Shinichiro Hori

Kinokuni Children's Village opened in Japan in 1992 as an independent primary school. This article is an edited extract from a booklet by the founder of the school, Shinichiro Hori.


In the first decade after World War II authoritarian moral education seemed to be replaced by democratic ways in Japan, but it has retreated into the old type. Ready-made sets of values are taught by special text-books. It is far from Summerhill and Kilquhanity ways where children form their own values through self-government and living together.


We view with suspicion the following aspects of today's Japanese schooling:

Education takes place at school only, or mainly at school.
So-called subject matters are the main dish at school.
Children are to be grouped according to their age.
Only people with certificates can teach at school.
Teachers should be respected because they are teachers.
School buildings are enclosed by high walls.
Each class has the same number of pupils (one king/queen and 40 servants/slaves).
Teachers teach and pupils are taught.

School buildings have long corridors and the same-sized  classrooms.

When freedom in the school is discussed most people pay attention to freedom of behaviour, that is to say to what degree children should be allowed to do what they like. But we look at it from the three sides of child's development, emotional, intellectual and social. This inner growth is our main concern. Freedom of action is the only means to pursue this aim.

(1)  Joy of living and self-esteem.

A free child is free from unconscious fear, repression, irrational tension, self-hate and so on. He laughs a lot, saying 'It is fun to live. I love myself. I feel like smiling though for what reasons I don't know.'





(2) Creative thinking

A free child grows the attitudes and abilities to think, as John Dewey summed up in his Democracy and Education (1916).
Free children learn
    (a)  To sense the existence of various problems or problem situations.
    (b)  To observe the problem and the problem situation.
    (c)  To hit upon hypotheses.
    (d)  To elaborate a conclusion.
    (e)  To test by action.
They have many-sided interests and do not avoid mistakes and try to make sure of anything through their own eyes.



(3)  Joy of living together.
In traditional Japanese schools social development tends to be seen as adjusting attitudes or accommodating oneself to society and its institutions.

Our free children are aware of themselves as independent individuals, assert themselves clearly and enjoy living with other people.

After twenty years there are now (in 2013) nine schools based on Kinokuni principles, four primary, four junior high and one senior high.







#1 Chris Holmes 2018-07-19 07:58
As a former teacher at Summerhill, and also an admirer of John and Morag Aitekenhead's Kilquhanity house school, I am pleased that Japanese educators are taking such in interest in the work of these pioneers. I understand that there are hopes to repoen Kilquhanity House School, and look forward to hearing news of progress.

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