such as LGBTQ. Leaders in Japan seem to hesitate to take action for a change. For example, in the 4th grade’s textbook of health education class, there was a sentence written, “During puberty, interest in the other gender is developed.” When seeing this through gender diversity, this sentence ignores the students who may develop an interest in the same gender. It may lower the students’ self-esteem feeling that they are not normal and may further trigger students to isolate themselves from society. However, this is not a common understanding in society. Some public comments claimed to take off the word “interest in the other gender” and use LGBT inclusive words; however, the Ministry of Education responded, “Considering the guardian and citizen’s understanding of LGBT, including LGBT matter in public education is difficult.” In the end, the sentence has never been revised. (Mashita & Kawamata, 2020) In Japanese society, being homogeneous is generally expected in schools, communities, or other social groups, and being different is sometimes seen as insensitive. There even exist an idiom, “the nail sticks out gets hummed in.” It seems that Japanese society still tends to protect current majority expectations instead of standing up for minorities. However, without leaders standing up for an inclusive society, when do students receive the opportunity to learn about diversity and be global citizens?

In the U.S, education of diversity is integrated into many places, including media and communities, and schools are leading diversity education. For example, University of Florida’s sexual assault prevention video for graduate students (2020), there were case studies that students actively had to think about the answer to the scenario. The video included various races in the story. In one scenario, a man was forced to engage in sexual activity by his girlfriend when he did not desire to do so.  Removing the gender stereotypes, this video not only educated students on ways to avoid abuse but also taught that not only women are victims of sexual abuse, men could also be. In the other scenario, a couple talked about their relationship, and the couple was of the same gender. The video’s subject matter was not about teaching diversity; however, naturally including various races, gender equality and LGBT, it genuinely sent students the message that all students are welcome regardless of race, gender, and other factors.

What is Changing Now

Considering all, does it mean Japan does not care about diversity? Although Japan may be falling behind, movements have been opening towards diversity and inclusion in recent years. Starting in 2020 in elementary schools, in 2021 in Jr. high schools, and 2022 in high schools, new, revised education guidelines which enhance diversity awareness will be enforced. In December 2020, the Japanese government established the broad direction of its policies and specific initiatives with the Fifth Basic Plan for Gender Equality. In 2020, the National Center Test for college entrance education is abolished to evaluate the students as a whole instead of depending only on standardized test scores.

Conclusion

Japan is a sole island that does not share its borders with other countries, which may inhibit civilians from learning about diversity. However, with the rapid growth of technology, many of them now see ongoing matters worldwide and realize the importance of diversity. Japan has just begun to include diversity in education, and it is still in the beginning process. I agree with Nakamitsu that “Leaders’ actions are very important in terms of changing the organizational culture” (Kyodo, 2020). Educators, politicians, and any other leaders becoming role models of creating an inclusive society, I believe we can raise the awareness of diversity and the importance of becoming a global citizen of the world. 

References

Eda, M. (2021, March 30). Why closing Japan’s gender gap will be achieved with equality from the top. World Economic Forum. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2021/03/japan-gender-gap-political-leadership/

Immigration Services Agency of Japan. (2020). Zairyu Gaikokujin Toukei. [Statistics of Foreign Residents.] https://www.moj.go.jp/isa/policies/statistics/toukei_ichiran_touroku.html

Kyodo. (2020, March 06). Gender gap deeply ingrained in Japan, says top U.N. official Nakamitsu. The Japan Times. Retrieved from https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2020/03/06/national/gender-gaps-japanese-izumi-nakamitsu/

Mashita, K, & Kawamata, T. (2020, March 02). Diversity Education in Elementary School, Focusing on Arts and Crafts. (Vol. 1, pp. 120-133)Suzuka University, Teaching Profession Research. https://ci.nii.ac.jp/naid/120006893600/

Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. (2020). Gaikokujin jido seito tou no kyouiku no zyujitsu nit suite (Hokoku). [Education of Foreign National Students (Report)]. https://www.mext.go.jp/b_menu/shingi/chousa/shotou/151/mext_00255.html

World Economic Forum. (2021, March 31). Global Gender Gap Report 2021. Retrieved from https://www.weforum.org/reports/ab6795a1-960c-42b2-b3d5-587eccda6023

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