Catholic-Protestant Fellowship Addresses Educational Issues

by Hanajima Mitsuo, general secretary
Education Association of Christian Schools in Japan

The Education Association of Christian Schools in Japan, an organization consisting of about 100 Protestant schools, has in recent years strengthened its cooperative ties with the Japan Federation of Catholic Schools. In 2002, the president of the Japan Federation of Catholic Schools’ Board of Trustees made a presentation at the General Assembly of the Education Association of Christian Schools in Japan. Subsequently, an official of the Education Association of Christian Schools in Japan gave a presentation at a meeting of the Japan Federation of Catholic Schools. Fellowship between the two organizations progressed, and as some people wished to continue the fellowship on a regular basis, the Christian Schools’ Educational Fellowship was formed.

The first thing that the Christian Schools’ Educational Fellowship Committee did was to plan a lecture and a symposium. Participants realized anew that both Catholic and Protestant schools are facing the same issues and challenges. However, there are differences in the ways that Catholic schools and Protestant schools perceive and deal with these issues. It is very meaningful that both parties are exchanging ideas with each other, and when both parties understand and are concerned about each other, this plays a part in the development of each. At the beginning, the theme of the lecture and symposium was “Women’s Education.” The first lecture was held in 2004 and featured Tokyo Woman’s Christian University President Minato Akiko, who spoke on “Why Women’s Education Now?” In 2005, University of the Sacred Heart President Yamagata Kiyo presented a lecture entitled “Is Women’s Education Behind the Times?” At the symposium, teachers and graduates of women’s schools shared their own experiences, gave reports about their employment in the field of education, and talked about the meaning and importance of women’s education.

In 2006, Tohoku Gakuin Chancellor Kuramatsu Isao’s lecture dealt with “Catholic Schools and Christian Schools” (schools related to the Education Association of Christian Schools); in 2007, Koso Toshiaki, president of Sophia University’s Board of Trustees, lectured on “The Possibilities of Christian Education”; and in 2008, Rikkyo University Professor Nishihara Renta gave a lecture entitled “Christian Education Living in the Present World.” Each lecture was about issues facing all Christian educational institutions. At the symposiums, many teachers from several schools reported on their experiences, but there has been no difference in content yet between the reports of Catholics and Protestants. These events have mostly been attended by school teachers. Many participants were from Catholic schools, many of whom were nuns dressed in black. The events have been held in Tokyo at Aoyama Gakuin, University of the Sacred Heart, Meiji Gakuin, the Shirokane campus of Sacred Heart Girls’ School, and Rikkyo Junior and Senior High School in Ikebukuro. The contents of the lectures and symposiums are printed in a booklet each year and published by the Don Bosco Publishing Company.

At the planning meetings of the Christian Schools’ Educational Fellowship Committee, the presidents of the boards of trustees and other representatives from both the Education Association of Christian Schools in Japan and the Japan Federation of Catholic Schools have had opportunities to meet together. As a result, participants have actively engaged in many kinds of fellowship. Information about all the educational research gatherings held by the Education Association of Christian Schools in Japan is also sent to the Catholic schools, and teachers from Catholic schools always participate.

All Catholic schools in Japan are founded and run by a religious order. At many of the schools, few teachers are Catholic believers, and the religious education is handled by the priest and the nuns. Recently, fewer people are entering the religious orders, so the number of ordained clergy able to take care of the schools is extremely low. It is said that the shortage of teachers available to run Christian education programs is even more critical in Catholic schools than in Protestant schools. Because the Japan Federation of Catholic Schools sponsors few activities of any kind, many Catholic teachers rely on the educational research gatherings of the Education Association of Christian Schools in Japan. In turn, schools related to the Education Association get a lot of fresh stimulation from the participation of the Catholic schools, so both parties learn much from each other. This year, the regulations of the Education Association are expected to be revised, and a new provision has been added about continuing cooperative relationships with the Japan Federation of Catholic Schools.

The Christian Schools’ Educational Fellowship Committee consists of the following members: Kuze Satoru (Meiji Gakuin), Tanaka Hiroshi (Joshi Gakuin), Fukamachi Masanobu (Aoyama Gakuin), Nonomura Noboru (Kwassui Gakuin), Hiratsuka Keiichi (St. Margaret’s College), and Ruth M. Grubel (Kwansei Gakuin). The Japan Federation of Catholic Schools is composed of Kawai Tsuneo, president of the Salesian Boys’ Home Board of Trustees, and six other members. (Tr. KT)

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