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The history of Japanese women's education

2015-07-19 来源: 51due教员组 类别: Paper范文

这篇文章从美国和日本2个国家对女性教育方面一作比较的形式强调:每个家庭应该像重视男性教育一样来重视对女性的教育。“本文的目标是要展示日本的女性教育在教育史中的进步和日本妇女受教育的历史,其中充满了挫折和许多人的贡献。”


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Women's Education: Emphasis on Domestic Arts for Women vs. Emphasis on Education Parity with Men

Even though now it’s pretty normal for a girl to attend the college both in America and Japan, it might surprise you that from the eighteenth century to twentieth century, the women’s education in these two countries had been gone through a hard time. In this paper, the development of women’s education in Japanese will be discussed, comparing to the American women’s education. The goals of this paper are to show the progress of the Japanese westernization in education and the history of the Japanese women’s education, which was filled with frustration and lots of people’s contribution. Therefore, the value of the education can be fully understood and appreciated. 

Above all, the beginning of Japanese westernization should be mentioned and since it’s said that the reform in education which happened in Meiji period was influenced by the America, it’s unavoidable here to talk about the development of American female education. Then, it moves to the progress in Japanese education reform under the American influence and finally the focus in the women's education, whether it was equal to the male education or not, can be clarified. All in all, this paper is organized into four sections: the Meiji restoration, women’s education in America, women’s education in Japan and the conclusion.

The Meiji Restoration
Beginning from 1633, Japanese seclusion policy had been enacted for nearly two centuries until Commodore Perry with his four warships arrived and broke its “locked door” in 1853. At that time, Japan also faced some inner pressures like the conflicts between the regional daimyo and the central Shogunate government. All of these pushed Japan to desire the modernization and industrialization and this became the opening of the Meiji restoration. Through the Meiji restoration, Japan experienced a great change, especially in the field of education. In 1871, the Mombusho was created and in 1872, the Fundamental Code of Education was published, founding the system of elementary and middle schools and universities controlled by the government. Meanwhile, there were even four Japanese young ladies who were brought by an American woman to study western style (Armstrong.edu). From 1886 to 1889, Mori Arinori, a former Satsuma samurai who had been studied in America, introduced the public education with the spirit of liberality and pragmatism when he came back Japan and served as minister of education. 

Women’s education in America 
Even though it was the America that formally brought the idea of women education into Japan, it was not easy for the American women to achieve their own right to get education. As the American education at the first beginning was still based on the European traditions, it allowed no girls but those wealthy ones to have the opportunity to learn. In order to find an excellent husband, Women were expected to be good at household duties in those days and those who had highly education were thought to be weird (Nwhm.org). Though boys and girls might have the chance to be taught some basic curriculum by a local woman, they received different curriculum as well. The boys well prepared for the further education by learning reading and writing while the girls learned those domestic arts like sewing and knitting. Girls were forbidden to attend town schools until the end of the 18th century. However, after the independence, the education of women became a way to cultivate talents for the new country and more educational opportunities were provided for the women. With the establishments of women’s colleges, the curriculums that the girls studied were generally similar to that in the men’s colleges. Only after the Vassar College was established, can the women get the curriculum “which was comparable to that of the men’s colleges” (Nwhm.org).

Women’s education in Japan
In the Meiji restoration, enormous changes happened both in the political and social structure. At the same time, the education in Japan went through dramatic change, too. However, women, according to the traditional gender role, were expected to obey the wishes of their husbands and take care of the housework so that the road for them to get the equal chances on education was very difficult. Although some of them can get educated, the focus was always on the domestic arts rather than comprehensive curriculum similar to what the men received.


In fact, the traditional idea about the unequal gender roles in Japan was affected greatly by the introduction of Confucian and Buddhism from China. To be more exactly, without the Confucian and Buddhism, in Japan’s history, male and female were fairly equal (Kincaid). Since the Confucian emphasizes that women should be loyal to their husband and family while the Buddhism treats women with evil nature  (Silva-Grondin), all of these led female into submissive and founded the idea that men were superior to women.  

When there was argument about the right of education between men and women, another fight between the conservatives who favored the Confucianism and nativism and the pragmatists who wanted to build independence and encourage practicality was intense. From the point of the pragmatists like Mori Arinori (1847–1889), they adopted the western idea of the equality between men and women so that the rights in women’s education and even marriage were emphasized to some extent. On the contrary, under the Confucian influence, conservatives tended to take it for granted that a woman should stay at home and care for their families rather than receiving education with men.

The development in women’s education in Meiji period was similar to the way in America. Actually, before the Meiji period the chance to learn how read and write was only limited in those ladies in upper class. Even so, the purpose for those educations was to find a suitable and decent husband and be a better wife in the future. This view was not changed until the late Meiji period.

Even though developing the popular education was the main goal in Meiji period, the financial support was not enough since it was known that the government was facing the financial distress. Moreover, with the goal of building stronger military force, Japan paid lots of attention on the training of the army. Some army leaders even claimed that “It is the duty of the preparatory school to educate the people in such a way that they can be educated easily when they arrive at the main [army] school.” (Jansen). So it was naturally that the women’s education can’t get enough attention since they were less likely to become the soldiers after received the education.

Right at the beginning of the Meiji period, schools for women were set up by government as well as individuals and missionary groups (Patessio). But what’s disappointing was the numbers of girls who attend was pretty small. Some of the girls even carried their little sisters or brothers with them since nobody in home can do this task and then not all of them can finish their courses with different problems in families like their mothers got sick and need their help at home. Some schools had to close since had too less students.

Because of the traditional role of female, in schools, the girls were taught how to handle finances and manage a family in order to make them prepared for being a good wife. One of the mothers said that: “Having an education but being unable to take care of practical matters, she concluded, was not good.” (Patessio). 

When the question of women’s university education turned out, again, the idea that women were destined to get married jumped out. Some objectors said that it’s unnecessary for a woman to obtain an education since she had no chance to use those knowledge. Some scholars even argued that it’s acceptable for the women in the West to receive education, get a job and never get married because the number of women was bigger than that of men. That’s why, in Japan, women were no need to attend schools since they finally should get married under the condition that women are less than men in Japan.

Conclusion 
By examining and comparing the history of women’s education in Japan and America, it’s easy to find out that though there has been a great progress in this field, for women’s education, more attentions were put on the domestic art rather than the education parity with man. But since women begin to be active in the society, this has changed gradually and now it can be said that women are equal with men in the field of education.


Works cited
Jansen, Marius B. The Making Of Modern Japan. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2000. Print.
Gordon, Andrew. A Modern History Of Japan. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003. Print.
Patessio, Mara. 'Women Getting A ‘University’ Education In Meiji Japan: Discourses, Realities, And Individual Lives'. Japan Forum 25.4 (2013): 556-581. Web. 15 May 2015.
Nwhm.org,. 'NWHM Exhibit: The History Of Women And Education'. N.p., 2015. Web. 15 May 2015.
Armstrong.edu,. 'Japanese Westernization And The American Civil War – Armstrong Undergraduate Journal Of History'. N.p., 2015. Web. 15 May 2015.
Japanvisitor.com,. 'Early Westernization In Japan 1868-1900 | Japanvisitor Japan Travel Guide'. N.p., 2015. Web. 15 May 2015.
Wikipedia,. 'Women In Japan'. N.p., 2015. Web. 2 May 2015.


Silva-Grondin, Mallary A. 'Women In Ancient Japan: From Matriarchal Antiquity To Acquiescent Confinement'. Student Pulse 2.09 (2010): n. pag. Web. 3 May 2015.

 

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