enpaku 早稲田大学演劇博物館


Drama in Schools and Drama Education

  At the start of the 20th century, Sazanami Iwaya introduced in the magazine Shonen Sekai (‘Young Men’s World’: 1906) the concept of the ‘school play’ in which the performers are children. However, at the time, acting was still widely thought by parents to be ‘work done by beggars along riverbanks’, and as a result Iwaya’s efforts were less than fruitful. So he next made an attempt in the pages of the magazine Shojo Sekai (‘Young Women’s World’: 1909) to emphasise the role played by scripts of dramatic works for children as forums for ‘dialogue’; thus, he de-emphasised the idea that they were in fact stage productions.
  During the two decades from 1910 to 1930, plays in which children perform began to attract increasing attention – along with other forms of art such as ‘free poetry’ and ‘free painting’ which were influenced by the Taisho Democracy movement and the free education movement during that time. In 1919, Kuniyoshi Obara and other primary school teachers had students perform in the play Ama-no-Iwato (the name of the play refers to a cave mentioned in Japanese mythology), which he referred to as a ‘Gakko Geki (drama in schools)’. Shoyo Tsubouchi started theorising about the children’s theatre around this same time. In addition, the first use of the theatre as educational material appeared in the national textbook Elementary Level National Language Reader (1933), which was edited by Takeshi Inoue of the (then) Ministry of Education and others.
  The entries regarding the national language (Japanese) and social studies in the national school curriculum (at the time, still a draft) that was newly adopted after World War II included mention of the dramatic arts, which marked the beginning of active participation in the dramatic arts at schools in Japan. However, the term ‘play’ was absent from the curriculum that was implemented in 1971, and as a result the drama-related activities that took place at school were limited to the efforts of a small number of teachers.
  In terms of theory and methodology, in the 1950s, Hiroyuki Tomita, a researcher in the field of children’s theatre, published ‘Engeki Kyoiku (Drama Education)’ (1958). In this book, he proposed the use of the term ‘Engeki Kyoiku’, which he defined as ‘education through theatre’. In addition, from the 1960s to the 1980s, Kunio Nishio, a researcher in the field of modern literature; Akira Okada, a researcher in the field of drama in schools; and others began to focus on the ‘Creative Dramatics’ movement in the United States and the ‘Drama in Education’ movement in the UK, and they translated a number of works related to these movements. As a result, the terms ‘drama’ and ‘drama education’ came into use in Japan as awareness of developments in Europe and the US came to increase.
  The 21st century saw the revision during the 2002 fiscal year of the curriculum to include ‘life skills’ as well as the establishment in 2010 of the Committee to Promote Communication Education, and a shift in 2012 toward ‘active learning’. These developments provided opportunities for the active reintroduction of drama into education. For example, the Sanseido Publishing Company added in 2002 a section called ‘Taiwa Geki wo Taiken-shiyo (Let’s Experience Dialogue Drama)’ to its modern language text for Japanese classes. In addition, educator Jun Watanabe published ‘Kyouiku ni okeru Engekiteki-Chi (Theatrical Knowledge in Education)’ (2001) and ‘Kyoiku-Houhou toshite no Drama (Drama as an Educational Tool)’ (2009); playwright and Oriza Hirata and others published their ‘Communication-Ryoku wo Hikidasu (Drawing about Communication Ability)’ in 2009; and drama education researcher Yuriko Kobayashi and others published their ‘Drama-Kyoiku Nyumon (Introduction to Drama Education)’ in 2010. These and other books proposed a new educational style through the dramatic arts.