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Chemical Education in Japan (1994)


Chapter 1


1.1 The Edo Era (Yoshito Takeuchi) 2

1.2 The Modern Era (Shousuke Teratani) 3

1.2.1 Educational System for the State 3

1.2.2 Features of the Educational System before World War II 4


The seeds of chemical education in Japan were planted following contact with Europeans in 1543. In 1549, the Spanish missionary Francisco de Xavier (1506-1552) came to Kagoshima to propagate Christianity; several years earlier a Portuguese ship stranded on an island off the southern coast of Kyushu had introduced matchlock guns. During the next one hundred years more Catholic missionaries came with the Portuguese traders, but they were expelled from Japan in 1639. Dejima island was built in Nagasaki harbor to house the foreign traders in 1635, but following the award of an exclusive monopoly with the Dutch East Indies trading company in 1641, only Dutch merchant ships were allowed to enter Nagasaki for trade. Japan closed herself to the western world except for the small window of Nagasaki. This was one of the main policies of the Edo (now Tokyo)-based Tokugawa Shogunate Government for approximately 300 years until the mid-l9th century.

Throughout the reign of the Tokugawa family in the Edo period, except the final stage, there were three types of schools. One was located in Edo, and was reserved primarily for the Shogunate family; Confucianism was essentially the sole subject taught. The second category was the feudal clan schools (han-gaku), which were established in nearly every fief. The han-gaku was specifically for children of the samurai, or warrior class. Confucianism was again taught, but the purpose of the han-gaku was to train able officers for the clan. Hence, at the end of the Edo era in the mid-1800's, when the importance of western technology was recognized, subjects like medicine or astronomy were already being taught at certain han-gaku.

In the Edo era, people were categorized by work into four classes: military, agricultural, industrial, and mercantile. For the last three classes, private elementary school(terakoya) was the place for education. Terakoya was completely private, with no support from the government. The purpose of education there was to teach practical subjects, the so-called three R's of reading, writing and arithmetic. There was no room for science.

Following the construction of Dejima island in Nagasaki harbor in 1635 and the exclusive trade with the Dutch, Nagasaki remained the only window of Japan open to western civilization until 1856. Among those who came to Nagasaki in Dutch ships and stayed there during this isolation period were several scholars, such as Carl Peter Thunberg (1743-1822), Engelbert Kampfer (1651-1716), and Franz van Siebold (1796-1866). Their papers and books on Japan contributed substantially to the introduction of Japan and her culture to the western world. Similarly, some Japanese interpreters of the Dutch language in Dejima also contributed by introducing western culture to Japanese people, especially to high officials in the Tokugawa government in Edo.

Under these circumstances in 1720 the eighth Shogun Yoshimune Tokugawa (1684-1751) lifted the ban on reading foreign books, thus permitting books on astronomy, military, medical sciences, physics, and chemistry to be imported. Furthermore, in 1811 a government bureau was founded in Edo which dealt exclusively with the translation of foreign books, mostly Dutch into Japanese. Thus knowledge of the western natural science began to filter gradually into Japan.

In 1837 Yo-an Udagawa (1798-1840), who was from the third generation of a well-known academic family, started writing his chemistry book, "Seimi Kaiso", the first book in Japanese which literally meant "Introduction to Chemistry". This book was based on the Dutch translation of "Epitome of Chemistry" written by William Henry (1775-1836), an English chemist. Udagawa used this book as a base and consulted more than twenty chemistry books available to him through Dutch translation. Therefore, this Seimi Kaiso was actually a book written by him, not a mere translation of Henry's book. In this book, chemistry after Lavoisier's new concept was fortunately introduced without the disturbing influence of the earlier phlogiston theory. Though publication of this book was suspended in 1847 by Udagawa's untimely death, the main parts had already been published in 21 volumes.

In Seimi Kaiso, Udagawa had to overcome difficulties in translating various technical terms, and coin appropriate Japanese words, most of which are still in use today. For instance, some of the names of elements were translated into Japanese, while others were phonetically transliterated. Furthermore, Japanese terms such as reagent, composition, gas, vapor, pressure, and temperature were also coined by him.

Later, in 1856, the Tokugawa government expanded the bureau of translation, and it actually became a school of natural science, i.e., Institute for Research of Foreign Books (Bansho Shirabedokoro). In this school, Seimi Kaiso was used as a textbook. Komin Kawamoto (1809-1871), who was believed to have coined the Japanese word "kagaku" (chemistry) for the first time in 1861 instead of "seimi", a phonetic translation of "chemie" in Dutch which had been used before, was one of the professors of chemistry at this institute. He lectured on atomic theory which was not described in Seimi Kaiso. There were 191 students when the school began.

Chemistry then became a subject which was systematically taught at certain schools. One reason why chemistry became popular rather quickly must have been due to its practical aspect (e.g. , gun powder production). The experimental aspects of chemistry also attracted the interest of young students. There is a famous example illustrating this point. Yukichi Fukuzawa (1834-1901), the educator and founder of Keio University, one of the most famous universities in Japan, studied at Teki-juku in Osaka, a private pre-med school run and taught by Koan Ogata (1810-1863), a noted medical doctor of the time. According to Fukuzawa's autobiography, he attempted to prepare ammonia by thermolysis of ammonium chloride (contained in horse hoof). He was bitterly scolded by people nearby because of the pungent aroma. Another famous chemist of the day was Saburo Utsunomiya (1834-1903) who was particularly interested in the practical aspect of chemistry.

In 1863 Bansho-Shirabedokoro was reorganized, becoming Kaisei-sho which is considered the first systematic education and research center for the study of western knowledge. Chemistry was one of the nine science or technology subjects taught there. In 1867, the Dutch chemist K. Gratama (1831-1888) was invited to be a professor at Kaisei-sho. In December of 1867, the 15th Shogun, Yoshinobu Tokugawa (1837-1913) resigned, and the new government was established under Emperor Meiji, which launched a series of reforms including that of education. Kaisei-sho was renamed Kaisei-Gakko (Kaisei school), which was transformed again in 1877 into the University of Tokyo, Faculty of Science.

1.2.1 Educational System for the State

The shift of the ruling powers from the Tokugawa shogunate to the Meiji Emperor in 1868 is known as the Meiji Restoration. The new government adopted policies to promote independence and modernize Japan to cope with the pressure of the western powers. In order to promote national prosperity and defense, the imperial government put emphasis on developing industry and establishing a modern educational system. Thus in 1872 the Education System Order (Gakusei) was proclaimed, and the base of the education system was laid. Although the Order was not fully realized, it contributed to the rapid establishment of elementary schools throughout the country and the promotion of social equality due to the requirement that everyone, regardless of previous class distinctions, should attend the same elementary schools.

In 1885, Arinori Mori (1847-1889) became the first Minister of Education and began a series of educational reforms on the basis of the educational policy characterized by education for the benefit of the state. This educational policy was continued under other rulings in the Emperor's name. During 1886 four new school orders were promulgated for each type of school including elementary school, middle school, imperial university, and normal school. The 1886 reform of elementary school education brought about an integrated subject called Rika (science), and this category is still used today. The normal schools were classified into higher and ordinary normal schools. The former trained the principals and teachers of the ordinary normal schools and the latter trained the principals and teachers of local public elementary schools. Mori also contributed to the establishment of a national educational system with a dual structure aimed at "learning" for elites at higher educational institutions to become leaders of the nation, and "education" for the general public to acquire practical knowledge.

According to the Higher School Order promulgated in 1894, the higher middle schools became Higher Schools (Kyusei Koto Gakko). The Vocational School Order was promulgated in 1899 and then various types of vocational schools were founded which became a large part of the middle level education system over the next decades. In 1903, the Specialized School Order was promulgated. The Order described "schools which teach higher level arts and sciences are specialized schools." Many types of specialized schools were founded and some of them were reorganized as universities.

The attendance rate for school-aged children in compulsory education reached 98.8% at the end of the Meiji era (1912). By that time, the Japanese educational system had been nearly accomplished and continued through its expansion and development of higher level education in the Taisho era (1912-1926) until 1947 in the Showa era, when the reforms following World War II began.
1.2.2 Features of the Educational System before World War II*1

With respect to science education, certain characteristic features of the Japanese educational system before World War II can be summarized as follows:

(a) Elementary and Middle Level Education Schools.

In the educational system before World War II, boys and girls entered elementary schools at the age of six. The six-year education had been compulsory since 1908. Many of them entered society after the compulsory education period. Some of them entered middle schools for boys and for girls where the course was generally five years. There was no co-education in Japan before World War II except for a few exceptional cases such as music schools. In these middle-level schools, physics and chemistry were each taught for one year. Besides these middle-level schools, there were various types of vocational schools including technical schools, agricultural schools, commercial schools, merchant marine schools, and normal schools.

The graduates from the middle level schools had a choice of opportunities for higher education at age 17, which consisted of the following three kinds of schools:

i) universities via higher schools

ii) specialized schools,

iii) higher normal schools.

(b) Higher Schools.

The Higher School(Kyusei Koto Gakko) was three-year government higher schools except for a few private, and prefectural ones. All government higher schools were for boys only; there were no

higher schools for girls. The number of government higher schools was 33 in 1945, including those at Taipei (Taiwan), Seoul (Korea), and Port Arthur (Lushun, China). These higher schools were

exclusively serving an elite with only two courses, literature and science. Boys aiming to study science, engineering or medicine in universities took the science course. In the science course of these higher schools chemistry, including inorganic qualitative analysis and simple organic experiments, was taught once a week for two years.

(c) Universities with multiple faculties.

The University of Tokyo, established in 1877 by combining several schools which had their start in the end of the feudal period, had four colleges: law, medicine, science, and literature. In December of that year, the first three students who graduated from this university were all chemistry students. In 1886, the University of Tokyo became the Imperial University with five colleges including the College of Engineering which was founded in 1873. Later in 1890, the college of Agriculture joined the university.

In 1897 Kyoto Imperial University was founded as the second one, then other imperial universities followed after them: Tohoku Imperial University at Sendai, Hokkaido Imperial University at Sapporo, Kyushu Imperial University at Fukuoka, Osaka and Nagoya Imperial Universities with two others at Taihoku (Taipei, Taiwan) and Keijo (Seoul, Korea).

Each of these imperial universities had multiple faculties (colleges were changed to faculties in 1919), although university sizes were not the same. For instance, Tokyo Imperial University had seven faculties together with several research institutes, while Nagoya Imperial University, the youngest one created in 1939, had only three faculties, medicine, engineering and science.

In these imperial universities education and research concerning chemistry were carried out in various departments such as the department of chemistry (Faculty of Science), applied chemistry (Faculty of Engineering), agricultural chemistry (Faculty of Agriculture), pharmacy (Faculty of Medicine), etc.

In addition to these imperial universities there were several private universities which offered applied chemistry courses, such as Waseda and Keio Universities. Boys entered the universities at 20 years of age (15th school year) after rather severe entrance examinations, and graduated usually after three years (four years for the medical course) with the title of Gakushi of each faculty: for instance, Rigakushi for Faculty of Science (which corresponds to the Bachelor of Science).

In addition to undergraduate courses, those universities had graduate courses of five years, but the graduate course of the pre-war system was not well organized and at the same time not well attended by students. The doctor's degree in the prewar period was granted to those who had conducted extensive research activity and had completed distinguished works. In reality the Rigaku-Hakushi (Dr. Sc.) of the old system resembled Dr. Sc. of Oxford and Cambridge, or those of Denmark and Sweden. The graduate course was not so useful for obtaining degrees.

As previously stated there was no higher school for girls, and those who wished to study science entered girl's higher normal schools (a four-year course after secondary schools) first, and then tried to enter the imperial universities like Tohoku Imperial University, where the number of male applicants was often less than the student number allotted for the Faculty of Science. Thus, it was an extremely narrow gate for girls to become chemists in the pre-war period.

(d) Universities and Single-Faculty Institutions.

In 1918 the University Order was promulgated, and single-faculty institutions began appearing. As of 1945, there were such schools as the Tokyo Institute of Technology and Osaka Institute of Technology in addition to several government, prefectural, and private medical and dental universities, commercial universities, and Tokyo and Hiroshima Arts and Sciences Universities.

(e) Specialized Schools.

Specialized schools (Senmon Gakko) gave three years of professional training at the sub-university level after middle-level school. Most of them were commercial and technical specialized schools. The others included agricultural, medical (for men and for women), and pharmaceutical ones (for men and women).

(f) Higher Normal Schools.

Before and during World War II chemistry teachers of secondary schools were trained as a rule in several higher normal schools throughout the country, two for men and two for women, and nearly 100 chemistry teachers were produced yearly. These teachers were granted not only a chemistry certificate but one in physics also. In the midst of the war, to overcome the shortage of science teachers, three higher normal schools were established, and about 100 additional science teachers were graduated every year.

Higher normal schools accepted students from graduates of middle-level schools and had a four-year course. During this period students were requested to obtain the following subject credits in professional liberal arts: pedagogy, psychology, philosophy, ethics, science teaching methods and teaching practice.

Science teaching methods contained the lecture "How to guide experiments". Students were requested to experience a practice teaching period of four weeks each in elementary and secondary schools which were attached to their own schools. The practice in elementary schools was aimed at becoming acquainted with elementary education, though it was not necessary for their jobs in the future.

Tuition for higher normal schools was free, and further, some students were supported by scholarships. The graduates of these higher normal schools were assigned to middle-level schools all over the country by the government. They were required to serve in education for one or two years. Therefore the competition for entering these higher normal schools was very keen, and the ratio of applicants to students permitted entrance was about 10-15:1 for the science course. The salary of school teachers generally was low, but the position was stable and respected.

In conclusion, it may be said that for the 70-year period following the middle of the 19th century and before World War II, Japan put forth every effort to make rapid progress in modernization and industrialization. The development of education was one of the fundamental reasons for this success, and the development of science education contributed much to this effect as well. The number of higher educational institutions peaked in 1945 at the end of World War II: 48 universities, 33 higher schools, 309 specialized schools, 7 higher normal schools, and 135 teacher training schools including ordinary normal schools, most of them having been damaged more or less by the war.

1* This chapter is reproduced from "Chemical Education In Japan"(First Version) with minor modification.


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