EDEV_505 Week 6_2

Thanks for your questions. I am not familiar with the notion of a pathway. How does this differ from streaming? (Just to keep the conversation clear and I think that we’re on the same page here anyway, streaming in this case refers to students selecting a range of courses that contain the components of, for example, an economics major as opposed to those components of an international finance major—within the same degree programme. The other common meaning of ‘streaming’ in education is when students are placed into classes separated by ability, but all students study the same basic field; for example, a 101 class in economics or an advanced class in economics. We’re not discussing this latter meaning.)

Both types of streaming are problematic in Japanese middle and high schools “[b]ecause all children have to be educated equally” (Aspinall, 2006, p. 263), although increasingly some high schools offer content-based streaming, and my own daughter attends an ability-based streamed middle school. The notion of egalitarian education (Aoki, 2008; Aspinall, 2006; Mock, Kawamura, & Naganuma, 2016; Sugimoto, 2014) in Japan is gradually eroding, but still remains strong. At the tertiary level, the autonomy held by the professoriate runs counter to the notion of ability streaming (Poole, 2010), meaning that if leaders wish for streaming (of either kind), policies need to reflect the underlying values and attitudes prevalent in the society (Frølich, Huisman, Slipersæter, Stensaker, & Botas, 2013; Morrill, 2007). At TBGU, content streaming was presented as a student choice (i.e. not conflicting with the notion of egalitarianism) and the ability level of the classes was not discussed (i.e. not conflicting with professor autonomy).

Credit transfer between institutions is not a feature of Japanese institutions, although the hen’nyu (transfer) system is used between faculties within an HEI. A reason for this is partially explainable from the previous paragraph: a lack of content streaming at the compulsory (including high-school) level forces many HEIs to include career advice courses as a part of their curriculum. The upshot of this is a very generalised education whose isomorphic features produce a similarity among the curricular products throughout the country: hence there is little need for students to transfer. Another sociological feature of the Japanese society produces a force against transfer. Hofstede (2015) notes that the Japanese are loyal to their in-group; once an individualistic choice is made, in this case the HEI with which to identify, their sense of loyalty prohibits easy movement away from it. The minimalist features of the currently existing credit transfer system enforces a structuralist barrier also, and psychologically, as very few students do actually transfer, potential transfer students are reluctant to display themselves as not being able to fit in by leaving their group. Even hen’nyu within the institution is rare. In my experience around two or three students applied each year out of a cohort in the thousands.

I would be interested in knowing how content streaming differs from pathways. I did a brief search for ‘pathways’ in the curricular sense, but the search engines delivered many neural and computer syllabi but no definitions. Even Infed.org had nothing on that term.


Aoki, K. (2008). Confucius vs. Socrates: The Impact of Educational Traditions of East and West in a Global Age. The International Journal of Learning, 14(11).

Aspinall, R. W. (2006). Using the paradigm of “small cultures” to explain policy failure in the case of foreign language education in Japan.Japan Forum, 18(2), 255–274. http://doi.org/10.1080/09555800600731197

Frølich, N., Huisman, J., Slipersæter, S., Stensaker, B., & Botas, P. C. P. (2013). A reinterpretation of institutional transformations in European higher education: Strategising pluralistic organisations in multiplex environments. Higher Education, 65, 79–93. http://doi.org/10.1007/s10734-012-9582-8

Hofstede, G. (2015). Japan. Retrieved October 18, 2015, from http://geert-hofstede.com/japan.html

Mock, J., Kawamura, H., & Naganuma, N. (2016). The Impact of Internationalization on Japanese Higher Education: Is Japanese Education Really Changing? (Vol. 1). Rotterdam: Sense Publishers. http://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781107415324.004

Morrill, R. L. (2007). Strategic Leadership: Integrating Strategy and Leadership in Colleges and Universities. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, INC. and the American Council on Education.

Poole, G. S. (2010). The Japanese Professor: An Ethnography of a University Faculty. Rotterdam: Sense Publishers.

Sugimoto, Y. (2014). Class and stratification: An overview. In An introduction to Japanese society (4th ed., pp. 38–63). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. http://doi.org/10.1177/095001709373010


About theCaledonian

Scot living in north Japan teaching at a private university.
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