Japanese education and education reform
In the late 1980s, when Japan’s bubble economy was at its peak, set to become the world’s number one economy by 2000, I wrote a paper summarizing the key features of the Japanese education system (Goodman 1989 ). The paper was published in a new journal, Pacifi c Review , whose title encapsulated the sense of a coming “Pacifi c Century” with Japan at its center. Looking back at that paper now, it is interesting to see the extent to which it drew on prevalent assumptions, both inside and outside Japan, that the success of the Japanese economy was directly related to the Japanese education system. As the Japanese economy slipped into the prolonged recession in the 1990s, that connection came increasingly under attack; indeed, it was sometimes turned on its head in an equally syllogistic view that Japan’s economic woes were a product of its educational system. It is in this context that this chapter sets out to explore what has changed both in the way that the Japanese education system is perceived and operates, and in what these changes tell us about education and the broader society in Japan.