Development of Methods of Teaching Science at Elementary Schools in Japan

Shogo Kawakami


In science teaching at Japanese elementary schools, a problem-solving approach by way
of discovery has been used since 1967. In this approach, the objective is to foster scientific ability
by allowing pupils to find laws through experiments and observations. The emphasis is placed on
encouraging pupils to induce by themselves based on facts they have found. As a result, “teaching”
and “explaining” are underestimated. However, according to the Course of Study revised in March
2008 (and currently in effect), acquisition of fundamental/basic knowledge and skills has been
added to the objectives. It was indicated that the verbal activity, such as explanation by means
of inductive and deductive ways of thinking is important. Here, the importance of “deductive
approach” and “explaining” were noted. Japanese science education was changed significantly.
The purpose of this review is to clarify the process of how this new method of “explaining”
has been introduced. To that end, firstly an overview of the transition of science education
methods in Japan after the World War II up to present is given. Secondly, the new research trend
of meaningful reception learning, which is the background of the revision in 2008 is clarified.
Finally, the teaching method applying this approach is explained, using the example of a lesson
concerning “flower structure”.
Keywords: Deductive thinking, Discovery learning, Japanese science education, Reception learning

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