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Japan: School Textbooks

From the Desk of the Soul of Japan

The Board of Education, along with its teachers get together to decide which textbooks to use in their schools.  The selection process for which books to use is highly contentious because the BOE and the Japanese Government rarely see eye-to-eye on what curriculum is best for students.   I will introduce three textbooks in this post.

On the one hand, many of the teachers are seen as left-wing leaning in their stance on education, and prefer to teach on themes that are light hearted watered down versions of history, English, and social studies.   On the other hand, the government wants to introduce a more progressive curriculum for students with subjects that touch on oral history and real life situations related to Japan.

Most Japanese students of today have zero relevant knowledge about the world other than their own subculture.   Most high schoolers are still reading books  about how to make friends with foreigners and how to be more international minded even now - in 2016!   They are way behind the Times.   I have argued with these people about their materials and what they should be presenting to the younger generation of today.   Ignorance is bliss is no longer cute.

The two big textbooks being used in Japanese high schools are Big Dipper and Vivid for the English program.   These two textbooks teach more than just English, they also teach social studies, history, and cultural awareness with little care about how useful the subject material would be in a real life situation.   I have read these books from cover to cover and find the contents rather non-educational.  Topics on the internet, telephone talking, and American  activities, and more fill the pages of this book...  The usual subjects but repackaged and re-taught again every single year.   Publishers are Suken Shuppan and Daiichi Gakushusha.

The textbooks I brought  to their attention and one that all high schools in Japan should be teaching is published by Ikuhosha.  This is a government-approved textbook that covers more relevant topics of today more vigorously.  The books is titled atarashii mina koumin  ( Everybody is new Citizen).    This book touches on topics related to Japan with a more mature angle.  Subjects that make students think about the realities of their own country and the world.   Most teachers focus attention away from issues at home, and only focus on light topics and on subject material that is not thought-provoking.

This would explain why many young people take little interest in what is happening in their societies today, and why many simply do not care.   The ones that do care don't think they can do anything to bring change or that their voices have no meaning.  


  1. One reason they didn't listen to you is that 新しいみんなの公民 is for junior high school. Therefore it's not suitable for senior high school.

    1. The content in 新しいみんなの公民 is very much suitable for high schoolers. Have you even seen a junior high school textbook? Stuff in high school books are rather flat and are more suitable for elementary school kids in American.

    2. Yes I have seen JHS textbooks. I was an ALT at three JHS for a year.

      What you seem to be is saying that the exact content covered in JHS should be covered again in SHS for no purpose. I'm also confused as to why you're comparing the content of English textbooks form teaching English with Social Studies textbooks written in Japanese. Dose your SHS use these English textbooks instead of Japanese language Social Studies textbooks?

    3. English textbooks in Japan are not like English textbooks in the U.S. Content in Japanese/English textbooks are skewed towards Western culture, along with English grammar lessons. The textbooks mentioned in my post have a lot of references to American culture and international relations, so in a way it is like social studies mixed with English lessons. The students are much more interested in cultural awareness than the actual English content in the textbooks themselves. 新しいみんなの公民 would be much better adapted for social studies for Japanese people in Japan, and this is what I was hoping the focus for schools would be instead of English textbooks skewed towards American social studies only. I wouldn't need to draw comparisons from two unrelated books if English lessons were solely taught in Vivid and Big Dipper.


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