“Integrated Studies” and “sustainability” in curriculum
“Integrated Studies” was introduced in the Japanese school curriculum from primary to upper secondary school levels in 2000 before the resolution on the Decade for Education for Sustainable Development (DESD) was adopted in 2003. This is not an independent subject but integrated lessons across subjects. It covers topics across traditional subjects and allows for implementation of instruction and learning activities related to education for the sake of international understanding, information education, environmental education, health and welfare education, and other educations. The knowledge and skills are developed by integrated learning activities whose content is based on students’ personal interests. Teaching hours decreased from 105, 70 and 105 to 70, 50, and 35 for primary, lower secondary and upper secondary respectively after 2011.
This topic of Integrated Studies serves as a foundation for ESD. In order to advance ESD activities effectively, the programs in Integrated Studies should be linked comprehensively and promoted continuously to learning activities. To assure this, the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology supports: 1) the formulation of the Basic Plan for the Promotion of Education, which identifies ESD as a critical component; 2) the revision of Courses of Study to allow for ESD topics to enter various subject areas; and 3) the expansion of the UNESCO Associated School Network (ASPnet).
Although the Integrated Studies hours declined in the recent curriculum reform, ESD practice survives in various other subjects because the new Course of Study mentions sustainability, which provides the foundation of ESD in school. Asia-Pacific Cultural Centre for UNESCO (ACCU) introduced good examples of the practices in a Guide to Developing and Using ESD Materials. It collects 13 good ESD practice, explains a common approach to ESD and justifies with competency what students and adults would obtain through the practice. The National Federation of UNESCO Association in Japan also assists the fund for school ESD programs.
Course of Study, the national curriculum standard, mentions a “sustainable society” in some subjects such as social studies, science and moral education. Course of Study sets the content and goals of instruction so that school teachers can design their lessons based on the aforementioned “sustainable society.” In addition, foreign language activity is a compulsory lesson for primary school since April 2011, and therefore, some teachers and scholars may find good opportunities to blend ESD practice with English lessons.
Organizations out of School
The ESD concepts are so wide that its practices are not always limited to school campuses. UNESCO introduced strong initiatives for ESD practice taken by private and/or nongovernmental stakeholders. UNESCO’s report revealed that there was little content in typical informal and non-formal education practices from the whole world survey. Active collaboration and cooperation between schools and non-official providers are sometimes very important for significant learning in ESD.
Although Japan has not accumulated the experiences enough yet either, academic societies promote activities and research on ESD. For example, the Japan Association for International Education leads the interactions between researchers and social science teachers, and the Japanese Society of Environmental Education has a good relationship with science teachers. Both academic societies actively publish articles on ESD in their journals.
There are more movements for research and development at the private sector. Development Education is quite a common concept for both local actors and school teachers who deal with international education: The teachers, students and civil organizations constantly hold joint projects and workshops for better practice. One of the most active organizations is the Development Education Association and Resource Centre in Japan. For ESD-domain activities, ESD-J is one of the largest NGOs, and takes initiative for cooperation among civil organizations, officials such as the Ministry of Education and Ministry of Environment, and practitioners.
Image source: http://linkrandom.blogspot.fi/2011/08/japanese-words-for-day-countries.html