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Presented at ISEC 2000

A Trend of the Educational Provision to the Students with Learning Disabilities in Japan

Yoshinori Shinohara

1. The newly revised definition on Learning Disabilities in Japan

In Japan, "Collaborative Inquiry Committee on Educational Intervention for Pupils with Learning Difficulties attributable to Learning Disabilities and another disabilities similar to Learning Disabilities" suggested the newly revised definition on Learning Disabilities at 1999.

Note1) "Committee" is shortened for "Collaborative Inquiry Committee on Educational Intervention for Pupils with Learning Difficulties attributable to Learning Disabilities and another disabilities similar to Learning Disabilities". Note2) "LD" is abbreviation of Learning Disabilities in following sentences.

The newly revised definition on Learning Disabilities is as follows.

Learning Disabilities is a general term that refers to different conditions of disorders manifested by significant difficulties in the acquisition and use of listening, speaking, reading, writing, reasoning, or mathematical abilities in spite of no overall developmental delay of intelligence. These disorders are intrinsic to the individual, presumed to be due to central nervous system dysfunction. Learning disabilities do not result directly from sensory (visual or auditory) impairment, mental retardation, emotional disturbance or environmental factors.

The Committee gave a definition of LD to the Ministry of Education, Science, Sports and Culture five years ago. That is to say, it was '95 when Japanese firstly got the definition of LD.

Note3) "MESSC" is an abbreviation of the Ministry of Education, Science, Sports and Culture in following sentences.

That definition was as follows.

Learning Disabilities is a general term that refers to different conditions of disorders manifested by significant difficulties in the acquisition and use of listening, speaking, reading, writing, reasoning, or mathematical abilities in spite of no overall developmental delay of intelligence.
Learning Disabilities is presumed as the background of those disorders to be some central nervous system dysfunction. Though specific learning difficulties which are due to this dysfunction may become manifested mainly in school age, they never appear even if above school age concerning any cases.
Learning Disabilities is not attributable to handicapping conditions such as visual or auditory impairment, mental retardation, emotional disturbance, or environmental factors such as family, school, community. But there is possibility that Learning Disabilities occurs concomitantly with those conditions or factors. Furthermore, some problems on self-regulatory behaviour, human relation, etc. might possibly come out concurrently with Learning Disabilities.

We can understand easily that the Committee has revised the '95 definition in order to clarify it, for an example, which didn't discriminate LD from mental retardation. Besides, the '99 definition has no references to the coverage what age LD occurs and problems concurrent with LD.

2. Ground for policy making

In Japan, nobody knows exactly how many children with LD there are. It is natural for Japanese that there is no statistics on LD carried out by government because Japan doesn't have the term "LD" as legally regulated disability. So, we don't know what number the incidence of LD is. We are sometimes estimating the incidence of it from the results of overseas countries' e.g. USA's survey.

MESSC is examining the policy on education for children with LD, presupposing that incidence of LD are about 3%-5%.
At any rate, there are not a few children with LD in Japan. But, though MESSC is fully aware of the existence of LD, MESSC is unwilling to bring in the category of LD to education because bringing in the category just only increases number of category of disability.

In '90s, parents of children with LD and their advocates lobbied Representatives for educational provision of them. Children with LD were not nearly paid attention or left alone before then.

MESSC organised the Committee, reacting to these lobbying. Organising the Committee was a part of reactions that MESSC had done. MESSC is enthusiastically engaging in making policies contributing to practising for children with LD since it granted that they are to be educationally treated parallel to not only children with disabilities but also non-disabled children.

The author thinks that MESSC has plans to apply "the special needs" definition to LD in place of squeezing into introducing a new kind of disability, i.e. LD. It is certain that MESSC recognizes the importance and necessity of study on LD. Though MESSC encourages researchers and teachers to take their responsibilities for "LD" definitely defined, MESSC will incline to comprehend LD loosely and carry out administration on it. They focus on the learning difficulties of children with LD as special needs and provide support appropriate for their needs.

2. "Kohryu-Kyohiku"

Note) "Kohryu" means social interaction in Japanese. Japanese express "Kyohiku" as education.

Since Japanese dislike changing immoderately and constructing drastically, the government of Japan disagrees "mainstreaming" out of the political reason. So we were often opposite to other country people on "Integration", rather than weren't along by them.

But we have a good mind to provide "mainstreaming programme" to those who seek it within those restrictions. We have been trying to facilitate social interaction between students free from special needs and students with special needs. These trials are in "social integration" which is called as "Kohryu-Kyohiku".

The reason to use the term "social integration" is because the children with disability share time and places to participate the social activities with regular class pupils. They spend nearly whole school day on their lessons in self-contained special classes. Concerning with "social integration", they go to regular classes in which peers usually equivalent to their chronological age attend and enjoy various social activities, e.g. playing games, singing songs, taking meals, etc. with those peers.

"Kohryu-Kyohiku"?encouraging contact between disabled children with other children as well as people in the community at large are regarded as significant for all who participate, as they promote not only the personal and social development of all the children involved, but also an increased understanding of disabled children on the parts of the community at large. However, nowadays, children with LD are not regarded as the pupil who should be educated in the self-contained special class. Because of their capability to acquire academic skills and idea of mainstreaming, placing children with LD at regular classes are considered to be pertinent.

3. "Tsuh-Kyuh" as Resource Room System

Note) Meaning of "Kyuh" is class in Japanese. Japanese represents "go to" (including "to attend" lessons in class) with "Tsuh".

The Japanese Resource Rooms are seated at primary schools and secondary schools. Number of children enrolled in Resource Room System was 25,922 at 1999. There are 6 types of Resource Rooms in Japan. They are for the speech impaired, the emotionally disturbed, partially sighted, hard of hearing, physically disabled, and the health impaired and physically weak.

MESSC are recently shifting from rigid segregationists. Its position to mainstreaming becomes gradually flexible. However, MESSC won't dismiss special education. MESSC intends to preserve special classes and special schools for children with disabilities at the present moment.

Therefore, children with LD will be taught along the lines of MESSC's policy. In fact, they are now educated in the Resource Room System although the Diet has not yet made regulation for LD. The child with LD, for example, is placed at the Resource Room for the emotionally disturbed because of his/her emotional disturbance.

Substituting for "withdrawal" in special school, educational provision for children with LD are going to be provided through "Resource Room System". That is now greatly expected to help Japanese style mainstreaming instead of full integration. Children with LD are strictly withdrawn to the resource room in order to have lessons corresponding to their special needs. But they are daily attending lessons in regular class, apart from those lessons.
Resource Room System is regarded as less restrictive in Japan.

4. The success of educational provision in regular class

The success of educational provision with LD in regular class through the Resource Room System seems to be depending upon LD of classroom teacher's philosophy, knowledge, and skills concerning with LD.

It is difficult for us except the specialists such as medical doctors, speech therapists, occupational therapists, and educational psychologists to understand LD and mind of children with LD exactly from their appearance and/or behaviour.

Consequently, training should be provided for every classroom teacher to contribute to developing his or her skills as well as knowledge on LD. Furthermore, teachers, especially teachers working at regular classes, are to be supported by the specialists mentioned above. They always seek extra consultation and help in teaching children with LD.

The teachers who are well trained and have got not only knowledge but also skills on LD are becoming independently and appropriately to put intervention for children with LD. They encourage other students without disabilities understanding of disabled children as their classmates. The activities and learning of children with LD in regular classes will be facilitated by their peers' acceptance and support based upon understanding of them.

Special educational provision for children with disabilities requires a collaboration of many practitioners, workers in research, and administrators. The regular class teachers provide relevant intervention for them, resting on cooperation and collaboration.

5. References

1) Collaborative Inquiry Committee on Educational Intervention for Pupils with Learning Difficulties attributable to Learning Disabilities and another disabilities similar to Learning Disabilities (1999). Report on Educational Intervention for Pupils with Learning Difficulties attributable to Learning Disabilities and another disabilities similar to Learning Disabilities. MESSC: Tokyo.
2) Ministry of Education, Science, Sports and Culture (1998). Course of Study for primary and secondary school. Ministry of Finance Press: Tokyo.
3) Ministry of Education, Science, Sports and Culture (1999). Course of Study for special schools. Ministry of Finance Press: Tokyo.
4) Ministry of Education, Science, Sports and Culture (2000). Special education statistics. MESSC: Tokyo.
5) Ministry of Education, Science, Sports and Culture (2000). Education in Japan. Gyosei: Tokyo.

 

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