Webinar: Social Class and Education in England and Japan: Examining Middle-Class Boys’ Schools

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Dear Colleagues,

The Anthropological Institute, Nanzan University, is pleased to present the First Public Lecture of 2022.

Title: “Social Class and Education in England and Japan: Examining Middle-Class Boys’ Schools”

Lecturer: Robert Aspinall (Doshisha University)

Respondent: Michelle Henault Morrone (Nagoya University of Arts and Sciences)

Moderator: Benjamin Dorman (Nanzan University)

Date/Time: 10 June 2022, 14:00-15:30 Japan Standard Time

Format: Zoom webinar

Please register via this link


Drawing partly on the author’s own experience as a boy and a teacher in England and Japan, this paper is a comparative study of boys’ secondary schools in these two countries. The paper examines the roles these single-sex schools play in preparing boys for their future positions within society. This is an essential part of a process that reproduces social class and gender roles that are taken for granted as being ‘natural’ or ‘common sense’ by most of the boys and their families. By comparing two nations that are very different in their history, culture and geographical location and by focusing on schools that are affordable to the majority of the population, the analysis carried out in this paper removes ability-to-pay, national culture and religion from the equation that connects the class position of a child’s family to the future class position that individual will occupy on completing their fulltime schooling. 

The paper includes an overview of the historical development of middle-class boys’ schools in England and Japan, going back to the period of industrialization and the emergence of modern capitalism. By exploring the ways in which middle-class families and schools consciously and actively worked to ensure that each generation will not lose their class status, this study will contribute to the debate surrounding the lack of social mobility in both Japan and England. In fact, well-intentioned reforms in the past 40 years in both nations that have stressed flexibility, individualism and choice have actually increased social divisions. Thanks to the reserves of cultural and social capital they are able to draw on, the middle classes are adept at making the most of the opportunities of advantage that these policies present to them. 


Robert Aspinall is a professor in the Center for Global Education, Doshisha University, Kyoto, where he teaches social science courses. He is a visiting research fellow at the Anthropological Institute, Nanzan University. He specializes in the politics of education in Japan, and his publications include Teachers’ Unions and the Politics of Education in Japan (SUNY 2001) and International Education Policy in Japan in an Age of Globalisation and Risk (Brill 2013). In his current project, a comparative study of secondary education in Japan and England, he uses his experience as a secondary school classroom teacher in both countries as well as his academic training in social science methodology and theory. He also conducts research into international education policy at the secondary and tertiary levels.

Michelle Henault Morrone is a professor at the Nagoya University of Arts and Sciences (NUAS), where she teaches comparative education and multicultural studies, introducing students to pedagogical ideas that have impacted or have the potential to influence the Japanese social environment. Her current position has both local and international dimensions; she is involved with teacher training programs in Japanand oversees international exchange programs between NUAS and institutions abroad.

Benjamin Dorman
Senior Researcher
Anthropological Institute
Professor, Nanzan University