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The Journal of Aesthetic Education 37.4 (2003) 64-73

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Postmodern Approach to Art Appreciation for Integrated Study in Japan

This essay aims to clarify the issues of art appreciation education in Japan, and to examine a viewpoint for considering the issues in relation to a "Period for Integrated Study" established in 2002. Though ideas of art educationhave expanded in recent years, we are facing the difficulty of approximately |a 20% cut in the number of art classes offered in Japanese compulsory education. In addition to this, involvement of art with Integrated Study, a new attempt to transcend the conventional learning of subjects, has presented urgent issues in art education along with current educational reforms.

Based on analyses of the developmental characteristics of Japanese students' aesthetic sensitivity, we consider the issues of art appreciation education, and present a vision for involvement of art appreciation with Integrated Study. For example, Japanese students show a keen interest in formal elements with an inclination for expressiveness as a legacy received from the study of modernism in art education. On the other hand, students also show weakness in skills in finding artistic contexts. This should be considered as the most important issue of art appreciation education in Japan. It is necessary to enhance students' viewing in relation to social and cultural contexts in order to address this issue. We propose that this can be achieved through Integrated Study. Art appreciation in Integrated Study should take a postmodern approach to Japanese art education, which now has a strong inclination toward modernism.

Educational Reform and Integrated Study

With a rapid decline in the number of children, a rapidly aging society, and the advent of computerization and globalization, we now face problems which cannot be solved by conventional systems presently in place in Japanese society. In order to address these problems, drastic reforms that also include educational reform must be undertaken. Specific reform in education [End Page 64] can be seen in changes in the Course of Study. The most notable feature in the latest revision of the Course of Study is the establishment of the Period for Integrated Study. Integrated Study was established as a new project for the most highly prioritized issue of how students can acquire the so-called "Zest for Living." 1 Integrated Study is a required subject, with 105 to 110 class hours/year in third grade and above in elementary school, and 70 to 130 class hours/year in junior high school. The Course of Study does not prescribe the contents in detail but the periods are organized and implemented by each school according to regions and schools. However, it is suggested that schools proceed with the study of international understanding, conversation in foreign languages, information, the environment, social welfare, and health in a comprehensive and interdisciplinary way. IntegratedStudy puts an emphasis on students' initiative in identifying issues forthemselves, and on the cultivation of their talent and ability to solve those issues. Based on students' own interests, great importance is placed on problem-solving, open-ended activities, and the cultivation of independent and creative attitudes. Unlike the conventional unilateral teaching of knowledge for subjects, Integrated Study's purpose is to shift the direction of education so students can learn and think for themselves. In addition, Integrated Study focuses on authentic way and develops the skills of collecting, investigating, and connecting information, and reporting, announcing, and discussing. 2

On the other hand, in curricula for elementary and junior high schools, the hours of art classes were reduced so that Japanese art education was put in a more difficult situation compared to previous curricula. Respectivesubjects are designed for students to learn basic abilities for the development of Integrated Study. Therefore, while educational reform is underway in Japan, art education faces the problem of maintaining basic learning at the same level as previously, relating art to Integrated Study.

Relations between Integrated Study and art education have been discussed in various ways. 3 Two general problems can be pointed out. One isour concern that the originality of art as...


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