Education Journal

Structuring Students' Knowledge Base of the World: The Effects of Internationalization on the Japanese School Curriculum

1998/1999.第26卷第2期及第27卷第1期(Vol. 26 No. 2 & Vol. 27 No. 1).pp. 13–36


Structuring Students’ Knowledge Base of the World: The Effects of Internationalization on the Japanese School Curriculum




In Japan, as in many other parts of Asia, internationalization is an issue that has been the focus of great interest and debate throughout the nineties. This is as true in education as in other spheres of social life. It is natural that school curricula respond to and shape the progress of movements such as internationalization. In this interaction between educational curricula and the social, political and economic contexts in which they exist, the knowledge base being taught and learned in schools gradually changes.

In 1989, the Japanese Ministry of Education, Science and Culture (Monbusho) published a set of reforms, which began to take effect in elementary schools from April 1992, junior high schools from April 1993 and senior high schools between April 1994 and 1996. One of the points stressed in these reforms was the need to develop and promote internationalization throughout the education system, in all areas of the curriculum.

This paper will examine how internationalization is interpreted and promoted by Monbusho through the school curriculum. Throughout the paper, the focus is on Japan, but examples from other educational systems are also used to provide a comparative element. In the first part of the paper, data from Monbusho documents and school textbooks (which have to be approved for use by Monbusho) will be used to explore the knowledge base of the world which is being presented to Japanese students at elementary and junior high school. This knowledge base, insofar as it provides the foundations for the construction of students' ways of seeing and thinking about the world, is an important key to the understanding of internationalization in Japanese education. In the second part of the paper, four issues relating to internationalization in school curriculum — the timing of world knowledge, foreign language education, academic rationalism and citizenship education — will be highlighted and examined.