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Reforms to strengthen moral education in Japan: a preliminary analysis of implementation in schools

This study examines the role of educational practitioners in mediating the implementation of the 2015 reforms of moral education. The revision of the Fundamental Law of Education and further commitment to a nationalistic agenda by successive governments have paved the way for curriculum reforms that introduced the value of patriotism as an objective in the moral education curriculum. The reforms in 2015 reassigned moral education as a ‘special subject’ requiring both ministerial approval of textbooks and assessment. However, previous studies have focused almost exclusively on policy and curriculum analyses. Few studies have examined the school or classroom to understand practice as implemented. Challenging the assumption that these revised documents describe changes in practice, this study examines the early stages of the implementation of policy, which is invariably mediated by education practitioners ‘enacting’ policy. Despite the undeniable trend of central policy promoting a ‘love of country’ and efforts to increase state control of education, a stronger patriotism in moral education may not soon materialise in the classroom under the current pace of reform, though structural changes may have longer term potential to limit the autonomy of teachers to mediate policy implementation. The results contribute to our understanding of how these reforms are being implemented, and more broadly how teachers in Japan enact reform ‘on the ground’.


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Contemporary Japan


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