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Human Rights Education in Asian Schools Volume II

Human Rights Education and the Osaka City Education Board

Yutaka Okazaki

The Osaka City Education Board has officially offered human rights education (HRE) in the form of Dowa education since 1966. Although HRE activities existed before then, 1966 is regarded as a turning point in the city's history. A year before, the government's Dowa Policy Council had released its momentous report, which urged all Japanese to cooperate in solving the Dowa problem.

The initial basic legislation for Osaka's HRE program was "The Fundamental Dowa Education Policy of Osaka City (1966)," which was adopted on the strength of the Dowa Policy Council report and policy and required Dowa issues to be taught at all levels in the city's schools.

Previous polices and programs had helped solve some problems while leaving others extant. The present policy is aimed mainly at eradicating discrimination. It has two parts: one addresses discrimination, and the other promotes a just society through education. On the eve of the 21st century, Osaka is at another turning point. Inspired by the UN Decade for Human Rights Education (1995-2004), in March 1997, the Osaka City Education Board adopted a new policy guideline: "Principal Plan for Dowa Education," which explores new ways of conducting HRE. Previously special or provisional, HRE is now regular or permanent. From being focused on a particular group, it is now directed at all members of the community.

Special Policies for Human Rights

Several researches and academics have concluded that certain groups in Osaka, such as the Buraku, suffer low academic achievement, which is a typical result of discrimination. To solve the problem, the Osaka City Education Board adopted several policies, which can be categorized according to the issues they take up—academic, financial and curricular—and they are relevant to the educational system in general, not just to minorities:

(1) Academic policies:

a) to reduce the number of students per classroom;
b) to provide additional support to teachers;
c) to organize special classes to help students catch up academically.

(2) Financial policies:

a) to provide special scholarships.

(3) Curricular policies:

a) to distribute HRE textbooks;
b) to facilitate the preparation of lesson plans for HRE.

These educational policies, especially (1) and (2), can be considered affirmative action measures.

Textbook for Human Rights Education

The Osaka City Education Board has been distributing a special textbook for HRE, Ningen (Human), since 1970. Given free to all students in Osaka City, it aims to teach children about the human rights system and the reality of human rights violations. The primary-school-level book (grade 6, second revision, version 3, 1995), for example, contains the following:

  1. "Heart Beat and Trembling Lips" (human rights poem)
  2. "I Want to Go to School" (human rights story)
  3. "Hiroshima Does Not Age" (essay for peace education)
  4. "Japan and Korea during the Edo Era" (history of the relationship between Japan and Korea)
  5. "We Do Not Have a Mouth" (tale of discrimination in Japan)
  6. "A Girl Drawing Water in Tanzania" (story on development issues)
  7. "The Shibuzome Uprising" (history of peoples' uprising in Japan)
  8. "Sacrifice for Water" (historical account of human rights violations)
  9. "Working Children in the Match Factory" (story about child rights)
  10. "Right to Vote" (story about democracy)
  11. "We Can Do Without Language Literacy" (story of liberation)
  12. "By Learning Words" (story about literacy)
  13. "The Final Lesson" (story of contemporary human rights violations in the classroom, such as bullying)
  14. "The Constitution and Us" (legal essay on democratic society)
  15. "Footsteps of Buraku Liberation" (history of the Buraku liberation movement)

The book is used as a sub-textbook because HRE is not an official subject in schools. It is frequently used to teach moral education, which is an official subject. Like moral education, human rights literacy should not be limited to a particular subject, but should be promoted in all school activities.

The textbook is not only about Buraku issues. It also includes broader human rights issues. Its main purpose is to teach all children about human rights and also empower minority children.

Although it is not an official textbook, it is distributed to local education authorities in Nara, Hyogo, Hiroshima and Fukuoka prefectures. HRE is thus promoted not only by the central government but also by local authorities and people in the field. Teachers have conducted innumerable HRE activities, all of which constitute the real history of Japanese HRE.

Teacher Training for HRE

Teacher training for HRE in Osaka City officially started in 1993. Even before then, however, teachers already had many opportunities to learn about human rights outside the official teacher training program. In that year, the Osaka City Education Board integrated the training activities into one strand as "HRE training for teachers," making HRE a central topic.

   The training sessions for different levels are as follows:

  1. initial teachers training;
  2. in-service training for teachers and administrative staff; and
  3. a special course for teachers in charge of human rights issues in their own schools.

   The following is the content of the training course for the third level:

  1. "What should we learn from discrimination cases?" (lecture)
  2. "Knowing the realities, background and reasons of human rights violations"; "The way I have walked" (lectures)
  3. "The history of the Buraku" (lecture)
  4. "Prejudice and human rights violations around us ( part 1)" (group discussion)
  5. "Human rights issues in world society" (lecture)
  6. "Prejudice and human rights violations around us (part 2)" (group discussion)
  7. "Osaka Human Rights Museum" (study visit)
  8. "Issues on Dowa education practice" (lecture)
  9. "Issues on Dowa education in practice" (report and group discussion)
  10. "Issues of special education in practice" (report and group discussion)
  11. "Issues of education for foreign people in practice" (report and group discussion)
  12. "Toward a gender-free society"; "Gender equality in schools" (lectures)
  13. "HRE -- practical examples" (video and group discussion)
  14. "Issues of peace education practice" (report and group discussion)
  15. "Osaka Peace Museum" (study visit)
  16. "What kind of student groups should we create?" (video and group discussion)
  17. Field work and lectures
  18. "Problematic activities among children, and group dynamics" (report and group discussion)
  19. "Convention on the Rights of the Child and school education" (lecture)
  20. "A suggestion for the practice of human rights education" (lecture)

The seminars guarantee that all teachers will be able to learn about HRE, and are the bases of HRE Osaka City schools.

Teachers' Handbook for Human Rights Education in Practice

In 1998, the Osaka City Education Board published the teachers' handbook on HRE in practice. It aims to promote HRE in all Osaka City schools. It was produced in line with the 1997 Plan of Action of the UN Decade for Human Rights Education (1995-2004). The contents are as follows:

   The goals of the HRE program

a. To promote HRE by taking up the following issues:

  1. Dowa education;
  2. education for foreigners in Japan;
  3. education for understanding disability and disabled people;
  4. Convention on the Rights of the Child;
  5. education for gender equality;
  6. career guidance;
  7. group development;
  8. international understanding;
  9. peace education;
  10. bullying;
  11. education for environment.

b. To promote active learning by taking up the following:

  1. HRE through the active learning method;
  2. case study of active learning for primary school level;
  3. case study of active learning for lower secondary school level;
  4. case study of active learning for upper secondary school level.


  1. Education of the community and parents
  2. Sample year-long program for primary and lower secondary school levels
  3. Sample year-long program for upper secondary school level.

This document's outstanding point is its explanation of "active learning." HRE has tended to be too moralistic and instructive. But this handbook promotes a more practical and scientific approach to HRE. Toward the 21st century, HRE will become more general and systematic.

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