Extended Education in Japan

Extended Education Supported by Parents and the Community: Its Impacts on Japanese Schoolteachers

Fuyuko Kanefuji

IJREE – International Journal for Research on Extended Education, Heft 1/2017, S. 26-46

Abstract: This article focuses on extended education supported by parents and the community at school and its impacts on schoolteachers’ perceptions towards their work in Japan. A national survey using random sampling on elementary schoolteachers was conducted by the author; the results were used to analyze the relationships between the following variables: the existence of SSRHs, parent- and community-supported extended education, and teachers’ perceptions toward their work and that of the local network. While several studies in the field have focused on extended education’s effects on children, the current study is valuable because it discusses how extended education can affect other educational stakeholders. This study’s findings therefore identify a new area of investigation that can be used to evaluate extended education’s efficacy.

Keywords: Extended education, Support by parents and the community, Impacts on schoolteachers, Factor analysis, SEM

Introduction

Although less prevalent than those on Western countries, there are still several studies that evaluate Japan’s extended education program (including after-school classes for children) as implemented by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, and Technologies (MEXT) in 2007. Furthermore, as extended education normally targets children and youth, it is understandable that the current literature (both in Japan and internationally) has focused predominantly on this population.

However, this focus is problematic, as there is little information on how extended education affects other educational stakeholders, making it harder to fully understand this pedagogical method. In other words, even though there are studies focusing on other aspects and stakeholders of extended education, these studies still focused on how these various factors affect children. This ultimately means that there is insufficient research into how other extended education participants and relevant personnel (e.g., parents, community residents, schoolteachers, etc.) are affected.

This article therefore analyzes the relationship between the extended education system as supported by parents and the community and its impacts on Japanese schoolteachers. Through this, the author will elucidate how extended education affects non-youth populations. Prior to the analyses, we will discuss Japan’s extended education system and contextualize this research using the existing literature. We will develop scales to help identify teachers’ perceptions towards their work and that of the local network (i.e., between the school, the students’ families, and the local community). An analysis of how parent- and community-supported extended education programs affect schoolteachers will also be provided.

Review of the Literature

Studies Evaluating Extended Education and Its Impact in Japan and other countries

There are many studies analyzing extended education’s effect in various contexts. This includes studies in Germany (Stecher & Maschke, 2016), the UK (Dyson & Kerr, 2016), the USA (Huang, 2016), Sweden (Klerfelt, 2016), Australia (Welsh, 2016), and Japan (Kanefuji, 2016), all of which provide an evaluation of each nation’s school-based after-school activities and educational policies. In this subsection, we will only review the literature on the US and Japan due to both space constraints and the fact that quantitative evaluation studies on this subject are mostly American-based (Dyson & Kerr, 2016, p. 89).

Based on 52 selected studies in her review of American after-school programs, Huang showed that they have a wide range of effects (Huang, 2016, pp. 167–212). More specifically, after-school programs were found to have a positive impact on students’ academic achievement scores (Arcaira, Vile, & Reisner, 2010; Reisner et al., 2004; Russell et al., 2007; Vandell, Reisner, & Pierce, 2007). The review also looked at students’ attitudes towards school and learning as precursors to actual achievement outcomes. After-school programs were found to improve students’ regular school day attendance, and learners reported higher aspirations regarding finishing school and going to college (Huang et al., 2004). Furthermore, after-school program participants were significantly less likely to drop out of school when compared to matched non-participants (Huang et al., 2007; Arcaira, Vile, & Reisner, 2010).

Other key findings in the literature concerning the effect of extended education are as follows. First, the participants and their parents felt safe during and after the after-school programs (Russell et al., 2010; LaFleur et al., 2011; Russell & Woods, 2012). Furthermore, students participating in quality after-school programs showed significant increases in their self-perception, self-confidence, and self-esteem (Durlak & Weissberg, 2007). After-school programs also helped improve participants’ personal and social skills (Vinson & Hutson, 2014), conflict resolution skills (Reisner et al., 2004), decision-making ability, and leadership skills (Lyon, Jafri, & Louis, 2011); they also reduced problem behaviors (Vandell, Reisner, & Pierce, 2007; Durlak et al., 2010). Additionally, qualified after-school programs contribute to children’s health (Mahoney et al., 2005; Huang & CREST team, 2012). Furthermore, in terms of family and community involvement, 37 of Huang’s (2016) 52 reviewed studies addressed their involvement in these programs[1].

On the other hand, studies evaluating Japanese extended education emerged after MEXT introduced its After-school Classes for Children (ACC) program in Japan. Many of these studies are descriptive, only introducing initiative projects and clarifying their characteristics (OERF 2008, 2009; SRDI 2008a, 2009; Yanagisawa, 2013).

However, there are some Japanese-based quantitative studies on after-school programs’ effect on children. The Systems Research and Development Institute of Japan (SRDI) clarified the positive behavior modifications and the transformed perceptions of children in after-school programs by conducting questionnaire surveys on children, parents, and coordinators (SRDI, 2008b). Other studies have looked at how these programs affected children’s social and emotional development; one study found that students participating in extended education were more socially and emotionally developed than their non-participating peers (Kanefuji, 2015). However, only a few rigorous empirical studies have utilized methodologies like random sampling and randomized control testing.

Regarding teachers’ perspectives, some research has been conducted concerning their assessment of children and youth in different ACC programs provided within and outside of schools in Japan (Kanefuji & Iwasaki, 2013). More than 70% of these programs were provided at schools; the remainder was provided externally (e.g., at community learning centers, children’s halls, other institutions) (MEXT 2014). Based on a random sampling of public elementary schoolteachers, it was found that teachers in schools with in situ after-school programs had more positive relationships with the children and students than their counterparts with after-school programs provided outside schools (Kanefuji & Iwasaki, 2013). Even though Japanese schoolteachers are not expected to provide and instruct in these after-school programs, the results suggested that in situ after-school programs may have a positive effect on schoolteachers.

Based on the above review, it is clear that extended education’s role in children’s lives has been extensively researched. However, the literature rarely focused on how other stakeholders (i.e., parents, the community, schoolteachers) are affected. This observation may be attributed to researchers’ assumption that other stakeholders are only inputs in the extended education system.

Context and Methodology

Systems approach to analyzing and understanding extended education

Originally, the systems approach was proposed as the General System Theory by Austrian biologist Ludwig von Bertalanffy (Bertalanffy, 1968) and his colleagues, who were economists, mathematical biologists, and physiologists. According to the general systems theory, a system is defined as a group of interacting, interrelated, or interdependent elements that form a complex whole. Systems therefore have inputs, processes, outputs, and feedback mechanisms.

One reason we focus on extended education’s impacts on schoolteachers is that we assume that they are not simply inputs in the extended education system, but are instead part of its output. Furthermore, although some studies consider extended education and its program development process as an input-process-output system model, we believe this interpretation does not account for feedback mechanisms. When we presume that extended education is a system under the systems approach, we should consider how input mechanisms may also be affected by the output and the processes. This means the input, process, and output are not static; instead, they are dynamic mechanisms whose components interact with one another.

Based on the basic characteristics of the systems approach (Nakano, 1988), we now present the fundamental premises that will be used here to analyze extended education as a system. Firstly, extended education (including after-school programs) and its planning process can be understood as an input-process-output system, and it is a cyclical open system. Secondly, if it is assumed that extended education undergoes development processes, this implies that the extended education system includes feedback mechanisms in addition to inputs, processes, and outputs. Thirdly, this study aims to analyze and clarify the relationships between each component in the extended education system, but our analyses are not meant to be used to control or manage the system, as we need to better understand the system first.

[1] In England, some studies have reported that the relationship between parents’ interventions and children’s achievement scores are unclear, even though many studies strongly support this relationship (Dyson & Kerr, 2016, pp. 94–96).

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