Take a leaf from Japanese moral studies, government told

Satoshi Kanda, the principal of the Japanese School of Kuala Lumpur, speaks to FMT in an interview.

PETALING JAYA: In Japan, moral studies are taken very seriously, to the point where the subject is primarily conveyed through practical application instead of rote learning through books.

It is taught from kindergarten all the way to junior high, and often crosses over into other subjects as well where teachers emphasise moral values in their respective classes.

Satoshi Kanda, the principal of the Japanese School of Kuala Lumpur (JSKL), said students are even taken on field trips to learn moral values through hands-on experience.

“In Japan, moral education is important,” he said in a recent interview with FMT.

“We teach students to obey the rules, be punctual and empathise with others. We teach them the importance of cleanliness, to be kind to others, to love nature and to take care of animals.”

He added that the moral studies taught in schools reflected what parents would teach their own children, allowing students to apply what they learnt at home and vice versa.

In this context, he welcomed the call by Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad for Malaysia to learn from the Japanese education system.

“I agree (with Mahathir),” he said. “I would like him to understand the advantages of Japanese education. I would like him to look into the moral studies in Japan.”

During his trip to Japan last month, Mahathir said Malaysia would continue its Look East Policy to further empower the national education system.

In a joint press conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, he said Malaysia would be looking at the entire Japanese system, from kindergarten to higher education.

10-year review

When asked about the advantages of the Japanese education system, Kanda said the system was reviewed every 10 years to ensure that the curriculum and syllabus would benefit society in the coming 20 years.

“The Japanese education system will be revised again in 2020.

“Japan is currently discussing three major aspects which will be incorporated into its education content: morality, subjectivity and cooperation; applicability and utility; and communication ability,” he said.

The previous area of focus was increasing the use of the English language as well as general knowledge.

Kanda said this was decided after Japan realised it could no longer rely on itself and must be able to communicate globally through the English language.

The key areas of focus are currently being studied by an education committee known as the Kyoiku Inkai. Decisions will be made by the Japanese education ministry, after which they will be implemented in Japanese schools in the country and across the world.

Teachers in Japan

In order to obtain a teaching licence for a Japanese government school, Kanda said, candidates must possess university qualifications – a degree or diploma – before taking the entry-level exam.

The licence must be renewed every 10 years, when teachers are required to take another exam before their current licence expires.

They are also required to take prefecture-specific exams, as each district has its own history, tradition and practices.

“Japanese education is mainly based on a principle called Shiteidougyou, which means teachers and students learning together,” Kanda said.

“While the students learn from the teachers, the teachers also learn to improve themselves. Teachers are not just teachers. They are like parents to the children while they are in school.”

So far, he said, there had been no problems between teachers and students at JSKL. He added that it remained to be seen whether Malaysian schools could embrace a similar concept.