Social Education 57(2), 1993, pp. ?-75
1993 National Council for the Social Studies
For some Japanese, schoolbooks are just as valuable as land," an ISEI staff member told the U.S. participants. At one time, teachers in Japan instructed their students to pick up their textbooks first when fleeing the school building because a fire, flood, or earthquake struck.
For the Japanese, a textbook is not simply one of many tools for learning. Article 21 of Japan's Basic Education Law states that a textbook should be used as the primary source for classroom instruction. And in practice, most teachers in Japan rely on textbooks as the only tool for teaching and learning.
The Japanese people have always placed a high value on the written word. Their apparent reverence toward textbooks in particular derives from a long tradition of learning dating to the early Confucianism of the 200s and 100s b.c.e. Confucianism placed great importance on studying the writings of China's spiritual leaders. During this period, teachers educated future government officials by using the Five Confucian Classics. 2Thorough knowledge of the Classics, the textbooks of that day, became proof of one's moral fitness and the chief sign of worthiness to rule.
Japanese attitudes toward textbooks also have more recent antecedents. Before World War II, Japanese schools used national textbooks written and produced by the Imperial Japanese government. Government-issued textbooks carried the emperor's message directly to Japanese schoolchildren, who learned that the emperor's ideas were sacred in all matters.
Today, the Japanese government no longer issues textbooks. Instead, the Ministry of Education authorizes textbooks for use in all elementary and secondary schools in Japan. Authorization and adoption of elementary textbooks occurs every four years. Because a wider range of subjects is taught in Japanese high schools, the ministry allows adoption of secondary textbooks every year.
Independently owned and operated textbook publishers develop and produce the books. Publishers such as the Tokyo Shoseki Co., Ltd., whose editorial office and printing plant the U.S. study tour participants visited, submit their books to the Ministry of Education for evaluation and authorization.
Developing a New Textbook in Japan
Developing a new textbook program in Japan starts with the publisher choosing an editorial committee consisting of college professors, classroom teachers, and administrators. The publisher usually creates one committee for each publishing project. For example, an elementary social studies series has one committee and a lower secondary (junior high) social studies series has another. After the committee defines the general concepts for the series, the committee is usually divided into smaller groups according to grade level or field, depending on the subject. Grade groups are common for elementary textbooks. For upper secondary school (high school), however, several independent editorial committees per subject may be chosen because the subject fields at this level become highly specialized.
Not all committee members, however, are writers. Some members participate by examining manuscripts written by others and proofreading completed texts. For textbooks in an elementary school social studies series, the usual procedure is for classroom teachers to write the manuscripts and for committee members to discuss the manuscripts at regular meetings. College professors usually write the secondary textbook manuscripts, and the committees for those books scrutinize their work. Classroom teachers on the secondary school committee are assigned to write selected parts of the textbook such as the exercises that accompany the main text. Administrators who serve on editorial committees participate mainly by reviewing and correcting the manuscripts.
Selecting and securing capable textbook writers is one of the most important steps in textbook development. Publishers search for writers well in advance of the project's inception. Publishers attend various professional research organization meetings to search for new talent. Publishers may ask prospective authors to write parts of teachers' manuals or bulletins to test their writing ability, but writers seldom send unsolicited original manuscripts for the publishers to develop as part of a textbook. The publisher will ask the editorial committee members not only to evaluate manuscripts submitted by individual writers but to contribute ideas for improving the work.
Publishers choose college professors for their academic knowledge in a particular discipline; they choose classroom teachers, on the other hand, more for their pedagogical knowledge and competence in teaching than for their published research.
No textbook companies in Japan use professional writers, and no one writes exclusively for textbooks in social studies or in any other content area. This practice may have originated in the pre-World War II era when the government did not permit private companies to publish original textbooks. Even today, textbook writers must cope with various restrictions and limitations; other writers have considerably more freedom.
During the early 1880s, Japanese schools began to use textbooks produced privately in Japan to replace translations of Western textbooks used previously. The Ministry of Education forbade the use of unsuitable textbooks and required elementary schools to receive approval from the government's educational authorities for any textbook they chose. By 1887, the government had enforced the authorization system, an official process for evaluating textbooks and declaring them suitable for use in Japanese schools.
The government intended that free competition among textbook publishers would improve the quality of textbooks, but it did not seem to work out that way. Within ten years, some of these textbooks came under criticism for the low quality of their content, thus paving the way for government-issued textbooks.
From 1904 until World War II ended in 1945, the Ministry of Education was solely responsible for designing and developing textbooks. The ministry chose private companies to print exact copies of sample versions it issued, specifying details such as type size, which words to print on one line, printing method, and maximum price the publisher could charge. Eventually the ministry permitted only three government-designated companies to print textbooks.
Postwar Period Procedures
The democratization that began after World War II permitted private companies to publish textbooks again. The Ministry of Education set up a procedure to authorize all textbooks published by commercial publishers, similar to the procedure used prior to the government-issued textbook period. Today the Ministry of Education requires that prospective textbooks undergo a rigorous examination process before it will approve them.
The Ministry of Education organizes a course of study for elementary and secondary schools with which all teachers must comply. The course of study contains the government's standards for the various subjects and activities of public school education and includes grade-by-grade guidelines. The standards and guidelines are especially strict in the social studies. There, the text must include no more and no less than the content specified for a particular grade; for subjects such as music and art, on the other hand, the guidelines are more flexible. The course of study is revised approximately every ten years; the ministry issued revisions for elementary schools, for example, in 1968, 1977, and 1989.
The Ministry of Education's primary role concerning textbooks is to supervise the authorization system. The ministry also fixes textbook prices (which are low compared to those in the United States), ensures fair procedures for adoption at the local level, and makes certain that publishers supply books properly after publication. The ministry thereby maintains control of everything except the day-to-day publishing decisions of the private companies.
Publishers, therefore, can produce a new or revised edition only when the ministry is accepting applications. Under the old system, this occurred every three years. In the new system, beginning in 1990, the ministry allows publishers to revise every four years. This also leads directly to publishers developing new programs every four years.
Publishers require approximately five years to complete an entirely new textbook. They spend the first two years choosing the authors and deciding on the basic principles (e.g., teaching and learning approaches, reading levels, scope of content, and illustrations) they will use for establishing the philosophy and direction of the work. The balance of the time is spent writing and developing the text, preparing various user surveys, applying for authorization, and manufacturing sample textbooks. The ministry accepts applications for authorization during a specified week two years before the textbook will reach the schools. Publishing companies carefully calculate their production schedules backward from this date.
Publishers take from six months to a year to decide the basic principles to use for a revised edition. If the need arises to revise statistical data or change factual information because of changes in the social situation, the ministry will, however, grant publishers permission to make minor content changes during the four years a textbook is in use.
The Authorization Process
To apply for authorization, a publisher submits draft textbooks that are, for all practical purposes, complete. These draft copies are called "white books" because their blank white covers omit the title, publisher's name, and authors' names to ensure a fair review process. The Textbook Authorization Council, an advisory arm of the Ministry of Education, examines each draft textbook to judge whether it is suitable for use in the schools. The council consists of numerous scholars and teacher specialists in the content fields covered by the textbooks, school principals, and other people of learning and experience such as those from the business and legal professions. 3
Evaluation and Examination
The evaluation process consists of deducting points for each item in the textbook worthy of demerit. Points are deducted for misprints, inaccurate descriptions, misconceptions, or for not following the ideas of the course of study. If the demerit total accumulates above a specified level, the council disapproves the textbook. From the publishers' experience, the examining process for the social studies is stricter than for other subjects, probably because the study of social studies can influence the way students perceive present-day Japanese society. Both the Textbook Authorization Council and the content specialists are extremely sensitive to descriptions that are even slightly antiestablishment, to social problems such as the increasing heterogeneity of Japan's population, and to the younger population's failure to subscribe to accepted social values of the older generation.
Multicultural education, which is a delicate problem in the United States, is becoming increasingly so in Japan. In Japan, former Prime Minister Nakasone was criticized several years ago for stating that Japan was a nation of one race, which is untrue. Japan has minority groups, such as Koreans and Ainus (aboriginal people from Hokkaido), Southeast Asians, and some Chinese. Although passages about these groups are included in textbooks, how to handle racial problems is not a primary issue in Japan.
In an effort to avoid wounding the national sentiments of the Chinese, Koreans, and Southeast Asians, writers have sought the appropriate wording for describing Japan's past territorial aggressions against them. For example, the Ministry of Education suggested in 1981 various changes to a high school history textbook. One in particular involved the use of the words entered and invaded in describing a nation's occupation of foreign territories. The textbook in question originally stated that Britain entered Hong Kong and invaded India and Burma (Myanmar), and that Japan invaded China and Korea. Sensitive about Japan's militarism in the 1930s, the Ministry of Education contended that publishers should use the word entered to describe all such instances, including Japan's occupation of Manchuria and Korea. The ministry reversed its decision in 1982 in an attempt to improve relations with China and Korea. Now all Japanese textbooks state that Japan invaded these countries. 4
Officials at Tokyo Shoseki say they have been required to make fewer changes in recent years than previously. One official said, "There is more room for compromise these days." In political science and economics textbooks, writers must be careful to present well-balanced descriptions of both the government's policies and the opposing ideas of citizens' groups and labor unions.
If the council disapproves a draft textbook, the publisher must make the necessary corrections and apply for reexamination within seventy-five days. Even if a textbook is approved, the senior content specialist may demand corrections from the publishers. Only after publishers have made adequate corrections is a textbook officially approved. The system burdens publishers with complex procedures and with the high cost of producing draft textbooks that are nearly complete. One publisher estimates that it must print three hundred copies of an almost complete book, generally at a high unit cost, for each book submitted for review. The following procedure takes more than a year to accomplish:
a. revised draft (white cover) textbook
b. list of corrections
c. cover and title page approvals
Negotiations on corrections
Submit final list of corrections
Reexamination by Textbook Authorization Council
Official approval by Ministry of Education
The Ministry of Education does not specify any requirements for weight and opacity of paper, binding materials, or format-all decisions that influence the price of the final product. The Textbook Association, consisting of textbook publishing companies, makes decisions on these details subject to the approval of the Ministry of Education.
Until now, little of the authorization process has been made public. Beginning in 1991, however, the draft textbooks and sample textbooks have been made available to the public through an exhibition held each year from July to September. Nevertheless, the Japanese people still have no direct voice in textbook authorization.
Textbook Selection in the United States
During discussions on the study tour, publishers from the United States recognized similarities between the Japanese Ministry of Education's adoption procedures and those of the state agencies or committees that approve, change, reject, and review textbooks in the United States. These state agencies or committees, mainly from the southern tier states to the western Sun Belt, review textbooks and recommend a limited number of the books for use in public schools. Local districts can then select their books from such approved lists, and the state often reimburses districts for a portion of the purchase price.
Unlike Japanese publishers, who produce books for a well-defined national market, publishers in the United States must aim their textbooks toward a few so-called adoption states with text-review policies. Simply being listed in one or all of these states may help a textbook's profitability. California and Texas together, for example, account for more than 20 percent of the national elementary and secondary textbook market. As a result, adoption states often influence the content of textbooks sold throughout the United States.
Serious political and ideological differences exist among the adoption states, however, which makes it difficult for publishers to determine exactly what content has the best chance of being approved in the most states. A good example of states' diverse curriculum needs in social studies can be found in California and Texas. Based on its 1988 History-Social Science Framework (California State Department of Education), California requires an elementary social studies series to meet the scope and sequence of content shown in table 1. By comparison, Texas calls for textbooks to meet a much different scope and sequence. Texas is currently revising its social studies curriculum for educational material to be sold there in 1996.
The Texas Adoption Process
Once a publisher decides to produce textbooks for a particular target state, the books must pass through that state's adoption process. No two state adoption processes are exactly the same, but the Texas process may be the best known.
The Texas textbook adoption procedure follows a strict timetable. It begins with the state proclamation, or call, to publishers to submit textbooks. The proclamation describes the desired content, components, and other requirements. Twenty-five months after the state issues the proclamation, publishers may submit finished books to the Texas Education Agency. Publishers submit textbooks for various subjects on regular cycles, usually once every six years.
Two months after submission, publishers present their books formally to the State Textbook Subject Area Committees. Citizens of the state have the opportunity to evaluate the books and express their comments both orally and in writing. Unlike the Japanese system, most states encourage citizen participation.
The Texas Commissioner of Education and the committees consider citizen comments as well as their own evaluations when they decide which books to recommend for adoption. Members of the State Textbook Subject Area Committees may ask publishers to make certain changes, corrections, and deletions to their books as a condition for adoption.
The State Textbook Subject Area Committee makes recommendations for or against adoption of a book based on how closely the book matches the specifications in the proclamation. At a public hearing before the State Board of Education in the fall of the year, the Board of Education votes for the official list of adopted textbooks. School districts are then made aware of the list from which they may choose their textbooks.
Widespread Concern for Textbook Quality
Although the Texas process for selecting textbooks may have some general similarities to the Japanese system, the textbooks that Texas approves are quite different from their Japanese counterparts. History Professor Yasushi Toriumi of the Tokyo University describes most Japanese textbooks as extremely dull. "They do not have much flavor," said Toriumi, an ISEI adviser. "To me, American textbooks present a well-told story. Read any Japanese textbook and all you get are facts-nothing but dull facts," he said.
Physical differences between U.S. and Japanese textbooks contribute to this impression. Most U.S. textbooks currently on the market are completely full-color. Japanese textbooks are printed in black with a second color and occasionally use full-color illustrations (usually tipped [glued] in separately). A typical 8th grade history textbook in the United States is hardbound, includes about one thousand pages, and weighs close to four pounds. By contrast, most Japanese textbooks contain only a few hundred pages and are bound in a softcover. A Japanese textbook can easily fit into a good-sized coat pocket. Perhaps one reason for the vast difference in the size of textbooks is that most Japanese homes lack storage space for bulky books-small, softcover books are generally preferred.
Textbooks and Ancillary Materials
Textbooks in the United States might cost as much as $30.00 each, but the average Japanese textbook for junior high schools costs less than 425 yen ($3.25 at a recent exchange rate). "That's about the same amount one would pay for a bowl of noodles or a weekly magazine," said ISEI's education adviser Masayuki Umai of Shizuoka University. Umai pointed out that the Japanese Ministry of Education regulates the production specifications of textbooks, including price and size. In the United States, on the other hand, the marketplace determines price and the National Association of State Textbook Administrators regulates production specifications.
The most common ancillary materials in Japan for secondary social studies textbooks are reference books such as atlases and almanacs that contain statistical data for geography and history. Because the Ministry of Education requires Japanese textbooks to be thin and compact, the content must be carefully selected. The reference materials provide additional data related to each subject and fill in where the textbooks are insufficient. Workbooks and black line masters are not popular in the social studies, although some are available and teachers use them for certain subjects. Upper secondary school students generally depend upon hefty reference books that are not part of their school materials to prepare for universities' entrance examinations. Geography teachers use a variety of videos developed for their classes. This trend toward nonprint materials will most probably increase in the future.
As for computers, a considerable number will be introduced systematically in elementary and secondary schools in 1993. Computer software development for Japanese schools to date has focused on mathematics and science; few programs are available for the social studies. Even if computer software for social studies were to increase in popularity, current pedagogical practices and teacher attitudes toward such technology might preclude its widespread use.
Apart from classroom material, a teacher's manual usually accompanies each Japanese textbook. As a rule, the Ministry of Education is not concerned with teaching materials beyond textbooks. Any publisher that is preparing a new or revised edition may supply the ministry with the teacher's manual for the textbook on request, but it is not subject to inspection. A few years ago, the Diet (Japanese parliament) broke this rule when it criticized a social studies teacher's manual for upper secondary schools because it contained too many antiestablishment references. The Ministry of Education sent a warning to the publisher through the Textbook Association.
In the United States, textbook publishers must produce elaborate ancillary materials. They base marketing strategies on the premise that such materials will improve the teaching and learning of the subject contained within the covers of the textbook. Ancillary materials in Japan are modest by comparison.
Japanese educators and publishers, and their U.S. counterparts, recognize a need to improve their textbooks and their textbook adoption processes. Masao Terasaki, an ISEI adviser and dean of the Education Department at the Tokyo University, spoke to this issue:
Schoolchildren should be the true users of textbooks, not teachers. The (Japanese) government believes teachers are the users. That is why the books are the way they are. This is beginning to change, however. The government is now allowing for bigger books (with more pages). Visual impact will be important for future books. Textbooks must engage the children in learning. The books must go beyond the facts. Children who learn only facts will never become interested in relating facts to the bigger picture of the world they live in.Masami Hasuko is a member of the editorial staff of the English Textbook Department, and Masaru Tani is an advisor for Tokyo Shoseki Co., Ltd., Tokyo, Japan, and contributed the section on the Japanese textbook development process; Donald P. Lankiewicz, Director, Elementary Social Studies, School Department, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc., Orlando, Florida, was a chief contributor to this paper and attended the ISEI Social Studies Publishers Study Tour; Stan Christodlous, formerly of Silver Burdett & Ginn Publishing Company, now a social studies editorial consultant in Ledgewood, New Jersey, co-coordinated and participated in the ISEI Study Tour and outlined the major issues that led to this article; Salvatore J. Natoli, Editor of Social Education and an ISEI Study Tour participant, reported on the conference for the group and coordinated publication of this manuscript.
1Donald Lankiewicz, Stan Christodlous, and Salvatore J. Natoli gratefully acknowledge the support and assistance of ISEI in organizing the social studies textbook conference and study tour to Japan in October 1990. They also acknowledge the important contributions of Masaru Tani and Masami Hasuko (for their detailed explanations of the textbook publishing process in Japan) and the Tokyo Shoseki Co., Ltd. (for photographs, hospitality, and assistance in preparing this manuscript).2(1) The I Ching or Book of Changes, a book of divination with folklorist and philosophical additions; (2) the Shu Ching, a collection of official documents; (3) the Shih Ching, temple, court, and folk songs; (4) the Li Ching, a book of rituals with an accompanying record containing anecdotes; and (5) the Ch'un Ch'iu, an annal consisting of topical entries of the major events from 722 to 481 b.c.e. in the city-state of Lu, where Confucius (K'ung Fu-tzu) was born.3As of 1992, members of the council include: six for Japanese history, five for world history, three for geography, and seven for politics and economics. Their names are made public. Because it is impossible for council members to examine every textbook in detail, senior specialists for textbook examination, who are full-time officers at the ministry, and many other part-time examiners check the manuscripts beforehand to see if they conform to the course of study. They then present any problems they discover to the council for consideration. Although these senior specialists have no authority to approve or disapprove a book, they do influence council decisions.4See "'Enter' not 'Invade': The Ministry and Text Selection," Education Week (20 February 1985): 24.