1st Edition

Education Reform and Social Class in Japan The emerging incentive divide

By Takehiko Kariya Copyright 2013
    240 Pages 66 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    240 Pages 66 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

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    Until the early 1990s, Japanese education was widely commended for achieving outstanding outcomes in global comparison. At the same time, it was frequently criticized for failing to cultivate 'individuality' and 'creativity' in students. Wide-ranging education reforms were enacted during the 1990s to remedy these perceived failings. However, as this book argues, the reforms produced a different outcome than intended, contributing to growing disparity in learning motivation and educational aspiration of students from different class backgrounds instead.

    Takehiko Kariya demonstrates by way of empirical sociological analysis that educational inequality in Japan has been expanding, and that a new mechanism of educational selection has begun to operate, which he calls the 'incentive divide'. Casting light on recent changes in Japanese society to critically reassess educational policy choices, this book's quantitative and qualitative analyses of the 'mass education society' in post-war Japan offer important insights also for understanding similar problems faced in other parts of the world at present.

    Translated into English for the first time, the Japanese language version of Education Reform and Social Class in Japan won the first Osaragi Jirō Prize for Commentary sponsored by the Asahi shinbun. This book will be of interest to students and scholars in the fields of Asian studies, Japanese studies, education, sociology and social policy.

    Introduction: The complex of class and education in a changing society 1. Education and social mobility in post-war Japan 2. The age of meritocracy 3. Meritocracy, ability orientation and ‘discrimination’ 3.1. The irony of egalitarianism in post-war Japan 3.2. A double standard of inequality and ‘meritocratic discrimination’ 4. Education Reform and Elite Education 5. Inequality of effort under the meritocracy 6. Pitfalls of the ‘self-responsible society’ – Is opportunity equal? 7. The structure of self-confidence – Educational inequality and self-esteem 8. The incentive divide - Selecting the society of the future 9. Afterword


    Takehiko Kariya is Professor of the Sociology of Japanese Society at the Nissan Institute of Japanese Studies and the Department of Sociology, University of Oxford, UK.