The task of creating ibasho* at schools
Making school an ibasho for children – almost no one would directly oppose such an initiative. Most adults show support for creating ibasho at schools. When it comes to how ibasho is to be created within schools, however, the discussion is not so straightforward. It becomes complicated because creating ibasho is sometimes incompatible with what is “taken for granted” regarding school education. In concrete terms, what kind of issues must be addressed to create ibasho at schools? In this article we will consider this task of ibasho creation.
※The Japanese term ibasho (lit. “place to be” or “whereabouts”) means not only physical place but also psychologically safe and accepted place. It has various definitions, but here we use this term as a “place you can be without difficulty” or “place you are accepted.”
A focus on “being”
The creation of ibasho starts with a focus on “being.” “To say that a person ‘is’ in a certain place is to express a relationship between the person and their environment, and choosing a place is one way in which a person states their desires regarding the environment around them” (Yamada, 2007, p. 31). But “being” tends to be hidden in the shadow of “doing,” and does not normally receive much attention. For example, when a child uses rude or abusive language this gets focused on, but little attention is paid to their “being” in that place as they use this language. And when children are gathered in classes or other groupings they are seen as a single lump without attention being paid to each individual “being” there. To begin with, there is the practical task of focusing on the “being” of each child.
Where is ibasho to be created?
Considering where ibasho is to be created is also an important task. At the high schools where I have been conducting field work (correspondence and credit system high schools with many students who have stopped attending ordinary school), ibasho was created by making use of teachers’ rooms and open spaces (e.g. Kanzaki and Satō, 2018). Ibasho can be created not only in the classroom but also in other places outside it. For teachers who think of the classroom as the students’ ibasho, however, students being outside of it becomes the “problem” of their not being in class. When it comes to where and in what form ibasho is to be created, opinions differ greatly depending on factors such as each educator’s personal experience and views on development, education and leadership, and since it is a question that involves the way the school is to be structured and run it must be considered from various angles.
Coming to grips with students’ ibasho
Regarding the practical issues described above, what researchers in psychology can do is gather data and understand the actual situations and mental states. In psychology, since several questionnaires concerning student ibasho and school adjustment have already been developed it is possible to understand one side of mental s state using these scales. For example, it is possible to deepen our understanding of things like what sort of ibasho functions open spaces and classrooms perform for students, and to what extent students feel that they have an ibasho. It is also necessary to arrive at an understanding of the “quality” of students’ experience at school by observing where and how they spend their time and listening to their narratives.
Opening up the debate concerning ibasho.
Having gathered data and come to understand the current situation of students, however, does not mean we are able to create ibasho. There is a large gap between being familiar with students’ situations and effective methods of support and putting this understanding into practice in concrete terms. For example, it is said that sympathetic responsiveness from adults are necessary for a child’s development, but while “this has in an abstract sense become common knowledge among experts,” “the problem is how sympathetic responsiveness can be realized in places where these experts work and places where children receive assistance in their daily lives, and this raises the further questions of how this principle of responsiveness can be made compatible with other fundamental principles that must be maintained and how it can be reconciled with practical and economic constraints” (Mutō 2016, p. 561). In considering the creation of ibasho in schools, while empirical understanding and a grasp of the actual situation of students are essential, going forward it seems that our major task as researchers will be to further open up the discussion of this topic.
- MAMI KANZAKI AND TATSUYA SATO(2018) A Support System With Volunteer Staff to Assist Re-Attendance at Classes: Fieldwork in a Credit-Based High School, JAPANESE JOURNAL OF EDUCATIONAL PSYCHOLOGY66,241-258
- TAKASHI MUTŌ (2016). Development in Daily Activities, NOBUMOTO TAJIMA, SHIZUO IWATATE and TSUTOMU NAGASAKI (eds.) Handbook of Developmental Psychology, Fukumura Shuppan, pp, 560-571.
- ASUKA YAMADA (2007). Why are People in that Place? – The Environmental Behavioral Science of “Proper Ibasho,” Seikyusha.