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Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2004
New college dedicated to education on parenting
By TOMOKO OTAKE
Need parenting tips? Go to college.
Yashima Gakuen University, scheduled to open in Nishi Ward, Yokohama, in April, will feature an unconventional objective: educating parents on the theory and practice of child-rearing.
Hirohito Wada, chairman of the board at the private university, said the idea of creating the nation's first college accredited by the education ministry dedicated to family education came up while he was serving as president of a high school-level correspondence school catering to dropouts and truants.
"I realized that parents whose children came to our school had just as much passion about education and affection for their kids as those whose children had no problems at school," he said. "But they felt isolated because they had so little information about what they could do at home."
The dearth of information stems in part from social changes that have witnessed a decline in the traditional extended families and close communities that had long helped pass on parenting knowledge, Wada said.
Also, he said, few education experts are aware of what should be taught at home -- perhaps because it is difficult to research what goes on in the home.
Schoolteachers, while realizing the importance of educating parents, are too busy to play that role.
"I thought, why don't we let parents learn the skills of educating their own children?" Wada said. "Why not get a diploma to raise your own kids?"
The college will fully incorporate broadband telecommunications in the classroom, allowing busy parents who cannot be physically present on campus to take courses at home through real-time broadcasts of lectures and seminars. Students can earn some credits solely through correspondence.
The school building, which used to house a computer software manufacturer, will include a first-floor nursery offering discounted child-care services for students. The interior walls now sport pastel, floral patterns to cater to the expected core enrollees -- women in their early 30s.
The college will have only one department -- lifelong education. Students will be able to select one of two majors: family education and education on human development.
The school will admit up to 600 students this spring and another 600 in the fall, featuring lecturers from various backgrounds. Included in the faculty lineup are the president of a public elementary school in Tokyo, a probation counselor working to rehabilitate troubled youths and the head priest of a Tokyo Buddhist temple.
Family education majors will learn the history, ethics and theory of educating children at home. Some courses will feature case studies on high school students who show signs of delinquency, or role-playing sessions for improving communications between adolescent children and parents.
Human development majors will be offered courses that include rapid reading, marketing, management and logical thinking. This is to lure fathers -- who might shy away from learning about parenting in college -- into becoming interested in family education and taking electives in this field, Wada said.
The faculty will accept questions via cell phone e-mail and computers on a real-time basis, even from students in the classroom, especially when sensitive issues are raised. The computers will have software allowing students to click on a "comprehension button" during the classes.
The button, through which students can rate their degree of understanding on a scale from 0 percent to 100 percent, has two purposes, Wada said. For one, teachers will be able to grasp student responses on a real-time basis.
And the other? "Students will be asked to gauge their level of comprehension every 10 minutes or so," he said. "This will keep them from dozing off in class."