Shin-chan, TV's popular
unruly kid
Problems in Japanese schools include truancy, bullying, breakdown in classroom order and declining academic abilities. Many surveys have shown that the performance of elementary, middle and high school students is slipping and students have an increasingly bad attitude about school and learning. One study found that many students today suffer from "a lack of incentive, inquisitiveness, independence and maturity."

Many students study less than they used to because they see their futures in a grim light and don’t see the point of studying. One student told the Asahi Shimbun, “Even the elite don’t get anywhere if they end up losing their jobs. I don’t want to go overboard with study.”

In 2009 there were a record 61,000 cases of violence involving students both at and away from schools. While violence among high school students is decreasing it is increasing among primary and middle school students, according to a survey done by the education ministry. Many experts put more blame on parents, for neglecting and not disciplining their children than schools

Homeroom teachers and teachers on student guidance committees have been responsible for addressing the problems, such as school refusal syndrome, bullying, and juvenile delinquency. Concerned with the increasing number of school-related problems, since 1995 the Ministry of Education has deployed professional school counselors to schools to consult with students, parents, and teachers. This chapter will present current school-related problems, and discuss how schools are solving these problems in cooperation with parents, counselors, volunteers, and law enforcement. [Source: Miki Y. Ishikida, Japanese Education in the 21st Century, ; iUniverse, June 2005 ~]

Teachers are responsible for guidance and counseling because most schools do not have school psychologists and counselors. The teachers in the student guidance committee are in charge of disciplining students with the cooperation of their homeroom teacher, a nurse-teacher, and the supervising teacher of their extracurricular club at school. Since 1995, the MOE has begun to deploy school counselors to school in order to supervise troubled students. Although there are now more school counselors than ever before, there is still less than one counselor per school. It is important to have school counselors to deal with bullying, school refusal syndrome, and misconduct because school counselors deal with psychological problems, and have different perspectives from teachers. ~



Good Websites and Sources: Problems in the Japanese Education System ; Problems of Education After World War Two in Japan ; Education in Japan and Europe, Very Different Problems ; Paper on Japanese School Bullying (2001) pdf file ; Bully for the Bullied Victims


Lack of Discipline in Some Japanese Schools

Surveys have found that children in eight percent of public school classrooms are so unruly teachers can not hold lessons. In these classes children refuse to sit still, listen or stop talking. Teachers frequently report that students get up and wander around when they feel like it and kick doors and make other loud noises to attract attention. In some schools children ride bicycles down the halls and don't show up for class at all. The term “ gakkyu hokai “ ("class in collapse") has sprung to describe a total loss of discipline.

Many teachers believe the situation would improve if classes with 40 children were reduced to 25. Others just feel overwhelmed or that their teaching styles are out of date. One teacher, with many years of experience, said, "Children have changed so drastically that my way of doing things just doesn't work anymore.”

Collapse of Homeroom Classes (Gakkyu- Ho-kai)

Homeroom classes are the core of elementary school education. Homeroom teachers teach all subjects to their classes, and stay with their homeroom students all day. Homeroom teachers are also responsible for the character development of their students. The “collapse of homeroom classes” (gakkyu- ho-kai) has become a major problem in elementary schools. The term first appeared in educational journals in 1997. Since 1998, the mass media has publicized this problem (Asahi 1999:230). The “collapse of homeroom classes” refers to a dysfunctional homeroom class where a homeroom teacher has lost control over classroom management and student behavior for a certain amount of time (Monbusho- 1999b:84). [Source: Miki Y. Ishikida, Japanese Education in the 21st Century, ; iUniverse, June 2005 ~]

This phenomenon occurs most frequently in elementary schools. There have always been troublemakers who ignore their teachers, and disturb the classroom. But when other students join the troublemakers and interrupt instruction regularly over several weeks, the homeroom teacher cannot enforce discipline. Once the students no longer respect the authority of the homeroom teachers, the class is considered “collapsed.” “Collapsed” homeroom classes tend to be messy (Ogi 2000:10-14). The students walk around at will, even leaving the classroom or screaming (Asahi 1999:57-8). ~

According to a 2001 survey, 26.0 percent of elementary school principals and 32.4 percent of elementary school teachers said that their school had some form of “collapse of homeroom classes” (AS October 2, 2001). The television program, “Spreading Collapse of Homeroom Classes,” broadcast on June 19, 1998, stated that eight percent of 1,300 teachers surveyed had experienced a “collapse of the homeroom class” (Kawakami 1999:190-1). ~

These troublemakers in the first to third grades are not ready to sit still and accept instruction. According to a survey in 1998, the overwhelming majority of childcare providers contend that children have become more self-centered, rough, and spoiled than ever, and that children stayed up later at night mainly because of the lack of discipline at home. The 1989 Course of Study for Preschool has drastically changed preschool education from the teacher-centered classroom to child-centered education. Children may have trouble adjusting to a more regimented elementary school after having become accustomed to the unstructured days in preschools. Ogi argues that the “collapse of homeroom classes” began in 1994-1995 when the children who had experienced child-centered preschool education since 1990 entered elementary school (Ogi 2000:89, 94). ~

It has been argued that children become self-centered at school when they are not disciplined at home, and the class is boring in comparison to video games and comics (Asahi 1999:232). Parents are also blamed for their out-of-control and undisciplined children. Young parents who were raised amid the material culture of the 1970s tended to spoil their children like themselves (AS February 11, 1999). ~

Furthermore, the media and the public blame homeroom teacher for losing control of the classroom. The age difference between aging teachers and children needs to be seriously considered (Asahi 1999:233-235). The average elementary school teacher is now over 40 years old. Older teachers are considered to have a more difficult time keeping up with the changes in society and with children. However, teachers cannot take full responsibility for poorly disciplined children. Cooperation between teachers and parents is necessary, and parents need to correct their children’s unacceptable behavior. ~

Research on the Collapse of Homeroom Classes Problem

The Research Group for Classroom Management, consisting of 18 educational specialists, principals, and superintendents, investigated 150 dysfunctional elementary school homerooms in search of the causes of the “collapse of homeroom classes.” The results suggest that the “collapse of homeroom classes” happens more often in classes where the number of students had rapidly increased to nearly 40 students, the maximum number of students per class in elementary schools (8 cases). The collapse of a homeroom class tends to occur more frequently when the class is large. More than one-fourth of dysfunctional homerooms (41 classes) had 36 or more students, 7.6 students more than the national average. [Source: Miki Y. Ishikida, Japanese Education in the 21st Century, ; iUniverse, June 2005 ~]

The “collapse of homeroom classes” also occurs in the following situations:; 1) The class lacks cooperation with preschool education (20 cases); 2) The class has potential troublemakers, such as children who need special attention (37 cases), do not receive enough education at home (30 cases), or are dissatisfied with the contents of subjects and pedagogy (96 cases); 3) The homeroom class tends to be slow in resolving problems such as bullying (51 cases); 4) The school lacks the leadership of principals and the cooperation of teachers (51 cases); 5) The class lacks flexibility in classroom management (104 cases); 6) The class has not built trusting relationships with parents and is slow in responding to problems (47 cases); 7) The investigation and countermeasures against the collapse of homeroom class failed (24 cases); and; 8) Discipline at home and in the school in response to the problems failed (26 cases) ~

The Group suggests that teachers, children, and parents take the “collapse of homeroom classes” as an opportunity for learning and growth. Also, the Group advises teachers and parents to understand that the children have ‘different cultures’ and that teachers should not give up on the potential of their students. The teachers should consult and cooperate with other teachers as well as with social and medical specialists (AS May 19, 2000). Homeroom teachers need to admit that their homeroom class is dysfunctional as early as possible, and consult promptly with other teachers and parents. Team-teaching can also remove some of the pressure from the homeroom teacher (Asahi 1999:17-19). The MOE responded to the report and decided to add retired teachers as temporary teachers to troubled classrooms (AS May 19 2000). According to a 2001 survey, the change of a homeroom teacher usually improved the situation (87.5 percent of 88 cases) (AS October 2, 2001). ~

School Punishments in Japan

Teachers often punish students in front of other to set an example and parents are generally supportive of corporal punishment. One 50-year-old mother told the Washington Post, "If my children get hit by their teachers, it wouldn't make me happy. But if they did something wrong and deserved to be punished that's okay with me." Some students agree. One 17-year-old student said, "some students are too stubborn to listen to their teachers; they deserve to be severely punished."

Boys are frequently punished by having their head shaved. A high school boy I have known had his shaved for joyriding on a motorbike. An elementary school kid I know had his shaved for making a mistake in a little league baseball game.

There is a decades-old ban on corporal punishment that covers everything from striking students to making them stand in the hall. Even so physical punishment is very common in middle schools and to a lesser extent high schools. Teachers routinely kick, slap, punch and beat their students and force them to kneel, stand on one leg or raise their hands in the air until their limbs go numb. Bruises and bloodied noses frequently occur and it is not uncommon for teachers to break bones, and burst eardrums. There have even been reports of teachers torturing students with live electric wire. Corporal punishment doesn't seem to be nearly as common in elementary school. [Source: Mary Jordan and Kevin Sullivan, Washington Post, December 7, 1996]

In fiscal 2003, 173 teacher were disciplined for administering corporal punishment. Many teacher complain about working in rough schools, where students do whatever the like and teachers are mocked because there is little they can do to fight back.

Injuries by Teachers in Japan

In 1995, a 13-year-old boy in Akita prefecture was kicked, shoved against a blackboard and slammed onto a desk top 40 times by a teacher for not doing his homework. A junior high school girl in Tokyo was punched and pulled by the hair by a teacher for raising an objection to some aspects of a school festival.

A teacher in Hyogo Prefecture was suspended for three months for repeatedly slapping a nine-year-old girl. The girl, who was punished for not finishing her lunch, was harangued and scolded more when she wouldn’t stop crying. The girl was so traumatized she transferred to another school.

In March 2006, a middle school teacher in Hiroshima was placed on leave after he threatened three boys. Later he was allowed to return and teach the same class with the boys in it. In November 2007, a temporary teacher in Yao, Osaka Prefecture ask 13 third-graders to strip, he said, to check for physical abuse. In December 2007, a 9-year-old boy suffered a concussion after being struck by a teacher. The teacher lost his temper after having had his hand pushed away by the student.

In May 2008, a Hokkaido primary school teacher slapped a student on the head, kicked him in the legs and put a sticker on boy’s chest that read “liar.” The student reportedly teased another student in a way the teacher didn’t like. When the student denied doing anything wrong the teacher took the action he did. In July 2008, a 41-year-old teacher in Uwajima, Ehime Prefecture struck 83 second-year middle school students on the head for being late for a assembly about good behavior. Seven of the students were struck hard enough that they developed bumps on their heads.

In February 2010, two Tokyo area high school teachers were fired for dishing out harsh punishments. The teachers struck students and forced a student to kneel in a painful position all night for bringing snowboards and maj jongg tiles with them on s school trip.


Deaths by Teachers in Japan

In 1995, a 16-year-old schoolgirl died from brain injuries sustained when she was slammed headfirst into a stone pillar by her home room teacher because her skirt was too short. In 1990, a 15-year-old girl died when a teacher slammed a 500-pound iron gate on her because she was a couple of minutes late. That teacher was sentenced to two years in prison, which many people thought was unfair. Over 75,000 Japanese signed a petition supporting the teacher.

In 1983, a 13-year-old child on a school trip died when he was thrown overboard from a ship after getting trouble. In 1991, two teenagers in a school for emotionally troubled children died when they were locked in a windowless metal shed as punishment for smoking. A 48-year-old primary school teacher was accused of cruel punishment when held the upper half of a sixth-grader out a third-story window because the student talked back to the teacher.

In December 2005, a 12-year-old girl was fatally stabbed by her juku teacher in Kyoto. The teacher, a part time instructor and student at a local university, told police he had trouble teaching the girl who was very rude and disrespectful to him.

In March 2006, an 11-year-old boy in Fukuoka Prefecture hung himself after receiving corporal punishment from his teacher. According to court documents the teacher grabbed the boys lapels and shook him after the boy hit another student with a rolled up newspaper, demanding the apologize. The boy fell over from his chair and ran out the classroom. When he returned the teacher yelled at him and the boy fled from the classroom again. In October 2009, a Fukuoka court ruled that the punishment led the boy to kill himself and ordered the local government to pay the boy’s parents about $100,000.


Violence in School in Japan

There were 59,618 reported incidents at primary, middle and high schools in the 2008-2009 academic year, up 13 percent from the previous academic year. In 2006, there was a record high 2,018 incidents of violence in elementary school, up 128 from the previous year. In middle schools there were 23,115 incidents of violence, about the same as the previous year. In high schools there were 5,150 cases of violence.

In the 2001-2 school year, there were 33,129 cases of violence in public schools, a decrease of more than 9.4 percent from the record high of 36,577 cases in the 1999-2000 school year. School violence included fights among students (47.2 percent); vandalism (36.1 percent); attacks upon teachers (16.0 percent); and attacks against people outside of the school (0.7 percent). School violence took place mainly in middle schools (77.8 percent), but also in high schools (17.8 percent) and elementary schools (4.4 percent). In addition, 5,101 cases of violent crimes were committed by students outside of school (Monbukagakusho- 2002b). [Source: Miki Y. Ishikida, Japanese Education in the 21st Century, ; iUniverse, June 2005 ~]

The students who commit school violence share many characteristics. Many perform poorly in class, have adversarial relationships with teachers and peers, lack self-control, and have a need to be the center of attention. At home, they often have overprotective or domineering parents. School violence became a problem in the early 1980s when groups of students vandalized school buildings and property, and assaulted teachers. In the 1981 report from the Public Prosecutor’s Office, 70.1 percent of those who committed school violence were poor in academic classes, though many of them were good athletes. They were not satisfied with their school life and despised their teachers. They approved of violence more than other students did (Ota 1994:124, 130-133). ~

In the 2000-2001 school year, a total of 40,374 cases of violence were reported in public schools throughout Japan. This included 20,800 acts of violence against other students, 5,800 acts of violence against teachers and around 2,000 acts of violence against people outside the schools. A total of 31,300 acts of violence were committed in middle school, 1,500 in elementary school and 7,600 in high schools. In 2000, a total 6,252 students were arrested or taken into police custody for committing violent acts. Of these 4,835 were in middle school and 1,417 were in high school. Primary school violence surged in 2005, with 1,890 cases if violence, with attacks against teacher surging by more than 30 percent. According to education ministry survey of 23,160 schools there was also an increase of young children quickly becoming violent over trivial matters.

One survey in 1999, found that 5 percent of middle school boys carried a knife. Of those considered bullies, 13.5 percent carried knives. The survey also reported that 13 percent of middle school students and 14 percent of high school students had resorted to violence.

Middle schools are where most of the serious violence is. In June 2000, 31 middle school students stormed a rival middle school in Higashi-Osaka and smashed windows in a classroom. A teacher who tried to stop them was injured. In May 1998, a 26-tear-old man and three middle school students entered a middle school in Yokohama and dragged a student into parking lot and beat him in a car. In September 1998, eight middle students entered a middle school in Chiba and beat a 15-year-old with batons, inflicting severe head injuries,

See Killing of Eight Children, See Famous Crimes.

Combating Violence and Bullying in Japan

After the eight children were killed at a school in Osaka in 2001, schools began locking their gates, organizing parent patrols, stalling cameras, arming teachers with weapons and encouraging them to take martial art classes. Some schools have installed automated locked gates and biometric palm vein scanners — that can read the prints of relatives and others who have registered their palm prints — to keep unwanted intruders out of the schools. The government has proposed suspending bullies from school and easing the definition of what constitutes physical punishment. There is been an effort to get kids to help each other battle bullying though meetings, mediation, tutoring and befriending,

Because middle school education is compulsory, students are rarely expelled. However, in the 1999-2000 school year, 84 middle school students were prohibited from attending classes for between 3 and 20 days because of violent behavior in school. Thirty-five of these students had assaulted a teacher (AS December 15, 2000). ~

High schools, on the other hand, have the authority to suspend or expel students who violate school laws. In the past, groups of students were responsible for school violence, but now, a single student perpetrates many cases of school violence. The MOE plans to expand the number of school counselors to work with these students. In 2003, 716 cases of school violence were reported to the police, and 1,019 students, mostly from middle school, were arrested (Naikakufu 2004a). ~

In 2007, the government introduced a plan to crack down on bullying by imposing harsher punishments on bullies and teachers that encouraged bullying or turn a blind eye to it. Students caught bullying face suspension from school. Some politicians have pushed for a return of corporal punishment, especially for students that repeatedly break the rules, and giving teachers more flexibility in issuing physical punishment.

There are supposed to be rules and procedures for suspending students involved in bullying — the School Education Law, revised in 2001, requires it — but school boards have not established them. Students who are bullied at one school are allowed to transfer to another school if they cite bullying as a reason.

In September 2009, a third-year middle school student ib Chiba Prefecture was arrested on assault charges after he struck a 38-year-old male teacher with a baseball bat from behind. The teachers had earlier scolded the student over his dyed hair.

Some students are taking their complaints to the courts. In Hyogo Prefecture, two high school students sued five classmates and the Hyogo prefectural government for about $100,000 demanding compensation for physical and mental harassment inflicted them. The plaintiffs claim they were beaten and bullied on a daily basis over the course of several years. One of the victims sustained severe burns when hot 70 degree water was poured on them.

Absentee Students in Japan

“Hutoko” ("absentee students") or “school refusal” is a serious problem among students and its is getting worse. It is characterized by children who refuse to go to school for one month or more a year and become isolated. Sometimes they rarely leave their homes or rooms and spend all their time sleeping, watching television, playing video games and surfing the Internet. Some spend years in isolation and end up as maladjusted adults.

About 134,000 elementary and junior school students were absent from school for more than 30 consecutive days during the 2000-001 school year, double the number of the previous year. According to an another survey about 1 in 85 middle school student missed 50 days or more of school because of school phobia. The rate is increasing every year.

Many of those who chronically skip school are embarrassed because the do poorly in school or they have no friends. Some are victims of bullying. One child who refused to go to school after he got roughed up by some students told AP, "I didn't have any friends and I wasn't part of any group. One survey found that 20 percent of the students in elementary school feel tried of being with others and unable to trust others.

Hutoko is sometimes a precursor to hikokomori. See Living, Society, Social Problems.

To address this problem and other problems the number of alternative schools is growing. Special schools have been set for absentee students that get them interacting with others who share their problem and teach them life skills as well as school subjects.

See Separate Article on School Refusal Syndrome

Teachers and Sex in Japan

Molestation and statutory rape of children by teachers is a serious problems in Japan. In 1999, 116 teachers were disciplined for committing indecent acts on students. Of these 56 were fired and 13 were charged with crimes. In 2001, there were 122 such cases. Experts believe that vast majority of cases go unreported.

In 2002, 98 teachers were fired for obscene acts. In 2003, 155 teachers were disciplined for “indecent acts.” in 2005, 124 teachers were disciplined for sexual offenses, including child prostitution and secretly taking images of women. In 1995, only 27 teachers were disciplined for such acts.

In 1999, a 37-old teacher in Kanagawa Prefecture was charged with committing an indecent act with a middle school girl after offering her money. The same teacher operated a prostitution club with services provided by middle school girls. Around the same time a 35-year-old English teacher was dismissed after allegedly video-taping female students through a skylight in a girl’s bathroom while they changed their clothes. A 49-year-old male teacher was jailed for touching the breasts and lower body of a mentally disabled girl while she took a shower.

In 1998, a 35-year-old high school teacher was accused of taking videos under girl's skirts by standing under a staircase. In January 1999, another school teacher was arrested after he donned a wig and skirt and videod naked girls at a hot spring resort with a hidden camera.

In June, 1995, the principal of a major college preparatory school was arrested for running a prostitution ring involving 280 girls between the ages of 14 and 17. A few months earlier a Tokyo teacher was arrested for running an introduction service using 321 high school students.

See Child Pornography.

More on Teachers and Sex in Japan

In July 2001, a 34-year-old middle school Social Studies teacher picked up a 12-year-old girl, who he met through a telephone dating service, and handcuffed her and drove off with her in his car with the plan of having sex with her. While the car was traveling on an expressway she jumped out of the car and was hit by a truck.. She died after she bled to death on the side of the highway.

In January 2002, a Saitama teacher was arrested for paying a 13-year-old girl $380 for sex, a high-school teacher n Kagoshima prefecture was charged with “sexual conduct” with a 16-year-old student, and a Tokyo middle school teacher was sentenced to a year in prison for groping a high school girl on a bus.

In December 2003, a Board of Education senior official in Tokyo was caught trying to secretly video tape women changing in the dressing room at a hot spring resort In December 2006, a primary school teacher in Tokyo was reprimanded for running a website that showed photographs of six children that died traffic accidents and other children that been disfigured or seriously hurt in accidents. He was also charged with distributing child pornography In 2006 one teacher was charged with distributing child pornography and a principal in Saitama was arrested for groping a woman who was waiting for a taxi at a taxi stand at 1:00am. He was drunk at the time.

In October 2004, a 40-year-old junior high school teacher was sentenced to 18 months in prison for molesting two 13-year-old girls. Most of victims were students at his school. He molested them in his car or a karaoke where he would take the girls.

In September 2007, a vice principal was arrested from removing the underwear of passed-out, drunken woman at a bar and taking photographs of her body. Another vice principal, at an elementary school, was disciplined for repeatedly molesting schoolgirls. He used the pretext of taking their measurements so he could touch their bodies. Another primary school vice principal paid a girl to have sex and took obscene photographs of a number of women he met on the street which were published in a magazine. Yet another vice principal was sentenced to three years in jail, suspended five years, for lewd acts. He met six teenage girls through a dating service and sold lewd photographs he took of them.

Victims of Teacher Sex in Japan

Victims who attempt to come forward are often given a harder time than the perpetrators. The New York Times reported a story about a 16-year-old who was given genital herpes in 2001 by her teacher and told her parents about it. When they confronted the teacher, the teacher denied the claim and warned that of they reported him, the girl would be expelled from school. In spite of the threats the family reported the teacher to police. He was fired and given a one-year prison sentence. However, the girl became an object of taunting by students at her school and her parents sent her abroad to go to school.

In February 2002, a 51-year-old teacher was fired and given a two-year prison sentence for fondling a girl in a school office. After the teacher was arrested she ridiculed by other students and chided by her best friend for ruining the life of the teacher. The victim told Mainichi Shimbun, “When I was the supermarket, I was surrounded by some senior students I had never spoken to before. They shouted, “That’s the sexually harassed! — and laughed at me.”

In October 2004, a 40-year-old junior high school teacher was sentenced to 18 months in prison for molesting two 13-year-old girls. Most of victims were students at his school. He molested them in his car or a karaoke where he would take the girls.

Eleven-Year-Old Boy Kills Self over Closure of School

In February 2013, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported: “An 11-year-old primary school student in Daito, Osaka Prefecture, apparently killed himself by jumping in front of a train, leaving behind a note that suggests the act was intended to protest the closure of his school. At about 4:25 p.m., the fifth-year student was hit below a platform of Nozaki Station by a seven-car train. Witnesses said he apparently jumped from the platform down to the rails and was struck by the train. [Source: Yomiuri Shimbun/Daily Yomiuri, February 16, 2013]

The boy left a note about his school, which is scheduled to be shut down and its students integrated into two other primary schools. The note read, "In exchange for this little life, please stop the shutdown and integration." According to the police station, the driver of the train saw the boy jump and immediately applied the brake, but it was too late. The boy's rucksack, which he left on the platform, contained learning materials for a cram school, and the handwritten note was found nearby, the police said.

The primary school the boy attended has seen its student population decrease, and is scheduled to close at the end of this fiscal year. Students of the school will be transferred to two other primary schools. The boy's family members said he recently complained that he did not want to attend the school that was scheduled to accept him and his schoolmates. Just before the incident, the boy sent an e-mail to his mother's cell phone that read: "Thank you for all you have done up to now. I love everyone in my family."

See Rape, Women

Image Sources: xorsyst blog

Text Sources: Source: Miki Y. Ishikida, Japanese Education in the 21st Century, ; iUniverse, June 2005 ~; Education in Japan website ; Web-Japan, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Japan; Japan National Tourist Organization (JNTO), Daily Yomiuri, Jiji Press, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, The Guardian, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Global Viewpoint (Christian Science Monitor), Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, NBC News, Fox News and various books and other publications.

Last updated Japan 2014

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