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According to a Japanese authority, “the first book published [in Japan] on foreign subjects” was by the famous scholar Arai Hakuseki (1657–1725] under the title “Seiyo Kibun” (Notes of the Western Ocean). Early in the eighteenth century a few scholars were officially commissioned to study Dutch; and many others secretly engaged in the same pursuit. It was almost entirely through the Dutch that, during the period of seclusion, the Japanese obtained their knowledge of Western countries and peoples, of history and science, especially of medical science. Several Dutch scholars also studied Japan and the Japanese.
But since the opening of Japan new ideas have gradually come to prevail; and especially since the Restoration of 1868, education, like all other institutions of Japan, has had the methodical and progressive spirit of Western civilization infused into it. Foreigners, especially Americans, were called in to remodel the whole system and to instruct in the new education. Thus in the various provinces the system of education was graded and made harmonious for the entire empire. Kindergartens have been established in many localities, and are especially valuable, because most mothers are incompetent to give satisfactory home instruction. Six is the age at which a child may enter the “elementary school” for a course of eight years; next comes the “middle school” for five years; then the “higher school” for two or three years, and, finally, the Imperial Universities at Tokyo
and Kyoto, each with its various colleges. There are also normal schools, common and “higher,” for the training of teachers, and a great many technical and professional schools, public and private. Missionary schools of all grades are doing an excellent work, and in many particulars supplying a great need. Co-education prevails only in the elementary schools; and the higher education of woman has been sadly neglected, but better provision for it is gradually being made. The first year of the new century was marked by the establishment at Tōkyō of the first University for Women.1 The Crown Prince Haru attended the “Nobles' School," and, if he lives to ascend the throne, will be the first Japanese Emperor educated in a public school; and the Crown Princess Sada attended the Peeresses' School.
The principal branches taught in the elementary schools are reading, writing, arithmetic (Japanese and foreign), composition, grammar, geography, history, physical exercise, morals (Confucian), and English; those in the middle and higher schools are Japanese and Chinese history, composition, language and literature, general history, mathematics, sciences, philosophy, morals, physical exercise, English, French, and German; in the universities the lines of study are varied and specialized. The Japanese learn both to translate, write, and speak the modern languages, and in the university may study Latin, Greek, and Sanskrit.
See“ Chautauquan” for April, 1902.
If we classify Japanese schools according to management, there are three kinds: those respectively under the central government, local authorities, and private auspices. Those of the first class are under the supervision of the Department of Education, are mainly special schools and higher institutions of learning, and are supported by appropriations voted by the Imperial Diet in the annual budget. Those of the second class are mainly elementary, middle and normal schools, are under the supervision of the local authorities, and are supported by local taxes, sometimes supplemented by national aid. Those of the third class are supported chiefly by tuition fees, but may also be assisted by individual beneficence.1
The school age for children is from six to fourteen, and covers the period of the elementary school; while the period of compulsory attendance is from six to ten years of age. During the latter period education is free; and in any case tuition fees are arranged to suit the financial ability of the payer. Corporal punishment is not allowed in any school.
The inspiring motive of education in Japan is found in an Imperial Rescript, which the Emperor issued in October, 1890. A copy of this is kept, often hanging framed, in every school, and on special occasions it is read aloud, while all the scholars reverently listen with bowed heads. It reads as follows:
1 For a statistical table of schools in the empire, see Appendix. 2 Official translation, from Cary's "Japan and its Regeneration.”
“Our Ancestors founded the State on a vast basis, while their virtues were deeply implanted; and Our subjects, by their unanimity in their great loyalty and filial affection, have in all ages shown them in perfection. Such is the essential beauty of Our national polity, and such, too, is the true spring of Our educational system. You, Our beloved subjects, be filial to your parents, affectionate to your brothers, be loving husbands and wives, and truthful to your friends. Conduct yourselves with modesty, and be benevolent to all. Develop your intellectual faculties and perfect your moral powers by gaining knowledge and by acquiring a profession. Further, promote the public interests and advance the public affairs; ever respect the national Constitution and obey the laws of the country; and in case of emergency, courageously sacrifice yourselves to the public good. Thus offer every support to Our Imperial dynasty, which shall be as lasting as the universe. You will then not only be Our most loyal subjects, but will be enabled to exhibit the noble character of your ancestors.
“ Such are the testaments left us by Our ancestors, which must be observed alike by their descendants and subjects. These precepts are perfect throughout all ages and of universal application. It is Our desire to bear them in Our heart in common with you, Our subjects, to the end that we may constantly possess these virtues."
There are between 200 and 300 kindergartens, public and private, in Japan; and they are conducted, so far as outward forms are concerned, very much as in America and Europe. The common means of training are games, singing, conversation, and handiwork. But the Christian kindergartens are the only ones that carry out to full fruition the real spirit, as expressed in Froebel's own words:
My system is based upon religion and leads up to religion.” The Christian kindergartens are quite popular and successful.
The Japanese elementary school, like the American grammar school, covers a period of eight years, which is, however, divided into two parts of four years each. The lower portion is called the “common elementary school,” and the upper portion is the “higher elementary school.” In many a small village only the former is maintained, and the latter is often carried on by the co-operation of several villages; but in large places both exist, either separately or conjointly. Under certain circumstances a supplementary course may be established in elementary schools (Shō Gakko). English may be begun in the higher elementary school, and it is required in every middle school.
Each prefecture must maintain at least one middle school (Chū Gakko), and three prefectures have as many as seven each.
This institution corresponds practically to an American high school; but its course of study covers five years, besides the opportunity of a supplementary year. Candidates for admission must be over twelve years of age, and possess attainments equal to those who have completed the second year of the higher elementary school. Thus two years of these schools lap over each other. The number of middle schools, in spite