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“Is there a reluctance among Japanese teachers to incorporate critical thinking into their classroom curriculum?”


A new study finds that Japanese school teachers unintentionally modified the concept of critical thinking and original practice while adhering to national curriculum guidelines that strive to align with global education standards. Credit: Tony Cassidy from Flickr

Globally, critical thinking (CT) is a highly desirable cognitive skill that enables a person to ask, analyze, and evaluate a question or theory from multiple perspectives. CT has become an integral and mandatory part of the global educational curriculum, but its definition varies across contexts and cultural backgrounds.

To assess CT implementation, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) is conducting the Teaching and Learning International Survey (TALIS). In the 2018 survey (TALIS 2018), only 12.6% of middle school teachers in Japan taught CT, compared to the global average of 58.1%.

To understand this gap, Associate Professor Kazuyuki Nomura of Chiba University, Japan set out to understand the underlying reason for Japan’s poor performance at TALIS 2018. The study is published in Educational philosophy and theory.

“Japan’s poor result in CT teaching baffled me after I read the TALIS 2018 results. Granted, CT varies from context to context, but very little research has been done to understand what CT means in Japanese classrooms. So, I took that, Dr. Nomura, an expert in intercultural education, explains his motivation for the study.

In this qualitative study, Dr. Nomura conducted semi-structured interviews with 12 certified Japanese teachers from diverse backgrounds, including one from a school for children with special educational needs (SENs), between May and July 2022 to understand their views on the CT and TALIS 2018 results.

All participants agreed that the Japanese adjective “hihanteki” for the English word “critical” had a negative character, which made most teachers reluctant to introduce CT into their classrooms. Most participants also felt that the use of “hihanteki shikoo” as a direct translation of the words “critical thinking” at TALIS 2018 was not correct. Many teachers were not aware that the National Curriculum Guidelines contain the concept of CT. The teachers who knew about it and tried to incorporate it into their pedagogy were in the minority.

By contrast, Multidimensional Multifaceted Thinking (MMT), which is an aspect of CT, is enjoying more acceptance and popularity in Japan since curriculum guidelines explicitly promote MMT. The study found that while most participants shied away from the CT application, they were comfortable using methadone maintenance therapy and used it regularly in their education. In addition, almost all participants suggested that teaching MMT is dependent on socioeconomic status (SES), and that teaching MMT in schools with low economic status is challenging.

Moreover, “sympathy” is one of the hidden and central pillars of the Japanese school curriculum. All participants agreed that empathy is a core value in Japanese education, and most felt that it was impossible to practice computer maintenance therapy or methadone maintenance therapy without teaching empathy. The combination of methadone maintenance therapy and empathy increased the autonomy of school teachers in Japan. They have struck a delicate balance between the national curriculum and the school’s culture and teaching practices. As a result, they were able to circumvent the power of global education led by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.

However, Dr. Nomura stresses that the universal advantages of CT can be combined with Japanese teachers’ understanding of CT to get the best of both worlds. With tomographic skills and empathy, Japanese teachers can enable increasingly diverse students to think larger and outside Japan’s periphery.

Although CT and politics go hand in hand, according to the law, Japanese schools cannot teach politically controversial subjects and must maintain neutrality. To remedy this, he recommends that teachers use non-Japanese or fictional examples of CT application in their classrooms.

“As Japan is now becoming increasingly multicultural, teachers can use CT skills to help children think about Japan’s future, promote openness, and live with others with fairness and dignity,” Dr. Nomura suggests.

For future research, classroom observations could be the best candidate, since methadone-maintenance treatment is a primary teaching goal in the current national curriculum. The results of this study can thus help spark a much-needed discussion about CT teaching in Japan and elsewhere.

more information:
Kazuyuki Nomura, Exploring the Gestural Understanding of ‘Critical Thinking’ in Japanese Education: Analyzing Teachers’ Voices, Educational philosophy and theory (2023). doi: 10.1080/00131857.2023.2192925

Provided by Chiba University

the quoteWhy do Japanese teachers seem unwilling to teach critical thinking in the classroom? (2023, May 18) Retrieved May 18, 2023 from https://phys.org/news/2023-05-japanese-teachers-unready-critical-classrooms.html

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