Seeking After the Best Benefit of the Children
The number of "school refusal" cases has been on a constant rise since 1970s in Japan. Despite the decreasing size of the body of students, it reached 138,000 in 2001. Since then, no sign of decreasing trend has been observed.
In regards to how the "school refusal" has been perceived, there was a time when the Education Government regarded it as something that "could happen to anybody" and thus could be expected to combat social prejudices and to just educational disadvantages surrounding the school refusals. However, more recently, strict treatments and the pressures to force students to return to school are getting stronger. We observe that this parallels such movements (sometimes referred to as "Kids Bashing") as limiting the rights of children and labeling and punishing those whose behaviors deviate societal expectations.
This report is located within such contexts and focuses on the issue of school refusals in Japan. It also takes a stance that we must examine the issue from the perspectives of children themselves as much as possible, recognizing the repeated failures of discussing and deciding what to do about children's behaviors without listening to the views of children, which only to have made things worse.
Our core argument is this: School refusal is a children's right. Thus it follows that to force a child to return to school against his/her will is to violate the right of the child. We believe that a part of contributing factors underlying the problems of school bullying and students' suicides is such oppressive attitude that rejects the child's right not to attend a school. Understanding the governmental solution to the school refusal cases by strengthening the school return policy as symbolic of the above-mentioned movements that limit the children's rights, we examined the current trends in a way to give us insights and clues not only on the issue of school refusals but also on the realization of children's overall well-beings.
Though the current situations surrounding the school refusals are pessimistic, there is also a positive development in terms of active collaboration between governmental and non-governmental forces, growing activities of NPOs, and others. In order to further encourage those emerging progressive initiatives, this report attempts to promote a view that a school refusal is a way of life - a valid decision among diverse options. Finally, it also sends a message to teachers who are struggling against hegemonic pressures imposed on them at schools that we should unite together to improve the current situations and to seek after the best benefits of the children.