Japanese Teachers’ Perception of Homogeneity: Foreign Students as Exceptions

By Mito Takeuchi and Francis Ebenezer Godwyll.

Published by The Diversity Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

In Japan, the homogeneous discourse of the society, “Japaneseness,” defines the nation, citizenship, identity, and belonging based on cultural norms of the mainstream ethnic Japanese. However, the presence of immigrants has begun to silently challenge the mono-ethnic view of “Japaneseness.” This article examines how Japanese teachers manage the presence of newcomers and old-time foreign students as they teach under the myth of a mono-ethnic society and experiences of foreign teachers in the larger social context. Sources of data, collected in one Japanese school and one Japanese as a second language (JSL) workshop, were archival documents and school-related materials as well as interviews with ten informants. Emerging themes were teachers’ perception of a mono-ethnic nation, the negative image of Korean students, teachers’ major focus on Japanese students with poor grades, and experiences of foreign teachers in the larger social context. Regarding the theory of hegemony, our data provided examples of consenting, noncoercive force in civil society (Gramsci, 1999; Morrow & Torres, 1995). First, teachers only acknowledged the presence of foreign students as exceptions to the mono-ethnic rule. Teachers’ voices confirmed Lie’s argument (2001). Second, the silence of students with Korean backgrounds, except for Miyagi, indicated an invisible but pervasive pressure of presenting the nation as comprising ethnic Japanese under the hegemony of”Japanesenesss,”as Lee (2006) claims. Third, Japanese teachers prioritized the needs of Japanese students with lower grades over the small numbers of foreign students with limited language proficiency. Their concept of “fairness” to all students demonstrated that their attention was focused mainly on the majority Japanese students. Moreover, teachers demonstrated a hidden transcript (Scott, 1990) about the presence of students with Korean ethnic heritage in their school. Thus, teachers’ acceptance of the myth of homogeneity was not threatened by their multicultural experience with foreign students. Teachers are serving as conduits through which hegemonic ideas of “Japaneseness” are inculcated into students, a process that, by and large, marginalizes foreign students.

Keywords: Diversity, Globalization, “Japaneseness,” Homogeneity, Multicultural Education, Othering

International Journal of Diversity in Organizations, Communities and Nations, Volume 9, Issue 5, pp.159-172. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 1.212MB).

Dr. Mito Takeuchi

Doctoral Student, Department of Educational Studies, Ohio University, Athens, Ohio, USA

She has just completed her PhD in Cultural Studies in Education at Ohio University. She also holds M.A. in International Affairs, as well as M.S. in Environmental Studies from Ohio University. She obtained a B.A. in International Studies from Chubu University in Japan. In 1998, as a participant of a study tour in India organized by a university student’s NGO, she was contracted by Japanese donors to evaluate a Catholic Church-based Indian NGO’s development projects for street children and patients with Hansen’s disease in selected villages. She also participated in the United Nations University 14th Global Seminar in Shonan, Kanagawa, Japan, in 1998 focusing on Poverty Alleviation. She was an intern on rural development in the Philippines for a Japanese environmental NGO, the Organization for International, Spiritual, and Cultural Advancement in summer 2003.

Dr. Francis Ebenezer Godwyll

Assistant Professor of Cultural Studies in Education, Department of Educational Studies, Ohio University, Athens, Ohio, USA

He is currently an Assistant Professor of Cultural Studies in Education at Ohio University in Athens. He was a Lecturer in Education at the University of Cape Coast in Ghana. He was an adjunct faculty at the University of Education at Winneba in Ghana and the National-Louis University at the Heidelberg International Campus. He served as an instructor at the Institute of Behavior Modification in Heidelberg, Germany a subsidiary of the Institute of Special Education at the University of Education at Heidelberg. He has consulted for the Ministry of Education Ghana, Ghana National Association of Teachers, SOS Village projects,Ghana. He is an author and co-author of books, book chapters, articles and presented at national and international conferences. He obtained his bachelor’s degree in Education B.ED (honors) from the University of Cape Coast concurrently with a Diploma (Associate Degree) in Religions. He pursued a Masters in Education at the same university and studied for his PhD from University of Education at Heidelberg in Germany.


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