Judo in Japanese Schools – Concerns about Safety

Memo #191 – Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe oversaw the revision of the 1947 Fundamental Law of Education to emphasise traditional “Japanese values” in 2006. As one direct result of this, traditional martial arts became compulsory in junior high schools in April 2012. Unlike the initial opposition to the new law, opposition to this particular aspect has not been led by teachers’ unions and their political allies, but by parents concerned about the health and safety of their children. Continue reading

Chinese Consumers: The Driving Force of Global Change

Memo #49 – Thanks to President Hu Jintao’s visit to Washington this week, US-China trade tensions are again front page news. There are bright spots: Seattle-based Starbucks recently announced plans to triple its number of stores in China to 1,500 by 2015. And the chain plans to use its outlets there to push more consumer products, including instant coffee. Continue reading

Why Scholar-Writers Yang Jiang and Qian Zhongshu are Important to China Today

Memo #48 – In this set of interviews, Dr. Wendy Larson (Oregon), Dr. Theodore Huters (UCLA), and Dr. Christopher Rea (UBC) talk about two of modern China’s most famous scholar-writers, Qian Zhongshu (錢鍾書) (1910-1998) and Yang Jiang (楊絳) (b. 1911). They discuss why this husband-wife pair and their writings are important to China today. Continue reading

OECD’s PISA, Media Sensationalism, and Education Reform in Japan

Memo #47 – The OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), conducted every three years, has become a major event shaping education policy in many of the participating nations. The PISA report provides a comprehensive set of comparative data on 15 year old students’ performance, but its national rankings based on mean test scores in particular attract the most attention. Various policy actors use the rankings to affirm or scandalize ongoing education reform. The media is one of the key actors determining PISA rankings’ domestic impact, as they interpret them for the public. Continue reading

New Taxation Rules: First Steps to Building the Great Mall of China?

Memo #46 – In September 2010, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) began strictly enforcing a new taxation rule. The new rule (Notice No.54 of 2010) claims to standardize and bring transparency to PRC borders. It will tax luxury items and electronics, limit quantities of popular household items purchased abroad, and, in effect, encourage middle and upper class Chinese citizens to shop at home. Continue reading

Canada and China: Facilitating Transactions or Building a Strategic Understanding?

Memo #45 – Forty years of diplomatic relations between Canada and China were celebrated in October 2010 at multiple events held in both countries. In Ottawa, Prime Minister Harper proclaimed that the bilateral strategic partnership “has never been more promising.” In Beijing, Canada’s Ambassador stated that “if ever there was a golden age in Sino-Canadian relations it is now.” Continue reading

NGOs Prompt Report on 2002 Gujarat Incident

Memo #44 – The 2002 Gujarat incident, in which inter-religious violence fuelled mass riots, resulted in gruesome deaths and injuries. The incident led to a rise in the number of cases of sexual assault and violence against women. On October 15 2010, Members of the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) took “the extraordinary measure of requesting a special report because of the seriousness of the violations, the large scale of the violence and the alarming reports that the Committee had seen at the time of the incident”. India submitted this exceptional report to CEDAW almost 9 years after the initial conflict. Continue reading

Misinterpreting Globalization in the Context of Japanese Education Policy

Memo #43 – In a recent keynote address to the annual meeting of the Japan Studies Association of Canada hosted by UBC’s Centre for Japanese Research, Takehiko Kariya (Oxford University) argued that many changes in educational policy in Japan in the past fifteen years have been motivated by an understanding of globalization in terms of a knowledge economy. Policy makers were mistaken in this understanding. Instead, another impact of globalization has become more visible recently in Japan: the decline of full-time, long-term jobs. Rising inequality and lack of career opportunities rooted in a class-based distribution of learning competency, or the ability to learn, are being exacerbated rather than ameliorated by misguided educational policies. Continue reading

Conditions in Tibet Since 2008

Memo #41 – In this interview, Dr. Robert J. Barnett, Director of the Modern Tibetan Studies Program at Columbia University, assesses the importance of the International Association of Tibetan Studies (IATS). The IATS brings together international scholars and scholars from within Tibet and China. In August 2010, Dr. Barnett was a participant of the 12th Seminar of the IATS, which was hosted by the Institute of Asian Research at the University of British Columbia. Continue reading