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English / Japanese

[Department of Educational and Developmental Science, School of Education and Welfare]
Professor MOCHIZUKI Akira

A child is also a human being with an individual character. Building a better tomorrow by protecting the rights of children. Universities play a big part in this.

My Experience at a Foster Home Became a Point of Departure for Research

 

My inspiration for choosing education welfare as an area of research within education studies goes back to my student days during the 1970s. When one speaks of education studies, generally the focus is on school education, but under the guidance of my seminar professor, who said, “it’s hard to see the truth of school education if you stay inside schools,” I got the chance to go on a tour of a nearby foster home. At the time, family breakdowns caused by such things as parental unemployment and debts were the main reasons for being admitted to the facility. This means that the children who were the victims of those breakdowns were living there, but despite having been separated from their parents, who should have loved them the most, they were all full of life. Around them were the figures of staff members doing their best to somehow give the children hope for the future. Unlike a school running around in the rat race to acquire academic abilities and deviating from the true essence of education, there was real education going on here, the way a relationship between educators and children fundamentally should be.

However, the situation of children placed in facilities was harsh. Child welfare covers children until the age of eighteen, but the nation’s social welfare program costs at the time did not include expenses to go on to high school. So, most children in facilities had no choice but to work after graduating from middle school, a blatant breakdown in the principle of equal opportunity for education. That is a fundamental problem for education studies, and it became the point of departure for my later research.

In Order to Protect the Rights of Children

 

The topic of my current research and teaching is a field that concerns both child education and child welfare and that is hindered by both of these. One regards the fundamental principle of the rights of children per se. In other words, I am trying to get to the bottom of what the rights of children are, or what they consist of in substance. For that reason, I am involved in United Nations NGOs and other organizations for the rights of children, such as the Japan Section of DCI (Defence for Children International), for instance. I am making steady efforts to spread the principles of the “Convention on the Rights of the Child,” which rests on four pillars: the right to live, the right to be protected, the right to grow up, and the right to participate. The other one is rights protection for children in child welfare facilities. In this case, the main issue is how to protect the rights of children in facilities, beginning with foster homes, which are where my research began. At the center of this is the right to learn. This is the right to secure learning, which includes accessing places of learning more actively, not passively. Specifically, there is the problem of going on to high school and university. Now, the rate of children in facilities who go on to high school has finally surpassed 80%, but in Japan, where the rate of going on to college is said to be 50%, only 7-8% of children in facilities are able to go to college. The learning environment within facilities is also a problem. In a situation where many people live together in one room, it is hard to say that the conditions needed for studying have been met.

The right to receive an education should be secured equally for all children. However, lying in front of the children in facilities are undeniable economic disparity, inequality, and social exclusion. I believe it is necessary to raise these problems and to work continuously on pushing for their improvement.

Universities are Public Institutions for Solving Lifestyle Problems

 

Something that is being focused on as a modern-day problem is child abuse by parents. In general, there is a tendency among Japanese people for parents to view children as their possessions. In poor societies, parents see children as their private property to care for them in old age and to help them out with the family budget, so the birth rate rises. On the other hand, when societies become wealthy, the birth rate goes down, leading to a rise in thinking of children as possessions. When you add to that the stress of things such as social stratification and competitive society, you see an increase in abuse. This seems to be how these societies are structured.

In order to prevent that, it is important that we first see children as single individuals and as subjects of rights. We must spread the idea that children are neither the possessions of their parents, nor objects to be raised in a way that is convenient for the parents, and that how a child is raised is the right of that individual child. At the same time, government support is also essential, but those efforts vary widely by region. For instance, to take the example of employees at child consultation centers, in the case of Osaka Prefecture University, where I worked before I came to Aichi Prefectural University, they traditionally employ specialists, and I was involved in training those specialists. The employees at child consultation centers here in Aichi Prefecture, however, are regular administrators. By placing employees with high levels of specialization in those centers, we may have been able to avoid the worst outcome in the unfortunate incidents of child abuse fatalities. I believe that universities, especially public universities, should be positioned as part of a public organization, a public system, for solving the lifestyle problems of residents, and I feel that universities can also play a part in dealing with these welfare issues by sending in specialists who are able to work on solutions to them.

Acquiring Specialization After Learning More Humanity

In class, I place importance on cultivating a position or perspective of looking for problems as well as understanding and analyzing their substance. To do that, I base my teaching on educational and welfare sites that actually are involved with children, and we head out there. This is because, as I go to sites instead of studying at my desk, I want to take an active role in really listening to the thoughts of children and employees and to transmit their thoughts to society.

Specifically, by using Aichi Prefectural University’s own part-time work period system, I encourage students to make ties outside of class, such as having people from facilities come to class and letting students hear real voices from sites, by making close connections with sites through practical training (a strength of the School of Education and Welfare), and by promoting volunteer activities. I hope that undergraduates and graduate students will take on roles in administrative work or as facilitators of local activities in organizations such as study groups concerning residents’ rights and NGOs.

I do not like to use the word “human resources.” Human resources means human raw materials. This is a word that symbolically shows what kind of aims the Japanese education came to serve after World War II. In other words, it is an expression of how Japan came to educate people for becoming raw materials to plug into the industrial system, gears in the engine of economic activity. However, education should fundamentally aim for the completion of the individual, the formation of a human being. Raising each child as a single human being is the foundation of education. In society, various difficult realities await us. If we run into a problem that must be solved, let’s first think about how we should approach it as human beings. By adding specialization to that, we ought to be able to make a more thoughtful contribution. In preparation for that time, I first want students to grow into individual human beings.

Profile

Department of Educational and Developmental Science, School of Education and Welfare

Professor MOCHIZUKI Akira

Areas of Specialty: Social Education

In October 2010, on the occasion of the establishment of a doctoral course in the Graduate School of Human Development at Aichi Prefectural University Graduate School, he was invited from Osaka Prefecture University to his current position as Professor. His main research topics include securing the rights of children living in foster homes and rights issues for children in schools and local communities. He also uses the game of kendama (cup-and-ball game) as a compass for his research on children and as a communication tool with children and students, sharing the philosophy that “the sound of kendama is the sound of peace.” He himself is a skilled kendama player of the third rank.

Interview: KASUGAI Takashi; Writer: MIYAUCHI Kyōko

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