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The Journal of Aesthetic Education 37.4 (2003) 101-107

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Art Education in Lower Secondary Schools in Japan and the United Kingdom

This essay compares the system and practice of art education in Japan and the United Kingdom at the lower secondary school level. Three surveys on how art is taught form the basis of this research. I conducted the first survey in 1992, distributed to 156 art teachers in Japan on their "real" curricula and compared them with syllabus samplers of nationally authorized textbooks. From 1993 to 1994, I studied in the United Kingdom the newly introduced National Curriculum and performed a survey on its impact on classroomteaching in 49 art departments in secondary schools, mostly in England. Since 1994, I have participated in a joint study project on craft education in secondary schools in Japan and Britain, in which 717 Japanese schools are cooperating via a questionnaire survey. The issues common to these surveys are how art teachers respond to the national standards in their own teaching practice, and what these responses suggest for the future development of this subject. This essay identifies survey findings in both countries, together with overviews on the systems and cultural factors affecting the state of Art and its implementation in curricula.

Japan and the United Kingdom: An Overview

Let us look briefly at the historical background of the national curricula in Japan and the United Kingdom. The education system in Japan was established by the central government and has maintained its unity. After World War II, a new national Course of Study was recommended but was not compulsory. But in the legislation of 1958, this Course of Study became binding and a new subject called "Technology and Home Economics" was introduced. A new term, "design" was adopted in Art, "craft" was removed, and the time allocated to Art was drastically reduced. In the 1969 revision, five main areas of Art study were established: drawing (painting), sculpture, design, craft, and art appreciation. In 1977, a recommended time allocation for each area in Art was eliminated, and the five areas were reorganized into two fields: "expression" and "appreciation." Between 1969 and 1977, lower secondary schools in Japan allotted two compulsory hours per week for Art in grades 7 and 8, one compulsory hour and one non-compulsory hour in grade 9. However, after the revisions of 1989 and 1998, the time allotted for Art has gradually decreased. [End Page 101]

In the United Kingdom, different educational systems developed concurrently, and through political and ideological conflicts, the involvement of central government gradually grew until an integrated school system was established. 1 The National Curriculum, first introduced through the Education Act of 1988, clearly indicates Art as compulsory from Years 1 to 9 in state schools. 2 The Courses of Study in Japan are separated into primary, lower, and upper secondary levels, however, the consistency of Art as a subject is not as clear. 3 In England, the content is not differentiated into the areas of art, craft, and design, but is organized as a series of processes common to these areas including investigation, creation, and evaluation, based upon knowledge and understanding.

The United Kingdom has no national system for authorizing textbooks, but the examination board syllabus for the General Certificate ofSecondary Education (GCSE), for example, has influenced the school curriculum. Art departments of each secondary school function as fairly independent entities, taking responsibility for curriculum and study resources. In Japan, in most cases, lower and upper secondary schools are separated, with only about one art teacher per school, which means improving the curriculum is determined by the efforts of the individual teacher in a limited environment.

We also need to consider the cultural background. The United Kingdom has made a notable effort to incorporate a multicultural perspective, based upon the urgent recognition that the country has become a multi-ethnic society. There is also a growing awareness in Western societies that individual expression should be approved in relation to the culture of a given social group. In Japan, it has...


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