Re-imagining traditions of art education and educational reform in Japan
We will discuss the current problems of Japanese art education.
First we would like to explain the concept of the seminar. Japanese
society has been undergoing a drastic change. We have seen declining
birth rates, the aging of the population, computerization and
globalization. In order to respond to these changes, various reforms
are underway and an educational reform is one of them. In the latest
educational reform, the Period of Integrated Study was newly established
for the participation of all teachers. On the other hand, the numbers
of classes in fine arts were reduced in the curricula of elementary and
junior high schools in April 2002. Our concern is how art teachers can
work on Integrated Study actively, and what kind of approach of art
education can be made for the problem of Integrated Study.
In Japan, we have had various discussions about a relation between
Integrated Study and fine arts but there are two problems. One is our
concern that originality as the subject of fine arts may be diminished.
The meaning of the subject may be questioned if a philosophy, which fine
arts and Integrated Study share, is emphasized. The other problem is
the uncertainty of art teachers' involvement with Integrated Study
because individual schools and teachers are entrusted with classes in
Integrated Study. In this seminar, we are aware that our study on the
relation between Integrated Study and fine arts is a key to the
regeneration of Japanese art education. We will discuss matters related
to "re-imagining traditions" which is one of the themes of this InSEA
Congress. In this seminar, we have four viewpoints.
The first viewpoint is an individual role in the subject of fine
arts in school.
We need to clarify the characteristics of fine arts in school in
order to discuss the problems of art education in Japan. In other
words, in the seminar, we would like to clarify what kind of role and
outcome of fine arts in elementary and junior high schools had before we
discuss what kind of role art education can play in Integrated Study.
The second viewpoint is the extent of the approach of art education
in Integrated Study.
As new issues in the educational reform, there are topics such as
information, welfare, international understanding, the environment and
human rights. It is important to study the educational values of fine
arts in relation to these topics. If a theoretical base, which expands
the content of art education, is clear, art education can play a part in
Integrated Study. Integrated Study may expand the content of art
The third viewpoint is a relation between artists' experiences and
Today artists' interest varies in a wide range and the possibilities
of media also widen along with technological reforms. So we have seen
new types of arts. Because contemporary arts transcend the conventional
framework of art education, it is important to take advantage of what is
transcended for Integrated Study as much as possible. In order to
handle the problem, it is necessary to redefine or interpret arts from
the standpoint of artists.
In addition, we will also discuss Integrated Study in Japan from a
global viewpoint. In short, we will discuss the cases of Japan and the
U.S. from the viewpoint of the comparison of the culture so as to take
an objective view of the approach of art education in Integrated Study
Considering the extent of the approach of art appreciation in Integrated
I will discuss the second viewpoint which is presented in this
seminar. The second viewpoint is the extent of the approach of art
education in Integrated Study.
In order to consider this viewpoint, it is necessary to clarify the
extent of the approach of art education in Integrated Study. After
analyzing what fine arts can not offer presently, I have figured out
what should be compensated for should be the extent of the approach of
art education for Integrated Study.
The number of classes in fine arts has been reduced and we have been
in a difficult situation. Under the circumstances, we should avoid the
situation where fine arts take more responsibility than they really can.
I think, we should analyze the outcome, which fine arts can bring about
now, and problems caused by what can not be offered by fine arts. Then,
I would like to consider and propose the possibility of compensating
developmentally through Integrated Study. In order to consider
specifically, I will limit our analysis to the realm of art
appreciation. In other words, I will analyze what is missing from art
appreciation education now and consider what is required of the approach
of art education in the Period of Integrated Study.
In order to analyze what is missing from art appreciation now, I
will use the result of our comparative survey concerning aesthetic
development which has been published in the journal, Studies in Art
Education's summer issue. In this survey, we used a questionnaire
called "Art Appreciation Profile", which is also called AAP. The AAP
was administered from third graders to adults in Japan and the U.S. The
AAP was prepared based on the Parsons's developmental stage theory. Our
analysis of the survey indicated that Japanese students were
characterized by a strong inclination toward expressiveness and formal
As seen in Figure 1, one of the Japanese developmental
characteristics is the predominance of the stage three for older people.
It is suggested that there is a strong inclination toward expressiveness
as they grow older. This characteristic is considerably significant in
comparison with the developmental characteristics of the U.S. students
as shown in Figure 2. In the case of the Japanese, the percentage of
the stage three increases rapidly from ninth graders. In particular,
the percentage of the stage three shows 70% or more for adults. On the
other hand, the percentage of the stage three does not clearly show
developmental changes among Americans.
In the case of the U.S., the percentage of the stage four increases
among adults. In particular, as shown in Figure 3, the percentage of
the stage four among art education majors in college is significantly
high and the percentage of the stage three is extremely low. On the
other hand, the percentage of the stage four among art education majors
in Japan is lower than the U.S. non-art education majors. In addition,
the percentage of the stage three among art education majors in Japan is
higher than the U.S. non-art education majors. This result shows a high
percentage of the stage three even among art education majors in Japan.
In short, the Japanese characteristic of aesthetic development related
to art appreciation is a strong inclination toward expressiveness which
is characteristic of the stage three.
We will not go into detail here now but I would like to mention that
our survey shows that another characteristic was a keen interest in
What does the predominance of the developmental stage three indicate
as seen in the Japanese cases? According to Parsons, expressions are
important topics for those who appreciate art in the stage three and
paintings are considered as the expressions of one's feelings so the
originality of expressions is considered very important. Their
interpretations and judgments are emotional with an emphasis on their
feelings but they are not sure of their interpretations. They do not
necessarily seek conformity with each other's ideas. On the other hand,
the characteristic of the stage four is appreciation with an emphasis on
medium, form and style. Their interpretations are modified in artistic
contexts such as art history, culture and tradition, and the
interpretations of paintings are socially attained in "a community of
The Japanese characteristic of a strong inclination toward the stage
three is considered as one of the outcome of art appreciation education
in Japan. Concerning this respect, Efland pointed that modernists in
art education think formal elements for the bases of studio production
and art appreciation important as well as originality and self
expressions. It is considered that art appreciation education in Japan
typically reflects the legacy of Modernism.
On the other hand, in art appreciation education in Japan, skill in
finding out pictorial contexts objectively and awareness of "a community
of viewers" seem to be slighted. These are what current art
appreciation education can not offer and we consider them as its
problems. I think that the significance of the approach of art
education in Integrated Study lies in transcending the limitation of
Modernism in art education in Japan. For that reason, it is necessary
to find out artistic contexts from a wide range of issues concerning
actual society and culture, and talk individual interpretations with
many other people. Efland proposed curricula that emphasized a
relation between fine arts and culture, acceptance of cultural conflict,
and multiple interpretations as Post-modernism in art education. It is
integrated curriculum which is also seen in the purposes of Integrated
Study and the style of learning in Japan. Considering the present
situation where the number of hours for curricula has reduced, it is
necessary to clarify the roles of fine arts classes in the continuous
acquisition of the outcome of Modernism in Japan in the future as a
basic skill. On the other hand, as far as Integrated Study is
concerned, it is necessary to give shape to the role of promoting the
interpretation of meanings from various viewpoints as the post-modern
approach of art education.
Then, how do we image the post-modern approach of art education in
Integrated Study in Japan?
For instance, when "community" is selected as a theme in Integrated
Study, students will have various viewpoints such as social systems,
culture, languages, customs and ideas. At school, subjects have been
subdivided and defined such as social studies, Japanese, fine arts and
music. However, in Integrated Study, because community can be
considered by each student on an individual level, there are a wide
variety of ways for having awareness and finding out meanings.
In the case of my college student, he was a member of a group
playing local music for folk entertainment. He was interested in
traditional local music and musical instruments. For many years,
performers have been making their own flutes with shinodake which is
local bamboo. But he noticed that the bamboo was not available locally
and started looking for shinodake. Finally, he not only analyzed the
beauty of shinodake flute such as its shape, ornament and tone, but he
also started investigating the history and environment of the community.
His quest did not end with his interest in formal elements because he
became aware of various contexts related to the folk flute. For
instance, he questioned why folk entertainment is not handed down to
present young people, and why the materials of the flute, shinodake
have disappeared from the region now though they used to be abundant.
He developed many essential questions related to community.
As an example in conjunction with Integrated Study at elementary
school, there was an art project called "Kemigawa Transmitting Station
2000". In the project, artistic actions and discussions were promoted
for the transmitting station which lied in ruins in the area. Local
schools and residents were involved with the project. Based on their
experience in a workshop for contemporary art, individuals materialized
what they thought as an individual "little narrative" through art. We
consider the process as an attempt to materialize the viewpoint of the
appreciation of Post-modernism basically.
In Integrated Study in Japan, various themes related to our society
such as information, welfare, international understanding, the
environment and human rights are developed. Like this, in Integrated
Study, which aims to develop awareness of our society and culture and to
solve their problems, it is significant to promote the post-modern
approach of art education in order to regenerate art education in Japan.