Community schools and ibasho at schools
In recent years, the number of children who have difficulty being at school for reasons, such as social phobia or scattered attention, has been increasing. In response to this situation, schools are making an effort to more thoroughly and carefully support each individual child. For a person to be in a place, however, means being supported by an overall environment (Minami, 2009). From this point of view, the difficulty of “being” at school arises within the context of that environment, and creating a suitable place for students to be, called “ibasho” in Japanese, at schools is just as important as supporting each person as an individual.
The meaning of ibasho
What does “ibasho-making” mean? The practice of ibasho-making was instigated by the problem of children refusing to go to school and was developed outside of schools. People position themselves and understand various relationships to other people and society based on being in a particular place (Suzuki, 1993). Children who have lost their place at school have lost one of the places from which they can position themselves and understand their relationships to other people and society. This is why creating places for children outside of school so that they can once again connect to other people and society has come to be seen as so important. The actual practice of ibasho-making means more than constructing a physical space. For example, when we talk about education we assume a relationship in which adults support and instruct children, but in ibasho-making adults become children’s companions or partners (Hagihara, 2009). When we talk about children’s learning and psychological development we focus on doing something, becoming something, or interacting with others, but in an approach based on the idea of ibasho, contentment in being in a place is viewed as important, because being in a place is a platform for these behaviors and activities.
The focus on community schools
Even in schools, attempts have been made to put this kind of ibasho-making into practice. For example, Kanazawa (2005), based on the case of a middle school infirmary, describes students who visited the infirmary coming to engage with school nurses who sought to relate to them while putting aside their formal role, and points out the importance creating a space for simply being together. Since school education is fundamentally composed of group activities and a curriculum that proceeds at a fixed pace, however, the approach of ibasho-making cannot be imported directly into schools. An approach that involves building a place for children to be while keeping in mind the role of schooling is therefore needed.
What I would like to focus on here is the idea of “community schools.” Schools in Japan are in the process of becoming open communities through which all sorts of people, including local residents and university students, come and go. In response to the role of schools having become overly large, provisions concerning the cooperation between schools, families, and local communities were added to the revised Fundamental Law of Education of 2006. With this cooperation requiring concrete realization, today the establishment of school support communities is ongoing. Supported by this movement toward raising children through a coming together of schools, families, and communities, local communities have begun to be more actively involved in schooling.
Ibasho and community schools
A diverse array of people being involved with schools also means a variety of value systems and ideas entering educational theory. Building open schools does not stop at having members of the local community or university student volunteers take over for teachers. This creates various problems and points of friction concerning who should do what for the raising of children at schools (Takei, 2017). These issues and frictions may contain hints toward making a place for students at schools. Within a school, a place that has a purpose and exists to achieve something, is it possible to create relationships and a place people can visit without a specific purpose? I would like to further consider making ibasho for students at schools through the study of community schools.
- Hagiwara, K. 2009. “Kodomo no ibasho [Children’s place]”in Saishin Kyōiku kiiwaado dai 13 ban [Newest education keywords 13th edition], Jiji Tsushinsha.
- Kanazawa, M. 2005. “3 shō gakkō no naka de kodomo dōshi ga ikiru shakai [Chapter 3: the society in which children live at schools amongst each other]”in Hamada, S., Ozawa, M., and Sasaki, K. eds. Gakkō toiu ba de hito ha dō ikiteirunoka [How do people live in the place called “school”?](pp. 70-98), Kitaōji shobō.
- Minami, H. 2009. “Kodomotachi ni ibasho ha aruka – ‘ikata’ toiu sain [Do children have a place to be? – the sign of a ‘way of being’”, Kyōiku to igaku [Education and medicine], February, 2009, pp. 138-146.
- Suzuki, T. 1993. “‘Ikata’ kara miru kankyō dezain [Environmental design seen from [the perspective of a] ‘way of being’]” (serialized), Kenchiku gijutsu [Architectural technology].
- Takei, T. 2017. “Hikareta gakkō” no kōzai – borantia no sannyū [The pluses and minuses of “open schools” – the entry of volunteers and the exclusion/subsumption of children], Akashi shoten.