Terms that make a difference: “homeschooler”, “home-educated” and “school-refuser” (futoko)?

From my research for a dissertation on alternative education, I think there are two distinct groups of home-educators in Japan. I call them ‘opt outs’ and ‘drop outs’.

Most foreign or dual nationality home-educators would fall into the “OPT OUT” category – they have actively chosen to home-educate before experiencing any major problems with the compulsory education system. Very few Japanese families fall into the ‘opt out’ category, though there is a discernable trend towards ‘opt out’ home education amongst a small number of
Japanese Christians – and they draw support and encouragement from US Christian homeschoolers.

The second group I call “DROP OUT” home-educators. These are the ones who have ended up home-educating because their children dropped out of school (became ‘futoko’). Some of them do it as a temporary option, and they hope the children will go back to school: others get really into it and give it all they have got. The majority of Japanese home educators fall into the ‘drop out’ category.

The school refusal/ futoko problem is ongoing and involves so many children that the government lets free schools/ home education/ etc exist – even though they also insist that Japanese kids stay enrolled (keep their ‘seki’) in local schools. It is a kind of tacit agreement that Japan needs
alternative forms of education, even though free schools and home education receive no formal approval.

I think that the ‘opt out’ group of home educators currently benefits from the leniency afforded by the ‘futoko’ problem, although because of widespread ignorance about there being people who actually do ‘opt out’, the ‘opt out’ home educators are often misunderstood and thought to be ‘drop
out’ home educators.

But in the end, once a decision to home-educate has been made, issues and goals are largely the same. Some writers on the Japanese home education sites say that once that decision is made, ‘futoko’ is no longer an appropriate label – and ‘home school/ home education’ should be used.

Re: the katakana use of ‘home school’ – the first of Tokyo Shure’s books about home education gives reasons why they chose to use ‘home education’ rather than ‘home school’, and why they felt they could not find a suitable Japanese term. (‘Home education’ is also the more common term in the UK – because of getting away from the idea of ‘school’).

In Japan, though I don’t know if it has ever been discussed at a high level, I would say that education is seen clearly as the state’s responsibility – parental responsibility is to make sure kids are educated according to state guidelines, i.e. in the compulsory education system. I think that the
average Japanese family just unquestioningly accepts this as normal. But if this all ever becomes a big issue and the legality of homeschooling ever has to be argued about in court, parental responsibility/ rights would be a key part of the argument. – Heather N.

1 thought on “Terms that make a difference: “homeschooler”, “home-educated” and “school-refuser” (futoko)?”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s