Kominkans- Social Education Practices

The first Kominkan in Japan.

After the Second World War, Japan urgently needed to restore its national economy and replenish basic productivity. After experiencing the cruel consumption of World War II, Japan had to encourage a policy of population increase. The population rose from 73 million to 83 million during the decade of 1940–1950. This phenomenon is extremely rare throughout the history of development. However, in this context, the rapid increase in population has put heavy pressure on basic educational institutions such as schools, and it is difficult to guarantee the basic cultural needs of all citizens, and universities, a higher education facility, is even more so. Thus, the Ministry of Education recommended the establishment of Kominkans in the communities in July 1946 through an official letter to the local government. The Kominkans were not only designed to learn about democracy and engage in educational and cultural activities but also to offer people the opportunity to learn about and develop their skills together through industrial, social and other activity that helps to develop the community. As funds were not fixed, the size and the operation of Kominkan varied. There were also different numbers of Kominkans in each municipality. The number of Kominkans in Tsar rapidly increased and in 1955 reached 36,406 (Arai & Tokiwa-Fuse, 2013).

As an important cultural infrastructure for social education in Japan, Kominkan aims to connect with community actions for adult development and continuing education, which fully reflects the historical spirit of Japanese social education. However, the cultural policy on Kominkan is also constantly controversial. Before the 1980s, Kominkan’s expansion rate was very rapid, and the number once surpassed the number of public schools, so the Japanese Board of Education had to cut its financial subsidies. The operating mode of oversupply is not in line with the original intention of the policy. In the 2000s, some cities combined local management of Kominkan with national unified subsidies. For example, Hirakata city once abolished the Kominkan system in 2006. The reason was to weaken the value of social education and adult education and the purpose is limited to only suitable for community development, in this way the number of Kominkan is streamlined.

The real-time product of Kominkan’s cultural policy has made considerable contributions to social education and community-regional exchanges. On the one hand, it provides a medium for women and citizens in remote areas to acquire knowledge and carry out cultural input. On the other hand, community exchanges provide citizens with an open space to create culture, enable citizens to have their own ‘universities’, and enhance the construction of urban cultural soft facilities. However, the initial environment of Kominkan’s policy has been very different from today. Kominkan has increasingly deviated from its function of implementing social education and the involvement of many political forces has made Kominkan a means for obtaining political benefits and trapping citizens into the political trap of politicians. Under such a general environment, the social recognition and audience credit of Kominkan, a special ‘social university’, will be greatly compromised, and the inherent value of its culture will be lost.

Postgraduate student in cultural and creative industry of Monash University

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Chenxuan Gao

Chenxuan Gao

Postgraduate student in cultural and creative industry of Monash University

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