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Japan's special education system: not so special.

Japanese education may be more advanced but they have much to learn from the US in the area of special education.

Eve Bridger

on 24 June 2011

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Transcript of Japan's special education system: not so special.

Despite the availability of special education many Japanese families are still reluctant to pursue these services due to long-held cultural beliefs that lean toward the segregation of disabled individuals.

There is still a great deal of social stigma attached to people with special needs. Parents traditionally preferred to shelter their families and children from the societal shame. It is not uncommon for Japanese people to express pity for parents with disabled children. In fact, parents are not offended but rather expect this concern from others. (Narita, 1992) For years, only those students with profound or low incident disabilities, such as visual impairments, deafness and severe mental retardation were eligible to receive special education services.

During the 2006-2007 school year students with LD, autism and ADHD were added as categories of disabilities.

Those students with physical disabilities are also permitted to attend special needs schools. Although their impairments do not hinder their learning abilities, they may choose a separate education. This is partly a matter of necessity as most general education schools have a 2 to 4 story design that makes accessing upper levels classrooms impossible.

Additionally, there are no requirements for schools to install elevators, ramps or make other accommodations for students with physical disabilities. (Kayama, 2010) In 2007-2008 a system of inclusion was introduced into Japanese schools for the first time. This system allowed students to receive special instruction in the general classroom setting instead of in a separate school. Despite this new system there are still many students who prefer to attend special needs schools and those parents who choose inclusion for their children still face resistance from school administrators who maintain segregative beliefs. (Kayama, 2010)

Inclusion in Japan differs from the American system in that the process involves the entire class. Within the Japanese culture, there is great emphasis on the needs of the group versus the needs of the individual. Therefore many LD students in the regular classrooms receive the same manner of instruction as their classmates and are often promoted along with their peers, despite their need for an IEP. (Narita, 1993) Parents in Japan as well as the U. S. are required to participate in the educational process of their special needs children. There are however cultural distinctions that make this process in Japan a challenge for many parents.

Japanese parents are often reluctant to question teachers and will assume a more passive stance when addressing teachers. They are more likely to wait for the teacher to ask questions about the child's education rather than to initiate a discussion. This is due to Japan's hierarchal system which places teachers at a high level.

Additionally, many parents fear that if they challenge the instruction methods then the teachers will be offended and not provide the best level of care for their children.

Parents in the U.S. are more likely to initiate questions and work more collaboratively with teachers as they view themselves as equals in the educational process. (Narita, 1992) Japan's unique culture is perhaps the greatest obstacle to overcome in creating an effective special education system.

Programs for special needs children are still underutilized in Japan primarily due to beliefs that care should come primarily from the home.

Furthermore, the idea that the government should provide equal participation and opportunities to people with disabilities is not yet a part of the Japanese culture. The care of individuals with special needs is still believed to be the responsibility of the family and although public assistance is available, it is often not pursued. (Kayama, 2010)

This reluctance to seek help places great burdens on families and causes them concern for the future of their children. (Fulton, Dixon 1993) Aspects of American special education that would improve the Japanese system are:

create a more fluid, systemic method for applying and receiving services
provide a neutral party to increase communication between teachers and parents
provide IEPs and follow through with their implementaion in the regular classroom
pass legislation that will require schools to provide ramps, elevators and other necessary equipment to accommodate students with physical disabilities.
provide accommodations for students with learning disabilities
recognize students with disabilities as valuable members of the community by creating programs aimed at reducing social stigmas
encourage families to seek services for their LD, autistic and ADHD children References

Kayama, M. (2010). Parental Experiences of Children's Disabilities and Special Education in the United States and Japan: Implications for School Social Work. Social Work, 55(2), 117-125. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Fulton, L., & Dixon, V. (1993). Interviews with Mothers of Former Special Education Students in Japan. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Narita, S., & National Inst. of Special Education, T. ). (Japan). (1992). Japanese Special Education Today: Issues and Implications. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

YouTube CBS News Online Some disadvantages to the special education system in Japan as compared with that of the U.S.:

Japanese parents seek services less often than American parents
Unequal partnership between parents and teachers in deciding on instruction and care for Japanese special needs students
segregation of special needs students even those without LDs is typical in Japan while inclusion is preferred in America
accommodations are not readily available in Japanese schools but are required in U.S. Japan's special education program began as part of the post-World War II educational reconstruction effort by the Allied Forces.

Many democratic ideas from the American educational system were borrowed including the right of students with disabilities to receive an education.

In 1956, the Special Measures Law for General Provision of Public Schools for the Handicapped was established. This act increased government subsidies to create separate schools for the disabled and provide them with nine years of free compulsary public education.

Unfortunately, it took 23 years before students with disabilites were able to actually receive the education they were guaranteed. (Narita, 1992) There has been much in the media recently about the advanced educational systems in other countries as compared to the United States.

The Asian countries in particular are getting attention for their high scores in math, science and foreign language studies. Americans are made to feel that our students are falling behind.

There may be some validity to these claims, however
special education is one area of education in which America outshines the Asian countries.

My presentation focuses on the Japanese special education system as compared with the U.S. Japan's special education: not so special.

Dispelling the myth of the superiority of Japanese schools by Eve Bridger http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6dBwSSC8twg&feature=player_detailpage
Full transcript