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Koichi Iwabuchi


Koichi Iwabuchi is Professor of the School of Sociology and the Director of the Research Centre for Embracing Diversity at Kwansei Gakuin University in Japan. His academic career has been made while moving back and forth between Japan and Australia. Resigning Nippon Television Network (NTV), he moved to Australia and completed a PhD at Western Sydney University (Media and Cultural Studies). Since then, Iwabuchi worked for International Christian University, Waseda University and Monash University as the Director of Monash Asia Institute. His main research interests are cross-border cultural flows, connections and dialogue & diversity, cultural citizenship and public pedagogy. He is groping for the creation of dialogic (un)learning process that encourages citizens to embrace diverse differences and live together with care for each other. His recent English publications include; Resilient Borders and Cultural Diversity: Internationalism, Brand Nationalism and Multiculturalism in Japan (Lexington Books, 2015); “Dialoguing with diversity: Towards an inclusive and egalitarian society”, Dive-In: An International Journal on Diversity & Inclusion, (No.1, 2021); Global East Asia: Into the 21st Century (eds. with F. N. Pieke, University of California Press, 2021).

Some thoughts on an unending dialogue with diversity

This talk critically discusses the encouragement of diversity and inclusion in Japan. 'Diversity and inclusion' has been widely recognized as a key principle to be fostered by institutions, corporations and administrations as it enhances innovation and productivity. Japan is no exception. However, the promotion of diversity does not necessarily enhance the inclusion of marginalized people on equal terms. Overviewing conceptual problems associated with diversity that has been developed in Euro-Australian contexts, this talk discusses several ways in which the apparent encouragement of diversity eventually deters the advancement of inclusion of socio-cultural differences and points out crucial issues to be tackled in the Japanese context. Such reappraisal does not negate the significance of diversity and inclusion. An unending critical dialogue with diversity is indispensable to grope for ways to steadily enhance social practice, imagination and solidarity toward the egalitarian embracement of socio-culturally marginalized people. 

Kaori Okano


Kaori Okano is a Professor of Japanese and Asian Studies at La Trobe University, Melbourne. She researches on diversity and social justice in education, multiculturalism, and a longitudinal ethnography of life course.


Her recent publications include Nonformal education and civil society in Japan (2016),  Rethinking Japanese Studies (2018, with Sugimoto), Discourse, gender and shifting identities in Japan (2018, with Maree), and Education and social justice in Japan (2021). She led an international team to produce a UNESCO publication, Diversity and social justice in education (2022). Kaori is working on the third monograph of a longitudinal ethnography of life course, a sequel to Young women in Japan (2009) and School to work transition in Japan (1993). This project follows the life trajectories of the same women in Kobe in real time from 1989-2023. It has two parts: (A) an anthropological study of life course, decision-making and well-being; and (B) a sociolinguistic study of language variations with an interdisciplinary team (ARCD funded).


Kaori taught in secondary schools in Australia and New Zealand prior to her academic career. From 2015 to 2017 she was the President of the JSAA.

Diversity and Social Justice in Japanese Schools

The long-held view of a ‘homogenous Japanese society’ has gradually been replaced by discourses of ‘multicultural symbiosis’ over the last two decades. It reflects changing demographics due to migrants and the public’s heightened awareness of diversity.  The term has become inclusive of many forms of diversity (e.g. ethnic, racial, linguistic, cultural, migrant, class, gender, sexuality, regional and other special needs). In this context schools play important roles in preparing the young for navigating their future.


How has the system and practice of schooling addressed diversity and social justice in the last two decades? I consider social justice in education in two elements: (1) distributive justice (who gets how much schooling, that is, equality in distributing educational opportunities) and (2) the content of schooling (how the differences play out in determining what students learn at school). Compared to two decades ago, schools increasingly recognise student diversity of all forms, and deliver more varied options to enable greater access to education. Authorities and schools not only provide targeted resources and services in the form of compensatory education and affirmative actions for particular groups (e.g. tuition-free academic coaching), but also services for all students to minimize stigma (e.g. tuition exemption for all government high schools and free compulsory school lunches). Regarding the content of schooling, there are now alternative paths to gain qualifications for long-term non-school attendees and migrant children, and flexible admission schemes to higher levels of education. While originally developed locally in response to the collective activism of teachers and concerned parents, some were later supported by national policies as in the Act to Counter Childhood Poverty (2013), and the Diverse Educational Opportunity Act (2016). ‘Relaxed education’ attempted to enhance learner-centred and decentralized curricula to suit local contexts. Schools increased collaboration with the nonformal education sector. The practice of compulsory school lunches gained renewed recognition via the Basic Act of Education about Eating (2006) in addressing childhood poverty and food sustainability.


These incremental changes increased student participation, but the basic structure and content of schooling have not changed radically.  Interest in social justice in education in Japan has centred on who gets how much schooling, with fewer questions raised about the content of schooling (whose interests schooling serves and whose world view is represented). The latter requires greater inclusion of people from under-represented social groups in positions of influence in decision making.

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Dr. Ken Cruickshank is Professor in Education at the University of Sydney and Director of the Sydney Institute for Community Languages Education. He has many years’ experience as a teacher, educator and researcher in languages education. His most recent book is Language Education in the School Curriculum: Issues of Access and Equity (2020) published by Bloomsbury Academic, London. His two main recent research areas are increasing language teacher supply/ making pathways into accreditation for teachers with overseas-training and also on improving the provision and uptake of languages in schools and universities.

Japanese Language Education and Possibilities for the Future

Australia ranks second-lowest of all OECD countries in the provision and uptake of languages in schools, but languages study is in crisis in all Anglophone countries. The promises for Japanese language study in the 1990s have never been fulfilled and in the process Japanese background teachers and students have been marginalised from mainstream education. This presentation looks at why this has happened and take a broad overview of Japanese language education in Australia across educational sectors and ages of students. The main focus of the presentation, however, is what practical steps can be taken to reverse the decline in the teaching and learning of Japanese across Australian schools and universities – following initiatives in the US, Australia and elsewhere. The three main findings discussed are 

  1. There needs to be a focus on assessing and accrediting students’ fluency gains in Japanese no matter where they are learning and what age they are. For this we need validated classroom-based assessment tools;

  2. There needs to be a shift from labelling teachers and students according to ‘background’ and ‘non-background’, looking instead at crediting teacher and student knowledge and skills;

  3. There needs to be mandatory study of languages in primary school, greater provision in secondary school and changes to the Year 12 exams to increase numbers at university level.

Ken Cruickshank

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