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Women 2000, Japan NGO Alternative Report
by Japan NGO Report Preparatory Committee, 1999.08.13
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2.Barriers to Be Removed

  1. Lack of a gender-sensitive perspective
  2. School traditions based on the division into males and females
  3. Textbooks which reproduce gender bias
  4. Differences according to sex in further education and the imbalance between women and men in chosen courses of study
  5. Guidance concerning future courses and careers which leads to job segregation according to sex
  6. Lack of role models for girls - imbalances between female and male teachers
  7. Lack of opportunity to learn about gender issues during teachers' training and education
  8. Lifelong learning which is not connected to women's empowerment
  9. Educational opportunities which are adversely affected by the vertical devision of administrative bodies

3.Future Visions

  1. The necessity of positive measures including a gender-sensitive perspective
  2. Establishment of agents (both organizations and personnel) for promoting gender-equal education
  3. Compilation, authorization and choice of gender-sensitive textbooks
  4. Ensuring learning opportunities for teachers
  5. The necessity for new kinds of education
  6. Making the school a place for developing human beings with sensitivity to human rights and gender
  7. Reconsideration of single sex education reform
  8. Women's participation in educational decision-making processes

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1. Overview

       In the area of education, the Beijing Platform for Action emphasizes concrete and urgent commitment to such issues as the elimination of the gender gap in primary and secondary education, and equal access to education. Gender-sensitive systems at school would lead to women's "capability to choose and decide by themselves, to become aware of discrimination, and to take the initiative for change". Strong expectations to achieve these goals are seen in the Platform for Action. It is pointed out that "women's economic independence" through sufficient vocational or professionl training is indispensable in order to realize these goals.

      As for the situation in Japan in the area of education, only equality in the system by which boys and girls follow the same curriculum for home economics has been guaranteed, because of international pressure, including the Beijing Conference. The government response emphasizes that the equality between two sexes has been guaranteed in the same curriculum. However, in reality, the same curriculum of home economics for girls and boys has not succeeded in changing gender roles, which is the original aim of the same curriculum of home economics.

      The government response lacks concrete administrative commitment, including a gender perspective, to changes in school education.

      Taking one example, the "Program for Educational Reform"(1998) of the Ministry of Education states a principle of "education to enhance the awarenes of gender equality". However, no concrete measures, "what" and how", to achieve this have been detailed by the Ministry.

      The government response lacks an analysis of the present situation of sex discrimination which remains deeply embedded in the Japanese education system, and does not set out any concrete reform policies for education.

      However, lobbying and other activities by members of the public, and teachers (both of these groups mainly women) and researchers have had some success since the Nairobi Conference of 1985. So the abolition of traditional sex divisions in education is being realized gradually, although at differing rates in the various regions of Japan. One example is the change from separate name lists for boys and girls, among which boys' names are always placed first, to combined name lists ordered according to the Japanese alphabetical order of the children's names, without regard to sex. At present combined name lists are in use at 25.4% of primary schools and 3.4% of junior high schools in Tokyo (1998). In some regions measures to tackle the hidden curriculum have led to progress in the elimination of sex divisions. However, awareness of gender equality issues is insufficient in many schools and local governments.

      The beliefs that men and women are essentially different and that gender roles are fixed are still prevalent in actual practice in education and society. In particular, the present situation in which schools are "environments for the reproduction of sex discrimination" needs urgent rectification.

      Although it is held that Japan has solved the issue of illiteracy, it is not correct. Because of poverty, some Buraku women (members of a social group discriminated against in Japan) have been deprived of their right to education. Five out of 100 Buraku women did not attend school, and there are 220,000 illiterate people in Japan (UNESCO, 1989).

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2. Barriers to Be Removed

(1)Lack of a gender-sensitive perspective

       Although equal opportunity exists in the educational system in Japan, the lack of gender equality awareness on the part of teachers and parents results differences between the sexes in educational achievements and future courses. The passive attitude of the government, the Ministry of Education and local boards of education toward equal education for women and men is the cause of the situation in which insufficient commitment has been made.

(2)School traditions based on the division into males and females

      School practices based on sex division include separate name lists, separate queues and groups, differentiated belongings and differentiated club activities. These examples of the hidden curriculum reproduce gender stereotypes of "femininity" and "masculinity" repeatedly everyday. The continuation of these practices based on sex devision also leads to differences in girls' and boys' educational achievements and future courses. Sex division in school is a barrier to the elimination of gender bias and to the formation of awareness that women and men are equal.

(3)Textbooks which reproduce gender bias

      Textbooks, and hence the content of studies, are not gender- sensitive, despite many criticisms by NGOs and teachers' groups. Some textbooks based on family diversity and women's independence have not received approval in the government's textbook authorization system. Gender-equal textbooks have been developed by NGOs and teachers' groups, but the government has not shown willingness to adopt textbooks written from the standpoint of the equality of the sexes and women's independence.

(4)Differences according to sex in further education and the imbalance between women and men in chosen courses of study

      27.5% of Japanese women and 44.9% of Japanese men enter four-year universities (1997). The ratio of women is increasing, but there is still a large gap between women and men. As for the courses of study followed at senior high schools and universities, there is a considerable imbalance between women and men. At high school many boys choose science and mathematics, and many girls choose liberal arts. In vocational school, many boys study mechanics, electricity and technology, whereas many girls study commerce, culture and design. These imbalances in chosen studies lead to segregation of the sexes in occupations and social life. There have been proposals for quotas for girls and boys for entry to certain schools and universities. Active measures will be necessary to redress imbalances between the sexes following certain courses of study.

(5)Guidance concerning future courses and careers which leads to job segregation according to sex

      Because of the revision of the Equal Employment Opportunity Law, job segregation according to sex is starting to be eliminated. An adequate system of career guidance has not yet been established at most schools to connect them with the equality of employment opportunity that exists in working society. Existing guidance concerning further education and vocational education tends to perpetuate courses reproducing gender bias and conditions hampering women's economic independence.

(6)Lack of role models for girls - imbalances between female and male teachers

      Male and female teachers, who are role models close to students, are not equal in numbers or status. Although 60% of teachers at primary schools are female, the number of women promoted to senior positions is very low, as is seen in the ratio of the mere 1% of female principals. In general, although ratios of women in student teachers and part-time teachers are high, ratios of women in senior positions are low. As for subjects, many women teach nursing, home economics, Japanese and English, but few teach science and mathematics, health and physical education. As for the combined subject of technology and home economics at junior high school, in many cases male teachers teach the technology component and female teachers teach the home economics component, because of the difference in their respective teaching qualifications. (Teacher certificates for technology and home economics are differentiated according to the Teachers' Certificates Law. The system which has produced division of roles according to gender among teachers has not yet been reconsidered, but obviously needs to be reformed in the near future. Schools at present lack role models for gender equality among working women and men.

(7)Lack of opportunity to learn about gender issues during teachers' training and education

      In order to realize gender-sensitive education, an environment in which teachers themselves have enough opportunity to study these issues is important. However, teacher training in education for human rights and gender equality is inadequate, even at teacher training colleges. For example, even following the introduction of combined school name lists (see (2)) there are teachers at a loss, who do not know how to adapt their classroom management and school life to a gender-equal basis. It should be noted that teachers themselves do not have the chance to learn about gender issues, which is a great barrier to the development of equal education for women and men, a prerequisite for a gender-equal society.

(8)Lifelong learning which is not connected to women's empowerment

      With the development of policies encouraging lifelong learning, opportunities for adult women to learn have increased considerabley. The ratio of women who attend courses is twice that of men. However, the ratio of female directors of social education is below 10%. In such a situation it is rather difficult to realize women's empowerment, and the content and methods of study tend to reproduce gender bias. All learning activities should be promoted from a gender-sensitive perspective. Training for all educational personnel in order for them to acquire a gender-equal perspective should be carried out.

(9)Educational opportunities which are adversely affected by the vertical devision of administrative bodies

      Education which assists women to become agents of change and to become economically independent should be promoted. However, the Ministry of Labor, not the Ministry of Education, is responsible for vocational education, which is difficult to integrate into the lifelong learning of adult women. The vertical division of administratives bodies hampers the integration of women's learning opportunities.

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3. Future Visions

(1)The necessity of positive measures including a gender-sensitive perspective

      The importance of gender equality should be clearly stated as a basic principle of school and adult education. At the same time, active measures should be taken to eliminate gender imbalances in education, which would lead to the development of new capabilities and future courses of study for both women and men. To take one example, there is an urgent need to develop a system which would encourage women's careers in scientific fields. Active measures on guidance for students' academic careers should also be taken in order to eliminate segregation according to sex.

(2)Establishment of agents (both organizations and personnel) for promoting gender-equal education

      The commitment of schools as a whole to gender-equal education, as well as activities of individual teachers, would lead to "the development of gender-sensitive education system". Tokyo, Osaka and Kanagawa Prefecture, among others, have designated schools for gender-equal education. For access to solutions as well as the development of such policies, it is important to establish agents (organizations and personnel) to promote gender-equal education in educational administrative entities and schools.

(3)Compilation, authorization and choice of gender-sensitive textbooks

      In order to eliminate gender-disparities and stereotypes of women and men who appear in textbooks, one half of the committee members who participate in the process of compilation, authorization and choice of textbooks should be female.

(4)Ensuring learning opportunities for teachers

      Training in education for human rights and gender equality is not sufficient at present. Boards of education should prepare programs for the realization of gender-equality education for the training of new and current teachers and teachers in management positions. In addition, at teacher training colleges, gender studies should be a required component of teachers' education. To guarantee student teachers opportunities for teaching gender issues at school would assist the promotinon of gender-sensitive education considerably.

(5)The necessity for new kinds of education

      In future, new kinds of education, which have hitherto been overlooked, will be pursued. The necessity for such education should be recognized:comprehensive reproductive health education based on human rights, including education about sex in which respect for students'own bodies is taught, media literacy including the perspectives of social justice, equality and gender, education for legal literacy and education for global citizenship, including a gender perspective so as to understand relationships with women in the Third World. These kinds of education should be clearly pointed out as new education. Such education, developing independence and decision-making power, should be fully promoted as education which leads to the empowerment of women and men in a new society.

(6)Making the school a place for developing human beings with sensitivity to human rights and gender

      At present sometimes it cannot be said that schools are sensitive to human rights and gender. Some local governments have issued a "guideline for the prevention of sexual harassment" in order to enhance awareness of the issue by teaching staff, but such moves have not yet prevailed nationwide. In school, an environment where teachers and students could develop power to change the commercialization of sex and the sense of fixed gender roles should be created. Policies are needed to enable schools to function as places for developing human beings who act with self respect. In addition, schools should be required to understand the situations of diverse families when they have contact with students' families, changing their presumptions that society is based on division of roles according to gender, and that only the mother functions as the contact person with the school.

(7)Reconsideration of single sex education reform

      Fifty years after the Second World War, moves to promote coeducation have just started as a result of local action plans for women. Single sex education in some public schools still exists in Miyagi, Fukushima, Gunma, Tochigi and Saitama Prefectures. In Fukushima Prefecture a plan for coeducation in prefectural senior high schools is now being promoted, but is faulty because patriarchal values still remain deeply embedded in schools. In order to avoid these kinds of problem, reconsideration of reforms aiming to realize gender-equal education is required.

(8)Women's participation in educational decision-making processes

      Half the members of boards of education should be women who are aware of gender equality issues, and sufficient numbers of women should be appointed as members of boards of education.

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NGO Report Preparation Committee TOC(ja) Souron  A   B   C   D   E   F   G   H   I   J   K   L  IkenTeishutu
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