1 Introduction

Over the past several decades, while the international community has been focusing on expanding access to primary education, namely, Universal Primary Education, Japan has been paying attention to the quality of primary and secondary education, especially the quality of teachers, since the earlier stages of its assistance. This approach has roots in Japan’s own experience. Since the adoption of modern school education approaches in the mid-nineteenth century, Japan has attached great importance to teachers as central to the quality of education. In the same way, Japan has placed emphasis on teachers’ classroom practices in its international cooperation in education. In the mid-1960s, Japan started dispatching science education experts to developing countries. From these earliest days in the 1960s, they worked with local educators to train teachers and build their capacity, with the focus placed on improving practices in the classroom.

Looking back, Japan’s education cooperation before the 1980s was limited to a few programs, such as the dispatch of science education experts and Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers (JOCVs) to schools. In the 1980s, hardware support began, including procurement of machines for printing textbooks and construction of pre- and in-service teacher education and training facilities. From the mid-1990s, technical cooperation projects in mathematics and science education started and expanded. From the 1990s to the 2000s, a number of developing countries endeavored to shift from a teacher-centered approach (where knowledge is passively transmitted by teachers to children) to a child-centered approach (in which teachers actively encourage children to think and find solutions). Japan assisted its partner countries in improving teachers’ classroom practices, through a process that involved many trials and errors. In the 2000s, technical cooperation projects started to take different approaches toward strengthening teacher capacity according to region. Once a successful model had been adopted in a single country, it was spread beyond its borders and was shared throughout the region. During the process of strengthening teacher capacity, it turned out that many countries recognized the gaps between curriculum, textbooks, lessons, and assessment. In the 2010s, efforts began to reduce these gaps and increase alignment by paying attention to consistency and coherence. As a result, more diversified approaches are being taken to improve the learning of children. The history of international cooperation in this field could therefore be described as that of a trial-and-error process in improving the learning of children.

This chapter, which deals solely with school education, examines the history of international cooperation in education provided by Japan to assist teachers in improving their classroom practices, by dividing it into five phases: (1) from the mid-1960s to the 1970s, (2) the 1980s, (3) the 1990s, (4) the 2000s, and (5) the 2010s. Each section provides some historical background, describes the characteristics of each period, and discusses the links between the phases.

For this chapter, we refer to education cooperation in terms of cooperation provided to support teachers working in primary and secondary education to improve their classroom practices. This chapter mainly looks at the programs/projects, listed below, that Japan carried out between Fiscal YearFootnote 1 (FY) 1966 and FY 2015. It also addresses some typical cases:

  • Science education projects (dispatch of science education experts) from FY 1966 to FY 1989

  • 99 Technical cooperation projectsFootnote 2 for improvement of teachers’ classroom practices in 41 countries from FY 1994 to FY 2015

In addition, Japan has offered grant aid (project grantsFootnote 3) since the 1980s as part of its support for physical infrastructure for teacher education and for the provisions of teaching and learning materials. This chapter refers to these only in part: those offered at the earliest stage in the 1980s. JOCVs are also dealt with in other chapters. This chapter describes only part of their work, the activities closely linked with technical cooperation projects.

2 The Dawn of Japan’s Cooperation for Mathematics and Science Education (Mid-1960s–1970s)

In the mid-1960s, two separate programs commenced at the same time in the field of mathematics and science education. One was the dispatch of science education experts under the science education projects, and another was the dispatch of mathematics and science education volunteers through the JOCV program.

2.1 Science Education Projects (Dispatch of Science Education Experts)

The science education projects were started in FY 1966 as a follow-up to the second Meeting of Ministers of Education of Asian member states of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), held in Bangkok in November 1965. The meeting concluded that for developing countries, education is one of the basic preconditions for social and economic development. Technical education and science education have especially strong links to development. From this standpoint, there was thus a need for foreign assistance in these areas (Hayashi, 1970).

Consequently, in FY 1966, Japan started dispatching science education experts and providing the equipment they would need for instruction. The Overseas Technical Cooperation Agency (OTCA), the forerunner of JICA, was commissioned and financed by the Ministry of Education (MOE) to carry out the program (JICA, 1981). Specifically, five countries were selected every year from among those in Asia and Africa. One science education expertFootnote 4 (physics or chemistry) was dispatched to each of the partner countries, staying there for 6 months to give guidance and advice on science education. The countries were also provided with the equipment (three million yen per country) necessary for their instruction (Hayashi, 1970). The five countries selected for the first year were Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Kenya, and Iran. In subsequent decades, one expert (or in some cases two) was dispatched to each country, mainly countries in Asia.

Most of the experts were selected from among staff members of prefectural education centers, lecturers at universities, or high school teachers. Given a recommendation by the MOE, they were dispatched as experts from OTCA to work during the assignment period. Upon completion of the term, they returned to the posts they had previously held in Japan. The program was primarily designed for science teachers working in secondary schools and/or students learning at a university or a college to become science teachers and provided them with demonstrations on what and how they should teach in science classes (Yamana, 1976). At that time, there were differing opinions about their term of service—6 months. Some said there would be no need for a period of more than 3 months (Honda, 1969). Others considered 6 months too short, as experts from other countries stayed for 2 or 3 years (Inagaki, 1969).

Behind the priority given to science education as a subject selected for cooperation lay a “taboo” on aid for basic education. It has been argued that primary compulsory education constitutes part of the core authority of the state because it is closely linked with the unity of its people and that the intervention of any foreign public authority infringes on the sovereignty of the state in education (Saito, 2008a). Science education was regarded as value-neutral. Among other factors was a great expectation regarding Japan—as a country that had promoted science and technology and had achieved substantial growth of its economy. Another advantage was the lower level of language skills required by the Japanese experts, because science experiments constituted their main field of work. However, in their reports, experts then pointed out that they and their colleagues, both from Japan and other countries—even those who were good English speakers—had some difficulty in communication with local people, especially when they spoke in a local language. The need for experts with higher language skills was recognized at the earliest stage (Suzuki, 1971; Yamamoto & Yamada, 1986). Others pointed out that, in recipient countries, no one took the trouble to repair any equipment when it broke down, because they supposed a replacement would be quickly provided (Yamana, 1972). This demonstrated the importance of developing a strong culture of equipment management and maintenance, continuity of cooperation programs/projects, and local ownership by recipients.

In the 1970s, the MOE began to undertake new actions. The Ad Hoc Council on Educational Cooperation for Asian Countries (Ajia kyoiku kyoryoku kenkyu kyogikai), set up in 1971 under the MOE to conduct a broad study on what Japan should do for international cooperation, released its final report in March 1972. It stated that the approaches Japan had taken toward education assistance included dispatch of experts, providing in-service training for teachers working in schools and/or assisting them in improving curriculum, and provision of equipment used for the training. To provide more effective cooperation, Japan should develop a system for implementing these activities in a more comprehensive and sustainable manner. For that purpose, an effective and appropriate approach would be to establish teacher training centers as hubs of in-service training for teachers (Ad Hoc Council on Educational Cooperation for Asian Countries, 1972). They suggested the construction of teacher training centers, which would be the centerpieces of the cooperation that Japan would provide for education (Saito, 2008b). Behind their suggestions may lie a series of recommendations made by the Science Education Council, an advisory body set up under the MOE after the enactment of the Science Education Promotion Law in 1953. Based on their recommendations, after 1960, general education and/or science education centers were established around the country to provide in-service teacher education programs in Japan (Isozaki, 2018). Japan itself developed a system to provide teachers with training on a regular basis. It seems that the concept of the teacher training center reflected Japan’s own policies and programs for education.

However, the idea of the MOE for the establishment of teacher training centers was never realized, in part because no close relationships had been developed between the MOE and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) at its establishment in 1974 (Saito, 2008a). The dispatch of experts and provision of equipment under the science education projects were also financed by JICA out of its budgets from FY 1975 and FY 1976, respectively (JICA, 1981).

In consequence, as mentioned in Chap. 2, the MOE, a ministry that had led cooperation in the field of science education throughout the 1960s, had only limited engagement in bilateral cooperation for education from the mid-1970s.

2.2 The JOCV Program (Dispatch of Mathematics and Science Education Volunteers)

The dispatch of mathematics and science education volunteers through the JOCV program started in FY 1966, and a cumulative total of 2,671 volunteers was sent overseas by the end of FY 2016.Footnote 5 Many experts who worked in the 1990s and later for technical cooperation projects in mathematics and science education had taught mathematics and/or science as volunteers. For example, the late Takahiko Sugiyama, who led the Strengthening of Mathematics and Science in Secondary Education (SMASSEFootnote 6) project in Kenya (SMASSE Kenya) and regional cooperation in Africa as an expert, was dispatched to Tanzania in 1969 as a mathematics and science education volunteer through the JOCV program. Even after the end of his term, he continued working for educational cooperation in Africa for about 40 years, devoting his life to that purpose. Shigekazu Takemura, professor emeritus of Hiroshima University, worked for the SMASSE Kenya as an academic advisor. He noted that “The four experts other than me all had experience as JOCVs. They really love Africa, having endured hardship and fought it out there. The project seeks experts who have experience of work in Africa” (JICA, 2009, p. 80; translated by the author). As seen in these cases, JOCVs serve as a repository of expert resources for technical cooperation projects in mathematics and science education. They contribute to expanding projects to support teachers in improving their classroom practices.

3 Beginning of “Hardware-Type” Cooperation (1980s)

3.1 Provision of Textbook Printing Machines and Construction of Teacher Education Institutions

In FY 1983, printing machines for producing textbooks were provided to Burma for the first time through grant aid (JICA, 1983). The provision of printing machines seems to have been based on a report titled Policy Measures for Extending and Enhancing Technical Cooperation for Developing Countries, which was released by the External Economic Cooperation Council (Taigai keizai kyoryoku shingikai) in July 1971. To promote national education in recipient countries, assistance for development and provision (including support for printing) of teaching and learning materials, such as textbooks written in local language, was recommended by the report (Saito, 2008b). At that time in Japan, the mainstream view was that primary education was closely linked to nation-building, values, and languages in the recipient country and that, therefore, donors should not intervene in what should be taught there. This seems to be a reason why Japan started its textbook support programs in the form of provision of printing machines.

In FY 1984, Sri Lanka was provided with the first grant aid for supporting construction of buildings of the College of Education, an education institution for pre-service teachers (JICA, 1984). This was followed by support provided from FY 1989 for expanding the facilities of the National Institute of Education, an initiative for providing in-service training for untrained graduate teachers to obtain the proper qualifications (JICA, 1989).

In the Philippines, in FY 1988, Japan started to provide support for construction of the National Learning Resource Center for Teacher Training in Science and Mathematics Education through grant aid, which was later called the Science Teacher Training Center. This center was a forerunner of the Package Cooperation for the Development of Elementary and Secondary Science and Mathematics Education in the 1990s (JICA, 1987a, 1999).

In Central America, in response to a request made by Honduras for grant aid for the construction of a national education institute to improve the abilities of teachers through in-service training, JICA conducted a basic design study in 1987. At that time, nine JOCVs worked on training for teachers in the country. At an early stage of the study, the possibility of synergetic cooperation by combining the construction of institute buildings with technical cooperation through JOCVs and other programs was examined (JICA, 1987b). The buildings were completed in 1988. In the next year, JOCVs started working to fully support training in primary mathematics for teachers as part of the institute’s activities. From 1989 to 2002, JICA dispatched a total of 58 JOCVs to provide training in mathematics for approximately 20,000 local teachers (JICA, 2006). Norihiro Nishikata, currently a JICA Senior Advisor for Education, played a central role in the JOCV activities. He was dispatched to Honduras in 1987 as a primary school teacher volunteer through the JOCV program. In the 2000s, he worked for the Secretariat of Education in Honduras and then contributed to the development and distribution of primary and secondary mathematics textbooks in Central America as a JICA expert (Nishikata, 2017).

These support measures for pre- and in-service teacher training and education facilities may be based on a recommendation made in the Policy Measures for Extending and Enhancing Technical Cooperation for Developing Countries in 1971. The report stated that it would be quite effective if a teacher training center was established for a developing country as a combination of facilities, equipment, experts, and other necessary elements in conformity with an education plan developed by the country (Saito, 2008b). As mentioned above, the concept of a teacher training center never came into being in the 1970s. However, in the 1980s, Japan started to offer support for pre- and in-service teacher training and education facilities, initially focusing on the physical aspects.

3.2 Technical Cooperation Program in Science Education in the 1980s

In the 1980s, the term of service for experts dispatched for the science education projects was gradually extended, from 6 months to 12 and then 18 months. In some cases, multiple experts were dispatched at the same time. For example, two experts (physics and chemistry) were dispatched to Thailand and Indonesia and worked for 18 months at local teacher training colleges. While other countries donated experimental instruments as a main component of their support, Japanese experts visited secondary schools and/or colleges primarily to show how to perform experiments and/or give lectures. They offered lectures for instructors and student teachers at teacher training colleges and produced textbooks and guides based on their lectures in the course of 1 year. For example, Tadashi Yamamoto and Kazutoshi Yamada, two experts who were dispatched to Indonesia in 1983 and stayed there for 18 months, each gave a weekly lecture of 120 min. for instructors at the Chemistry Department of IKIP Surabaya (Surabaya Institute of Teaching and Education Sciences). Their lectures were transcribed and then translated into Indonesian, elaborated through a series of discussions with their counterparts, and published as a textbook. It was reported that the book had been distributed to universities around the country (Yamamoto & Yamada, 1986).

In November 1981, 15 years after the program, an evaluation of the science education projects was conducted. By the time of the evaluation (from FY 1966 through 1980), 83 experts had been dispatched to 14 countries.Footnote 7 The evaluation mission, composed of members from the MOE and JICA, visited Thailand, Malaysia, and the Philippines. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness of the program for its improvement. In its evaluation report, the team stated that Japanese experts had been accepted by recipient countries and that their work had been generally productive and effective. They concluded that (1) in the next stage, further study must be conducted, in close cooperation with each country, on what contents should be offered and in what form to meet the recipient countries’ needs in line with their realities and to produce effects that can be spread nationwide and (2) it is critical for recipient countries to align the program with their own education policy from a long-term perspective. Having made an evaluation of the cooperation project for science and mathematics education in the Philippines, the team highly commended the Science Education Center, the University of the Philippines, for their work. They expressed the view that the cooperation should be continued in the future (JICA, 1981). This program seems to have led the way to technical cooperation projects carried out later in the Philippines in the field of science and mathematics education.

The science education projects continued until around 1989 (Sawamura, 1999). It seems to have prepared the foundations for technical cooperation projects for science and mathematics education in the 1990s.

4 Beginnings of Technical Cooperation Projects in Mathematics and Science Education (1990)

4.1 First Technical Cooperation Project in Mathematics and Science Education

As the achievement of Education for All (EFA) was set as an international goal in 1990, Japan also saw the momentum growing for freeing itself from the taboo of aid for basic education. The Study on Development Assistance for Development and Education, carried out by JICA in 1994, stated that “mathematics and science are the basis not only for engineering and the physical sciences but for all scientific knowledge and therefore constitute an area that should be given special emphasis in primary and secondary education” (JICA, 1994, p. 41). Here, mathematics and science were together mentioned as one of the priority areas. The study report specifically referred to “training and upgrading teaching staff” and “curriculum, textbooks, and teaching materials development” as priority issues for assistance (JICA, 1994, p. 44).

In FY 1994, the first technical cooperation project for basic education started in the Philippines to assist the country in improving its mathematics and science education. The Philippine National Development Plan (1993–1998) referred to strengthening of its science and mathematics education. It placed a high priority on elementary and secondary science and mathematics education (JICA, 2004). The country was selected because several support programs, for both the hardware and software sides, had already got started there. Specifically, grant aid was provided for the country to establish the Science Teacher Training Center, inaugurated in 1990. As mentioned before, Japan dispatched science experts to the University of the Philippines as part of the science education projects. They prepared the foundations for science education assistance. Mathematics and science teachers were also dispatched as JOCVs to local schools.

The Principles for New Orientations in Technical Co-operation, adopted in 1991 by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) Development Assistance Committee (DAC), mentioned the importance of the program approach, which was designed to deal with issues in a specific field in a comprehensive manner. JICA, which provides assistance on a scheme (instrumental) basis, needed to study possibilities of the program approach, which should combine different modalities in a coordinated manner (JICA, 1992). In this context, JICA launched the Package Cooperation for the Development of Elementary and Secondary Science and Mathematics Education (henceforth, Package Cooperation), a program that combined different schemes of aid, such as grant aid, JOCVs, and technical cooperation project, in a coordinated manner.

This Package Cooperation could be described as an initiative that combines different modalities to produce synergistic effects. However, the analysis of the process for which the Package Cooperation had been formulated reveals that construction of the Science Teacher Training Center, hardware assistance, took precedence, while software aid came later. Due to these constraints, it might have been difficult for the project planners to prepare a specific plan after a grand design was presented (Sawamura, 1999). The terminal evaluation study, conducted in 1998, revealed JICA experts and/or JICA itself had yet to fully develop any survey or analytical methods to properly identify educational issues on the ground in various regions that had different histories, cultures, social norms and systems, and planning methods and was unable to design an appropriate cooperation plan in a short time, based on those findings (JICA, 1999). That seems to have been a factor that hindered the project from producing the anticipated results. The evaluation report pointed out that a more detailed cooperation plan, including the combination of individual programs/schemes, should have been designed before starting the Package Cooperation (JICA, 1999).

4.2 Characteristics of Mathematics and Science Education Projects

After the Philippines, technical cooperation projects were started in Egypt, Kenya, Indonesia, South Africa, and Ghana, all in the field of mathematics and science education. What lay behind the rapid increase of technical cooperation projects in mathematics and science education was explained in the thematic guidelines published by JICA in 2005 as the basic principles for cooperation in the field of basic education, as follows:

The main reason for the rapid expansion of math and science teacher training projects is explained by the shift in emphasis in JICA’s cooperation modalities in the field of basic education. That is to say, in light of the international trend to prioritize basic education in the 1990s, JICA also aligned its efforts to move away from the traditional hardware-oriented cooperation to a more software-oriented cooperation in basic education. The reasonable directions to move was to expand it cooperation in math and science education, since the level of Japan’s achievements in math and science education had been internationally high and that there were less language and cultural barriers to math and science education, compared to other subject areas. (JICA, 2005, pp. 12–13)

These projects that started in the 1990s have two common characteristics.

4.2.1 Child-Centered Lessons

All the projects placed a focus on “child-centeredFootnote 8 lessons,” as seen in project reports and/or teaching materials prepared for projects. For example, the SMASSE Kenya adopted “student-centered lessons” as part of its slogan. Former expert Takemura, who participated in the preliminary study for the SMASSE Kenya, said that:

Everywhere in Kenya, teachers dictated and students wrote down and memorized, while its national curriculum included several objectives, such as “think critically and reason based on evidence,” but none of these were achieved. Around the country during the field survey, we received pressing requests to create opportunities for teacher training as there were no opportunities for that. (Takemura, 2008, p. 44; translated by the author)

In such a situation, at the beginning of the project, followed by discussions between Kenyan and Japanese experts, the project adopted a unique approach to improve lessons. It is called the ASEI (activity, student, experiment, improvisation) approach. ASEI works as follows:

Activity (creation of lessons in which knowledge is gained through activities)

Student (shift from teacher-centered lessons to student-centered lessons)

Experiment (introduction of experiments and practicum rather than just lecturing)

Improvisation (introduction of simple experiments using readily available teaching materials). (JICA, 2007b, p. 24)

This approach encourages teachers to develop lesson plans and introduce experiments and practices in the classroom using easily available materials. Students are encouraged to generate hypotheses, test them, and draw their own conclusions, thus making mathematics and science more appealing (JICA, 2006).

Behind the approach lay a shift observed globally in teacher training in the 1990s and 2000s away from the transmission-oriented model to models based on constructivism (Villegas-Reimers, 2003). In developing countries, there was also a growing call for a shift from the teacher-centered approach to the child-centered approach. The ASEI approach seems to have reflected influences of these trends.

4.2.2 Establishing Sustainable In-Service Education and Training Systems

All the projects were designed to offer assistance to in-service education and training (INSET), except for Indonesia, which targeted both pre-service and in-service education and training. In the 1990s, when developing countries had difficulty in supplying a sufficient number of teachers to meet growing enrollment, they employed many teachers who had been insufficiently trained for the job. As a result, large numbers of teachers with little pre-service teacher education were recruited (Schwille & Dembélé, 2007). This may have led to the decision to focus on INSET. The Philippines, Kenya, South Africa, and Ghana all provided INSET from time to time, but only when they found donors who could provide finance. For this reason, the focus of the projects was placed on institutionalization of teacher training system (JICA, 2004).

For example, the Package Cooperation in the Philippines adopted an INSET approach using a cascade system, which is a mechanism for delivering training in three stages, namely, national, regional, and district levels. The terminal evaluation study for the project found that the system produced some impacts at the national level, whereas little impact was made on teachers working on the ground. It was observed that the effects of the training diminished from the national level to district level because there was no allowance for training at the local (district) level (JICA, 1999, 2004). Having learned lessons from the results, according to Yoshihisa Hara and Kazuyoshi Nakai, two experts who engaged in follow-up activities of the Package Cooperation from 1999 to 2001, a new Japanese-style approach, “lesson study” (jugyo kenkyu), was adopted as a training activity based on discussions between the Philippine and Japanese experts.

Lesson study refers to a methodology involving the principle of plan-do-see for improving classroom lessons through peer collaboration, with its focus exclusively on lessons themselves. In this method, a teacher gives a lesson (in the actual classroom) based on a lesson plan in the presence of observers (peer teachers in most cases), and after the lesson, the teacher and the observers discuss it to identify opportunities for improvement (JICA, 2006, 2007a). Lesson study can be held by teachers themselves working in the same school or in a cluster (a group of schools located nearby). In the Philippines, Australian aid agency introduced a cluster training system, where teachers working in schools located nearby got together to attend a training. This system did not function well at that time. A lesson study approach was incorporated into an existing cluster system that started as a pilot activity in 2000. Before this, training activities had been held on holidays, with pay and accommodation, which the participants took for granted. Under the new system, training activities were held at one of the schools located nearby on a weekday, without any allowance, which led to complaints from many teachers. Hara said he had noticed gradual changes in their attitudes with improvement in the quality of training contents. Teachers started having an interest in practical training and recognized the usefulness for their daily classroom activities (JICA, 2008). After the pilot trial, a successor project called the Strengthening of Continuing School Based Training Program for Elementary and Secondary Science and Mathematics Teachers was started in FY 2002, adopting the cluster training system (JICA, 2004).

In Kenya, a highly centralized state, a system of INSET in mathematics and science education at the secondary level was institutionalized on a two-phase cascade system, composed of National INSET and District INSET. About one percent of the tuition fee per student was put into a fund established to enable teachers all around the country to participate in the District INSET (10 days per year). Participants were paid no allowance but were offered traveling expenses and meals. Student dormitories of local secondary boarding schools were used to keep the program sustainable (JICA, 2004, 2007b). Looking back on that time, former expert Takemura said:

At first, teachers participated in the training demanded allowances. They said the World Bank and other donors all grant an allowance, and so should JICA. They made a protest against Chief Advisor Sugiyama and me, even walking out. We said we covered accommodation, meals and traveling expenses, and refused to provide anything more, absolutely. We believed that was the best for them to keep the program sustainable. (JICA, 2009, p. 66; translated by the author)

In addition, Takemura also told them about the essence of professionalism in which “professionals are people who work for self-realization, and making efforts at lesson improvement is an obligation for teaching professionals” (JICA, 2007b, p. 30).

This idea was gradually shared not only among the Japanese experts but also among Kenyan officers at the Ministry of Education, as well as by national trainers (JICA, 2007b). Management members from Kenya came to the front, telling teachers that no allowance would be paid and calling for them to participate in training (JICA, 2009). For example, the former head of SMASSE INSET Unit said:

I participated in the training sessions for many projects which provided daily allowances, and my main purpose of participating in the sessions was to receive the daily allowances. Now I understand the significance of this technical cooperation. People’s demands only escalate once we start providing daily allowances. No payment of daily allowances is the key to securing sustainability. (JICA, 2007b, p. 43)

As described here, INSET was held only from time to time, and allowances were common. In environments quite different from those in Japan, Japanese and local experts worked together to develop an institutionalized training system relevant to local conditions through trial and error, in reference to the model of Japanese professional development, whereby teachers continue learning as professionals.

5 Scaling Up Regional Approaches for Improving Teacher Capacity (2000s)

5.1 Rapid Expansion of Technical Cooperation Projects

In the 2000s, as shown in Fig. 5.1, rapid increases were observed in the number of technical cooperation projects for assisting teachers in improving their classroom practices. Behind that seem to be three factors:

  1. 1.

    Policy: The Basic Education for Growth Initiative (BEGIN), a policy announced by the Japanese government in 2002, stated that science and mathematics education and teacher training were to be a priority sub-sector (Government of Japan [GoJ], 2002).

  2. 2.

    Implementation structure: In 2003, JICA was converted into an independent administrative institution, and its organization was restructured. At the same time, the basic education group was newly set up for centralized management of technical cooperation for basic education.

  3. 3.

    Project operation: For projects in Asia and Oceania, JICA had formerly made contracts with individual experts whom it would dispatch; however, the number of projects under corporate contracts through proposal competition had increased, which allowed JICA to offer a greater variety of cooperation. In Africa and Central America, small-scale and similar-type projects were formulated under a framework of regional cooperation.

Fig. 5.1
figure 1

No. of technical cooperation projects for improvement of teachers’ classroom practices

Source: Created by the author from the data of the Review Committee on Japan’s International Cooperation in Education

Note: No. of technical cooperation projects under implementation in the given year (FY). Based on the cooperation periods for a total of 99 projects

These factors, in combination, seem to have led to the accelerated formulation of projects (Ishihara, 2018).

As shown in Fig. 5.2, different approaches for technical cooperation projects can be found between the regions in the 2000s, while the focus was commonly placed on improvement of teaching abilities of mathematics and science in all regions in the former decade. In Asia, the largest number of teacher’s guides was prepared, and some projects also started for subjects other than mathematics and science. In Africa, projects for establishing INSET systems in mathematics and science spread across the region. In Central America, projects for development of mathematics textbooks expanded regionally. The following sections review typical cases in Asia, Africa, and Central America to identify the characteristics of cooperation offered in each region.

Fig. 5.2
figure 2

Major regional features of technical cooperation projects for improvement of teachers’ classroom practices

Source: Created by the author from the data of the Review Committee on Japan’s International Cooperation in Education

Note: No. of technical cooperation projects classified into the decade in which they were started n = 99

5.2 Asia: Teacher’s Guides

In Asia, various approaches were employed. Development of teacher’s guides was an area focused on by the largest number of projects. Afghanistan, Mongolia, Myanmar, Pakistan, and Bangladesh expected children to shift from a conventional, memorization-oriented style of learning to another style of learning that would encourage children to develop new ideas and think for themselves. Teachers working on the ground, however, had difficulty in adapting to the change in their classroom practices. As a solution to the problem, assistance was given to develop teacher’s guides that they could use for their day-to-day practices.

For example, when Myanmar revised its primary education curriculum in 1998 to adopt a problem-solving type of learning, three subjects—science (reintroduced), social studies (an integrated subject of geography and history), and general studies (newly introduced)—were introduced. The government of Myanmar produced new textbooks and teacher’s manuals for these three subjects. However, the country lacked a grand design, namely, a curriculum framework, which included learning outcomes, contents, instructional methods, and evaluation to achieve educational objectives (Tanaka, 2017), and teachers had nothing but textbooks and teacher’s manuals, which only indicated what they should teach. Teachers had no idea how they should guide children in the problem-solving way of learning in the classroom as no consideration had been given to the issue in the first place (JICA, 2001). This led to a recognition of the need for teacher’s guides as a tool to close the gap between textbooks and classroom practices. In FY 2000, JICA started to support the country in developing teacher’s guides for the three newly introduced subjects. Between FY 2004 and FY 2011, a training system for in-service teachers was built up to use the teacher’s guides and spread the child-centered approach, a methodology the Myanmar Ministry of Education was seeking to promote. This was followed by efforts to introduce the approach in pre-service teacher education. The terminal evaluation conducted in December 2011 of the technical cooperation project found that:

At schools visited by the evaluation team, teachers used the teaching and learning materials in classes and adopted group work for most of the classes. Similar observations were made in SMASSE-type projects in Africa. As often seen in teachers at an earlier stage of transformation of their minds, teachers in Myanmar, it seems, were also struggling to transform their practices and could not afford to keep an eye on every child, helping them learn. (JICA, 2013, p. 27; translated by the author)

The report indicates that the deep understanding of the subject contents as well as combination of individual learning and group learning would be required for the next stage (JICA, 2013).

5.3 Africa: INSET in Mathematics and Science

In Africa in the 2000s, based on experience-derived knowledge obtained from SMASSE Kenya, similar projects were formulated in 12 countriesFootnote 9 to strengthen mathematics and science education through INSET. From the late 1990s through the early 2000s, Kenyan and Japanese experts of SMASSE Kenya visited various countries in Africa to learn about other countries’ experiences and lessons from INSET. Through their visits and interactions, they found similar challenges and realized that the approach adopted for classroom practice improvement and experiences in institutionalization of INSET systems in Kenya would be helpful for other countries. In 2001, the Strengthening of Mathematics and Science Education-West, East, Central, and Southern Africa (SMASE-WECSA) network was born out of a regional conference in Kenya, initiated by SMASSE Kenya. In 2003, JICA started supporting SMASE-WECSA member countries through the SMASE-WECSA network as a regional cooperation component of SMASSE Kenya (Ishihara, 2011, 2012). Under SMASE-WECSA, 1,208 people from 28 countries participated in training in Kenya, and 16 countries received technical assistance from Kenyan trainers from 2003 to 2009 (JICA, 2010). Kenya served as a regional hub for expanding mathematics and science cooperation in Africa.

Experiences and knowledge obtained from SMASSE Kenya were applied effectively to formulate many projects in Africa. Approaches and contents of the projects were developed according to specific contexts of each country. For instance, when a project started in Zambia in FY 2005, the country adopted a lesson study approach for school-based training, instead of the cascade system, an approach that Kenya had introduced. In the late 1990s, Zambia adopted a school-based system for in-service teacher training with the support of aid agencies. However, the system soon turned into a mere formality as it lacked specific training programs. The project was designed to introduce a lesson study approach based on the experiences of Japan to Zambia to revitalize existing school-based system (JICA, 2007c).

The project was unique in that at its earlier stage, it included training sessions held in the Philippines for core members expected to play a core role in Zambia. They visited schools in the Philippines, which had introduced a lesson study approach with the support of JICA. They were expected to learn from the country’s experiences. The core members, having studied experiences of teachers in the Philippines, were convinced that the lesson study approach would work effectively once introduced in their country. They pointed out that the event had the spurred introduction of lesson study (Jung et al., 2016). This process owed a lot to Kazuyoshi Nakai, an expert who had worked to introduce a lesson study approach in the Philippines. He also worked as project expert in Zambia. He understood conditions of the two countries, serving as a bridge between them. As seen in this case, the approach of learning lessons from experiences on the ground worked well. Taking advantage of the framework of SMASE-WECSA, local and Japanese experts working for projects in Africa visited each other and shared experiences to learn actively together. At the same time, some challenges remained. Takuya Baba, from Hiroshima University, and Nakai, who was involved in the project in Zambia, stated:

A notable difference between lesson study in Zambia and that in Japan is whether the concerned educators and education administrators have a common understanding about the target lesson image to be realized through lesson study. Zambian counterparts describe the image as “learner-centered,” as written in the education policy, but few of them are able to express clearly what that lesson would look like beyond the abstract expression. (Baba & Nakai, 2011, p. 59)

They argued that it was necessary for experienced teachers, curriculum developers, and university researchers to reflect and theorize the relationship between lesson practices and broader views such as curriculum, textbook, and teacher education and to verify again such reflection and theory in the lesson practice (Baba & Nakai, 2011).

5.4 Central America: Mathematics Textbooks and Teacher’s Guides

In the late 1990s, Norihiro Nishikata worked in Honduras as an advisor to the Vice Minister of Education. He said that “at schools in Honduras, children had been given knowledge as information and that it was at that time that many people started to argue that now education should be transformed to help children think for themselves” (Nishikata, 2017, p. 66; translated by the author). Honduras received a loan from the World Bank to employ domestic consultants (mainly university professors) and produce a new curriculum to realize the goal of children “thinking for themselves.” Nishikata points out that the authors, who were mathematicians, not educators, stuffed the curriculum with too much that would have to be learned in mathematics classes, a contradiction to the original idea (Nishikata, 2017).

In FY 2003, a technical cooperation project started with a view to improving teaching method in mathematics and reducing the number of children who would have to repeat a year for poor performance in mathematics. JICA supported the development of teacher’s guides and workbooks in mathematics. The guides and workbooks, prepared for all grades of primary school, reflected the new curriculum. This project had two distinctive characteristics. First, in many respects, it capitalized on experiences that JOCVs had gained from their educational cooperation in Honduras. Second, it was modeled on experiences of Japan in its educational development. After World War II, Japan employed a huge number of teachers (with temporary licenses), causing a deterioration in the quality of education. In order to address the problem, the country produced a teachers’ handbook on mathematics as a tool for improving quality of teaching (JICA, 2003).

The original plan did not include development of textbooks. However, less than a year after the start of the project, the Ministry of Education made an abrupt request. During the course of the project, JICA agreed to assist Honduras in developing mathematics textbooks conforming to the new curriculum, together with teacher’s guides, as a package (Nishikata, 2017). In 2005, mathematics textbooks and teacher’s guides were authorized and designated by the Government of Honduras (JICA, 2007a). This was the first technical cooperation project JICA engaged in for development of textbooks. As in Honduras, the idea of children’s abilities had changed in other countries in Central America. They placed greater emphasis on “encouraging children to think and find solutions” rather than on “transmitting knowledge to children.” Along with the spread of the new approaches, needs emerged for development of textbooks that would embody it. In November 2003, the Honduran Minster of Education and Expert Nishikata attended a meeting of Ministers of Culture of Central America to talk about the experience of JICA in development of teaching materials as part of its mathematics education cooperation and share it with the participants. They showed great interest, and El Salvador, Guatemala, and Nicaragua requested Japan’s help to develop mathematics textbooks for them (Nishikata, 2017). On the initiative of JICA, in FY 2006, the Project for the Improvement of Teaching Method in Mathematics Phase 2 started to apply knowledge and experience obtained in Honduras for El Salvador, Guatemala, and Nicaragua in Central America, as well as the Dominican Republic, a Caribbean state.

5.5 Common Features Across Regions

In the 2000s, different approaches for technical cooperation projects were taken between the regions. At the same time, many technical cooperation projects started as an initiative for assisting teachers in improving their classroom practices, a common feature indicated in project reports. The Japan’s Education Cooperation Policy 2011–2015, a policy announced by the Government of Japan in 2010, placed a priority on improvement of teachers’ classroom practices. Regarding “quality education for all,” one of its focus areas, it stated that “improving teachers’ competencies is the key to ensuring quality education and improved learning outcomes” (GoJ, 2010, p. 5). In its position paper, JICA also articulated that “JICA, based on its past experiences, will focus on the strengthening of teachers’ capacities through training” (JICA, 2010, p. 3). There, JICA also affirmed that:

Teachers are the most important factor for determining the quality of education. Strengthening of training for teachers (including new teachers) is essential for continuously fostering and securing highly competent teachers. From the beginning of its modern school education system, Japan recognized the importance of teachers and endeavored to build up a system to promote the continuous and step-by-step development of teachers’ abilities by examining teacher training programs, qualifications and treatment of teachers, etc., from various angles. (JICA, 2010, p. 3)

Based on Japan’s experiences in education, Japan attached importance to teacher capacity. In this way, Japan carried out technical cooperation projects mainly for teacher training and development of teacher’s guides. Meanwhile, JICA started to directly provide support for children’s learning through the development of textbooks, together with teacher’s guides, in Central America.

6 Diversified Approaches for Improvement in Children’s Learning (2010s)

In the 2010s, there were lively discussions in the international community about post-2015 initiatives, focusing on the quality of education and learning. The international community was enormously shocked by a report on what became known as the “learning crisis,” which revealed that 250 million children of primary school age lacked basic literacy and/or numeracy (UNESCO, 2014). Goal 4 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), adopted in 2015, brought the issue of “quality education” to the fore. That year, the Government of Japan also announced the Learning Strategy for Peace and Growth, which focused on “learning” as the strategy, recognizing that quality education would be secured through improvement of learning (GoJ, 2015). With these developments, the focus of cooperation shifted from the enhancement of teacher capacity, while more comprehensive approaches were adopted to place improvement of children’s learning at the center.

As seen in Fig. 5.2, more projects in Asia adopted development of textbooks for primary education as their approach, while Central American countries moved to the next stage, from the development of primary mathematics textbooks to that of secondary mathematics textbooks. In Africa, SMASSE Kenya, an initiative that had led cooperation in the region, finished in FY 2013. Thereafter, in addition to conventional approaches for INSET in mathematics and science, cooperation on assessment and pre-service teacher education has taken place.

Now, a greater diversity of approaches is taken to improve children’s learning.

6.1 Consistency and Coherence Between Curriculum, Textbooks, Lessons, and Assessment

While Japan had been offering assistance to support teachers in improving their classroom practices in various countries, educators in these countries noticed and faced gaps emerging between curriculum, textbooks, lessons, and assessment. In the 2010s, a new approach was initiated to achieve more consistency and coherence between them.

For example, in Myanmar, a technical cooperation project started in FY 2014 to develop curriculum, textbooks, and assessment for all subjects in primary education in an integrated manner. The project was also designed to provide comprehensive support for pre-service teacher education as well as INSET for teachers working on the ground, providing a way to introduce and implement new curriculum (JICA, 2016a). An early sign of developments that led to this project had been observed in what a director-general of the Myanmar Ministry of Education said in December 2011. At the terminal evaluation of a project that had been providing the country with support for more than 10 years to spread the child-centered approach to lessons, the director-general, responsible for the project, said to the evaluation team:

Teacher’s guides have been developed, and the child-centered approach has also spread around the country. However broadly the approach has been adopted, we cannot say that fundamental improvements have been achieved in the education of our country with our curriculum and textbooks, which constitute the core of education, left unchanged from what they have been. We would like to start in 2014 to work for revising curriculum and textbooks for primary education. We would appreciate if JICA could continue supporting us. (JICA, 2013, p. 27; translated by the author)

Behind these remarks lay an awareness that despite a variety of methods adopted to help teachers improve their ability to guide children, no change could be expected in classroom practices of teachers or learning of children before memorization-oriented textbooks, produced some 20 years before, were revised.

At around the same time, in FY 2014, JICA started its first technical cooperation project focusing on assessment in Ethiopia. In FY 2011, JICA began applying the experience and knowledge obtained in SMASSE Kenya to help develop a model of INSET for Ethiopian mathematics and science teachers in charge of the seventh and eighth graders at the primary education stage, encouraging them to give child-centered lessons. It turned out, however, that teachers, once going back to school to give lessons, failed to fully practice what they had learned at the training.

Norimichi Toyomane, an expert engaged in this project, points out that the problem stemmed from the exit examination at primary school. The examination included nothing but questions with four multiple-choice answers, almost all of which tested children on their knowledge. However excellent the lessons given by a teacher, trying to arouse their interest and helping them develop the ability to think, the effect was not measured or recognized at all at the examination. Teachers had no incentive to try the new approach toward lessons (Toyomane, 2017). The curriculum indeed specified what skills and abilities children had to learn and acquire. However, there was little consistency and coherence between curriculum, classroom practices, and examination questions designed to measure the abilities they acquired.

To solve the problem, the project included a plan to enhance the curriculum strategy, covering curriculum, classroom practices, and evaluation of children’s scholastic performance. The focus of the project was to support the capacity development of local experts engaged in education assessment (JICA, 2015a). In terms of the procedure, (1) experts from various agencies in assessment, curriculum, teacher development, and mathematics and science education, together with those from Regional Education Bureaus, were organized into subject-based working groups to establish closer coordination between them; (2) in reference to specific examples, they extensively discussed what a “good question” consisted of; and (3) they prepared some examination questions, with which they conducted field tests for children, and analyzed the results and used them to make improvements (JICA, 2015a; Toyomane, 2017).

These developments are reflected by the JICA Position Paper in Education Cooperation, released in 2015, which articulates the following goals:

Aiming to equip children with basic skills and the capacity to learn independently, JICA will shift from a traditional approach for improving teacher capacity to new approach for improving learning comprehensively by strengthening the Learning Cycle as shown in

Fig. 5.3
figure 3

Comprehensive approach for learning improvement. Source: JICA, 2015b

Fig. 5.3 below. This approach enables us to provide comprehensive solutions with consistent interventions throughout (1) curriculum, (2) textbooks and teaching and learning materials, (3) lessons and (4) assessment, so that the Learning Cycle is strengthened. (JICA, 2015b, p. 8)

6.2 Pre-service Teacher Education

In the 2000s, many technical cooperation projects were designed to provide support for in-service teachers. In the mid-2010s, some projects started to focus on pre-service teacher education while taking into consideration the development of closer coordination between pre-service and in-service teacher education.

In Zambia, a technical cooperation project using a lesson study approach started in the mid-2000s based on an existing system. The initiative was extended to its ten provinces in 2015 (JICA, 2016b). As seen in this case, lesson study produced significant results in building a school-based mechanism for continuing professional development. However, in terms of the quality of teaching, the final evaluation report for the technical cooperation project in 2015 pointed out weaknesses in teachers’ subject content knowledge. The report recommended that teachers should strengthen their subject content knowledge by intensive study of teaching and learning materials (Kyozai-Kenkyu), so that teachers can provide students with assignments relevant to their level of understanding (JICA, 2016b). As a solution, a technical cooperation project started in Zambia in FY 2015 to set up lesson study in colleges of education. Under the initiative, college lecturers visit collaborating primary and secondary schools to work with teachers in studying teaching and learning materials and developing sample lesson plans to be shared with other schools. At the same time, colleges develop lecture guides and modules for college students based on the knowledge gained from actual classroom practices. Through lesson study as a collaborative work by college lecturers and school teachers, it is expected that in-service and pre-service education would be linked to improve classroom practices (Ministry of General Education and JICA, 2016).

In the study of teachers working for primary education in six countries in Africa, Akyeampong et al. (2013) point out that what they learned at pre-service teacher education has had a great influence on their view of teaching and classroom practices. This suggests that any initiative that plans to work fundamentally on their classroom practices would succeed only when pre-service and in-service teacher education is linked in a manner that pre-service teacher education can be enhanced. This overlaps with what lies behind pre-service teacher education carried out in Africa and the challenges they must address.

Similar developments are taking place in Asia. As part of its education reform, Myanmar is considering transforming its 2-year course of education colleges into a 4-year system (upgrading to university) (JICA, 2016a; Tanaka, 2017). JICA is providing support for the country in its efforts to improve the pre-service teacher education curriculum in a technical cooperation project for Myanmar, mentioned above (JICA, 2016a).

As described here, many countries seem to have greater recognition of how important enhancement of pre-service teacher education is in helping teachers improve their classroom practices.

7 Conclusion

Since the mid-1960s, the emphasis has always been placed on the realities on the ground, relevance to local contexts, sustainability, and ownership. This attitude has been handed down between parties involved from one generation to another. This section summarizes the key features at different times from the mid-1960s through to the 2010s and the connections between them before closing this chapter.

Between the mid-1960s and the 1980s, individual programs/schemes—the dispatch of experts, JOCVs, and grant aid—were carried out separately. At the same time, experts and JOCVs, mainly those engaged in mathematics and science education, accumulated experience of classroom practices in developing countries. Facilities for pre- and in-service teacher education were also built during this period. Through these years, a foundation was established for cooperation activities that were later implemented at a larger scale within the technical cooperation projects of the 1990s.

In the 1990s, the first technical cooperation project for basic education started in the Philippines in the field of mathematics and science education. While the Package Cooperation was conducted in the Philippines as an attempt to combine individual programs/schemes in a coordinated manner, it still showed that there were many lessons to be learned. The focus of the cooperation was placed on the establishment of INSET systems and improvement of teachers’ classroom practices. The effort to motivate teachers to keep learning and transform their attitudes was a process of trial and error.

During the 2000s, technical cooperation projects focusing on improvement of teacher capacity were carried out using different approaches in each region to close gaps between the philosophy of child-centered lessons and classroom practices. In Asia, teacher’s guides were developed in many countries, so that teachers could use them effectively in day-to-day lessons. In Africa, support for INSET in mathematics and science expanded based on knowledge and experience obtained in Kenya though the SMASE-WECSA network. In Central America, regional cooperation based on knowledge and experience obtained in Honduras through efforts to develop primary mathematics teacher’s guides and textbooks was conducted. The projects in Africa and Central America were characterized by the application of knowledge and experience of development in a country that served as a hub for extending cooperation across the region. In this decade, transformation of awareness was observed in some teachers. For example, they adopted the approaches that promoted group learning. At the same time, what needed to be done to help children learn and teachers teach in more depth was identified as a challenge that needed to be addressed.

In the 2010s, many countries came to understand the importance of consistency and coherence between curriculum, textbooks, lessons, and assessments. The number of projects has been increasing to support the core of education, which is closely linked to nation-building and values for improvement in children’s learning. The approach is also shifting from the conventional “improvement of teachers’ classroom practices” (what and how teachers should teach children) to “classroom practices of teachers to help children learn better” (what and how children should learn and how teachers should encourage them to learn). Together with education reform, the importance of pre-service teacher education, a stage before entering the teaching profession, is better recognized. Support for pre-service teacher education is growing these days. Here, Japan has an increasingly important role to play in facilitating partner countries to identify gaps between curriculum, textbooks, lessons, and assessment, to make them more consistent and coherent in using their own resources. Accordingly, Japan’s international education cooperation will be required more than ever to have both the field knowledge gained from classroom practices and a broader vision for supporting countries in designing the overall picture.

This chapter was unable to sufficiently address support for education of children with special needs that have gotten started recently. It will become important to integrate more inclusive viewpoints into classroom practices and cope with greater diversity of children.

It is expected that Japan will continue to work through a process of trial and error to provide support so that children in its partner countries can learn better and open a new page in the history of international cooperation in education.