Special Needs Education in Japan is years behind other developed countries around the world, writes Cecil Burton.

There are two distinct run school systems in Japan: the government-run state schools and privately-run international schools. The Japanese schools are much more affordable, while the international schools are much pricier, and the only people who can afford them are those working in high positions with high incomes, or those working for a company which pays for their child’s education. In addition, there are various other schools such as the Japanese Free Schools, and the Japanese “international” schools.

■ The school is in a traditional Japanese house.

According to the Ministry of Education (MEXT), the concept of inclusive education is defined as “a mechanism that enables persons with disabilities and persons without disabilities to learn together as much as possible”. The problem here is that “as much as possible” leaves the implementation up to individual decision-makers in each city and school, in line with the thinking of school principals and those in charge of special needs support at each school.

In Japanese state schools, there is a general shortage of qualified, experienced and professionally competent special needs staff, and even those who have all the above and do the best they can, are either not providing the right support or are restricted by the government school systems. Special needs classrooms have been added to many schools to enable an inclusive environment, and SPED students spend some time attending and participating with other students in regular classes and also attend special needs classrooms for more support. However, most of this support is fractured and inadequate, and functions more like a baby-sitting service than actual education and behavioural support for SPED children. There are also exclusive special needs schools for children who have major issues and cannot cope with being in inclusive state schools.

In the international school system, most schools are financially profit orientated, the exception being schools which depend on donations or are run and supported by religious institutions. There are basically two types of international schools. In the top tier are the international schools like the American, British, German, Canadian or Indian schools, and on the second tier there are many Japanese “international schools” which are less expensive, but which may not maintain the standards of truly international schools. Many of the principals and teaching staff who are involved in supporting special needs students in these schools, may lack experience, training, and professional competence in supporting SPED children.

My conclusions are based on more than twenty-five years of research in special needs education in Japan and abroad. I have noticed so many gaps and inconsistencies in the education system here in Japan. This led me to starting up my own international school in Osaka in 2021. It’s in a traditional Japanese house, with a Japanese garden, surrounded by greenery. We provide early intervention strategies, movement programmes and development of critical thinking skills as part of the school curriculum, and we educate students to think and reason for themselves rather than just teaching them.

Cecil Burton
Author: Cecil Burton

Cecil Burton
+ posts

Cecil Burton is director of the Cee Bee Center and the Move To Learn Global School, both in Osaka, Japan.

Website: theceebeecenter.com
Website: mtlgs.org


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here