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614Challenges for Bioethics from Asia

Japanese Trials of the Bioethics Education Project

- Fumi Maekawa and Darryl Macer .

Graduate School of Integrative Environmental Sciences, University of Tsukuba, JAPAN

Email: minpu76@yahoo.co.jp; darrylmacer@yahoo.com.au

This paper will discuss how the project, “Bioethics education for informed citizens across cultures” has been introduced, received and used by different persons in Japan.  The main approach was to introduce the project through the already existing “High School Bioethics Education Network in Japan”. Three consecutive meetings were held to introduce the project, to ask for participants, to receive feedback, to implement suggestions, and to answer various questions.  One main question raised was what was the rationale why it was targeted for English classes.  Most of the network members either teach Science (Biology) or Social Studies (Ethics, Civics, Economics).  There was a strong call for short versions of the chapters, which were made. There was still a hesitance to use them, so a Japanese translated version that can be used as a supplement to current Social Studies or Biology textbooks is being made.  The general appreciation towards the project was low.  Only a few very keen schools actually contacted us and implemented the chapters in their classes, and they applied the materials in a variety of ways.  The different reasons as to why it has been difficult to introduce such materials in Japanese High Schools will be discussed. Future approaches may need to be made at more senior level using personal connections, and by following up the ongoing connections with those who are keen. Trials of all chapters have been conducted in classes at the University of Tsukuba, and the results of these trials will be discussed. A variety of styles were used, and the assessment methods using student reports will be illustrated.

First, let me introduce the proceedings.  Since the text was written in English, and having had some preliminary advice from high school teachers on the first draft of the text, we approached the Super English Language High School, known as SELHi.  Also, we approached teachers from the already existing Bioethics Education Network in Japan.  After contacting various schools, we had the actual class trials in the University of Tsukuba, both in the undergraduate and graduate school of biology, and environmental sciences.  At the current stage, we are trying to prepare the Japanese translation of the textbook chapters.

Let me introduce the system of SELHi.  The Super English Language High Schools are appointed by MEXT, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology.  Currently there are 53 schools through out Japan, which focuses on advanced education in English language.  There are various approaches taken by different schools, but the main aim is to enable students to become confident in using the English language, there fore more time is given as a curriculum for English learning.  Prior to a meeting calling for participants to the Bioethics Education Project, we contacted SELHi located in the Kanto Area, that is the area around Tokyo, and Tsukuba will be one of the Northern prefectures in Kanto Area.  We sent out notice fax directly to the SELHi, but never received any reply.  

The first meeting to introduce the Bioethics Education Project in Japan was through one of the regular meetings of Bioethics Education Network in Japan.  This network was established in 1996, and has held meetings usually once every two months.  We have had 34 meetings so far, and there are approximately 100 members.  Most of the teachers either teach biology or social studies such as civics, economics, and ethics. We had 3 consecutive meetings discussing the Bioethics Education Project.  In each meeting, we introduced the background of the project, the objectives, participating countries, topics in the textbook, forms of cooperation, and possible international activities. In one of the meetings, we divided the participants into small groups for each of the group to discuss the critical feedback on the sample chapters (at this point, the short version of the text was available, but the page by page version was not available), comments and suggestions on the topics, evaluation criteria, and the curriculum or time constraints.  There were

. pp. 614-617 in Macer, DRJ., ed., "Challenges for Bioethics from Asia" (Eubios Ethics Institute, 2004).

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