Monday, January 12, 2015

Why Are Jukus Under-reported?

The juku industry has certainly made a significant contribution to the formation of the broad, intelligent middle class in the Japanese society for almost half century and thus grown to the 10 billion US$ market.

However, its whole picture has never been reported in Japan, and in the foreign press, it is only depicted as another bizarre thing in East Asia.
Much of the blame should go to the neglectful attitude of the Japanese education scholars, as I explained in plenty in the previous posts.
Besides, other parties such as the Ministry of Education and the mainstream media in Japan should also take the blame, because they have long maintained biased eyes on the Japanese education as a whole.
I would like to discuss how such a biased viewpoint has been developed in each party. 

         1.  The Ministry of Education[i]:

The Ministry of Education, which is in charge of the national school system, is destined to be on cat-and-dog terms with shadow education, because the excellence and popularity of jukus cannot help but terribly offend the pride of the ministry officials.
In addition to this destiny, there has been an inter-ministerial conflict. To your surprise, the juku industry was first accepted by the Ministry of Industry[ii]. Below is the brief summary of the background[iii].

During the expansion period of juku market in 1970s and 1980s, many major juku owners got together to set up a trade organization to facilitate their business and first approached to the Ministry of Education for its endorsement. However, the ministry officials were reluctant and long postponing the endorsement for no reason.
In the meantime, the Ministry of Industry approached to major juku companies on the ground that it needed to prevent consumers' problems and approved their trade organization in the late 1980s over the head of the Ministry of Education. 
This turn of the event was seen as a loss of territory on the part of the Ministry of Education in the context of the fierce inter-ministerial struggle in Japan, and it further complicated the already difficult relation between the Ministry of Education and the juku industry. 
Almost 10 years later, the Ministry of Education eventually recognized jukus in the late 1990s, but it seems that the ministry officials are still reluctant: juku issues are covered not by the department of elementary and secondary education but by an irrelevant department which is called “Lifelong learning policy bureau”.
Thus the juku industry is torn between the two in terms of the ministerial jurisdiction.

         2.    The Mainstream Media:

The mainstream media, particularly the newspapers, conventionally talk about jukus in a negative tone, probably because admiration of jukus cannot help questioning schoolteachers and teachers' unions that they have long supported so far.
Some national newspapers were actively engaged in the negative campaign against jukus by running series of articles and publishing books for criticizing them[iv]. Although their criticism is easing off these days, the negative campaign has created a perverted social context, in which the blame for every societal problem should be shifted onto jukus groundlessly.
However, while they put forth such negative opinions in their flagship newspapers, they cover the excellence and popularity of jukus without hesitation in their second-line media. They often feature juku instructors in their magazine articles and in some programs of their affiliated TV stations[v]. Moreover, every year they publish the name list of the successful students in the entrance exams of prestigious universities in their weekly magazines as if to fan the exam fever in Japan. Their double-faced attitude is appalling.

Thus those three parties including education scholars, the Ministry of Education, and the mainstream media have long failed to fulfill their due role of having impartial eyes on Japanese education and reporting it to people.  

         3.    Ordinary Japanese People:

The negative and perverted attitudes of those parties cannot fail to affect the people's way of thinking. Until recently, it was fashionable to frown upon jukus and juku goers. In fact, lamenting over the proliferation of jukus was the stereotyped behavior of those who act like a socially-conscious person despite the fact that many of them have experience of learning in jukus or sending their sons and daughters there.
However, people's perception has already changed. Now few people think that jukus are lamentable things.
Problem is that they don't know how to understand or explain why they have been undergoing dual structure of education which is apparently enigmatic. It is because the scholars and journalists, who are in the position to offer objective perspective to comprehend the situation holistically, have failed to do their job. As a result, ordinary people usually feel challenged to explain their own adolescent experience of studying to non-Japanese people.

[i] Its official name is “Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology.”

[ii] Its official name is “Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry.”

[iii] See for details: Takeshi Maeya, 2006, Gakko ga Gakushujuku ni Nomikomareru Hi [The day when jukus engulf schools]

[iv] A leading publication of this kind is “Ranjuku Jidai” [The Age of Sprawling Jukus] by Mainichi Newspapers in 1977.

[v] See an example of TV programs featuring juku instructors:
The MC of this program is a juku instructor.

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