[Discuss-sudbury-model] Tokyo Shure School

From: David Rovner <rovners_at_netvision.net.il>
Date: Tue Oct 21 04:53:01 2003

Tokyo ShureSchool
-9-19 Kishimachi Kita Tokyo Japan
TEL: +81(0)3-5993-3135, FAX: +81(0)3-5993-3137
E-mail: info_at_shure.or.jp
http://www.shure.or.jp/info/english.html
Tokyo Shure was founded in June 1985 while school-refusing children were increasing. Keiko Okuchi founded it as a space where any child can be her/himself and make with support of parents of school refusing children and other citizens. Nowadays, Tokyo Shure is known to as one of the oldest free schools.

1. School Refusing in Japan
Not all of Japanese children are happy although there are not problems of war, poverty. Even though school registration rate of compulsory education are almost one hundred percents, higher education registration rate is nearly fifty percents, Japanese children have been compared with other children by their parents and teachers for these a few decades. They are under the pressure to get good marks. If a child can not cope with this pressure, this child is treated as a problem child.

This competition-orientated education is adopted in every activity at schools: in class rooms, play grounds, gyms, and anywhere in the schools. Children future tend to be decided by their school grades. Then, children are forced to join rat race by their parents who worry their future. In order to win this race, they have to memorize tons of knowledge in many fields of study. Enormous pressure is on both children and teachers. Teachers try to control everything at school to improve efficiency. One tragedy was happened as an aftermath of this situation. A teacher closed a school gate so hard that a student was crushed to die. The teacher watched students at the gate to decrease the number of students who are late.

This education of competition and control oppress children so much that children can not rely on adults and get inferiority complex. Besides, more and more children are exhausted and apathetic very easily. This situation has caused school violence and bullying, school refusing since mid 1970's. Rapid and radical growth of Japanese economy and the government manpower policy in 1960's are background factors of this oppressive education. More and more Japanese society becomes "diploma society", more and more the existence of schools become absolute in the society. Today the burden of school education which children bear is incomparably bigger than before 1960's.

In addition this, harmony of the people is much more important than individual belief in Japanese traditional values. These values tend to restrict diversity of each uniqueness. In these circumstances, bullying, suicides by bullying and school refusing.

There are quite a few school refusing children in Japan although Japanese government only refereed to increase of the number. According to government annual statistics, the number of school refusing children is about 105,000(the number of children who are absent from schools more than thirty school days because of dislike for schools). The reasons of this absence are not sickness nor poor family budget. Moreover, it is said that this number of school refusing children is so underestimated because this number is based on teachers's attendance report to local educational boards. First, teachers often categorize school refusing children as sick children, for instance. Second, school records of attendance include very short attendance, for example just ten minutes or so. Third, attendance at institutions for school refusing children and counselor's places are counted as school attendance.

Adding this, from 100,000 to 120,000 high school students leave their schools before graduation every year. Though they register as high school students, it is said that 500,000 to 600,000 students can be school refusing children psychologically.

This number and continuous increase since mid 1970's show this is not individual problem but social problem. Not only teenagers but also lots of kindergarten pupils and elementary school students are school refusing children in both urban area rural area.

2. What We Think Important at Tokyo Shure
We think it is important that children are released from anxiety, suppressed feeling at children's free space. Children can be themselves. When they are accepted. We respect individual uniqueness of every child. Then we do not depend on ordering, forbidding anything and enforcing competitions. We promote individual participation of self autonomy.

They build confidence and get reliance towards the others through various experiences. They also enrich their lives through failures and accomplishments. They gradually or sudddenly show their various abilities. Children grow their sociability and voluntary attitudes to what they are concerning to. Staff members support what children want to do and realise. In these process, freedom and self autonomy are quite important and both are essential at Tokyo Shure.

At Tokyo Shure, each child decide everything which are concerning to oneself. For instance, becoming a member of Tokyo Shure, when to graduate Tokyo Shure, how many days he/she goes to, when to come to and leave Tokyo Shure, what programme she/he takes. To be free is not to be selfish. Children try to realise own plan. Sometimes, they have to make compromise. They enrich their experiences.

Children make friends among different age groups naturally. Children and staff members do not have authoritarian relationships. Not conformity nor superficial equality, individual uniqueness is very important here.

3. Dealing with the Regular School System
Every children during compulsory education period are automatically registered at local schools except they register at private schools by themselves. Most of free schools in Japan are not recognized as schools by governments. Then, members of free schools, school refusing children, are studying and playing at free schools, however, they are registered at local governmental schools. Free schools are not authorised to give cer,tificates. Principals of governmental schools have legal rights to give children such certificates. Free school children get the certificates from the local registered schools, nowadays.

4. System at Tokyo Shure
We have three campuses in Tokyo. On each campus, children from six years old to twenty years old come from Monday to Friday. Opening hours slightly differs from campus to campus. It also varies depending on their ages. For example, younger children are at Tokyo Shure between 10AM and 4PM. Older children come to and leave Tokyo Shure from 10AM to 7PM.

5. Home Shure
Home Shure is a supporting network for home educating families. More than 500 families join this network. Each participant family receives two monthly magazines. One is for children, another is for their parents. We have an office for this network. Every month we have gatherings for children and parents. Participants enjoy exchange letters and phone calls one another and with staff members. We also support to solve participants' difficulties.

6. Shure University
Shure University was founded in April 1999. It's not authorised university by Minitry of Education either. This was founded by free school students, graduates and staff members. Any person who wants to pursue his/her interests in her/his style can join here. Various activities are going at University space and students' hone. Though the space of this university exsists in Shinjuku, the central part of Tokyo, people can join from anywhere by e-mail, telephone, mailng and so on.
Received on Tue Oct 21 2003 - 04:45:05 EDT

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