At both prefectural and national levels, Japan is promoting environmental education through government mandates and innovative programs. Japan's national policy seeks to promote environmental conservation activities through environmental education and civic engagement. It also provides enriching training programs to assist teachers in developing curriculum, learning new teaching strategies, and testing innovative pedagogical approaches. A national registry of environmental education experts also provides sustainability resources for the public and opportunities for peer learning among researchers, practitioners, and curriculum developers. Japan’s Ministry of Environment is continuing to promote international cooperation through bilateral policy dialogues, increase inter-agency coordination to streamline programs in environmental education and sustainable development, and disseminate environmental education through research, capacity building, outreach, and practice.
Policy & Practice
The Act for Enhancing Motivation on Environmental Conservation and Promoting of Environmental Education of 2003 was amended in June 2011, with the embedding of the principles of ESD. It came into full force in October 2012 as the Act on the Promotion of Environmental Conservation Activities through Environmental Education. The purpose(s) of the legislation at the local/grassroots level are: 1) To promote EE through voluntary efforts within the public and private sectors and civil society. 2) To stipulate “the promotion of EE at home, in school, in the workplace and in the community (i.e., in formal & non-formal settings ) geared toward the improvement of citizens understanding of environmental conservation. 3) Enrich training programmes for teachers (including hands on approaches to EE), and development of teaching materials and information service” (MoEJ, 2013).
EE in K-12 Education
The Junior Eco Club was launched in 1995 by the Ministry of the Environment. It aim is to raise awareness of elementary and junior high school students, supporting their environmental conservation activities and promoting various extra-curricular “green” activities. Comprised of between 3-20 members, they can receive the “Earth Ranger” certificate after one year of participation. The Japan Environment Association serves as the national secretariat, with a working group that includes Ministry of the Environment personnel, environmental educators and officials from local government. Eco Clubs also receive support from “Coordinators” – in charge of the Eco-club activities at the local government level; “Supporters” – who supervise the voluntary activities of the children; and a “Supporting Group” – a registry of voluntary experts who can support through facilitation of field activities and give advice in response to request from the clubs. Junior Eco Club fosters peer learning through exchange of information among clubs through the National Secretariat called “Ecological Communication”
The Environmental Counselor Project is a national registry of individuals to provide advice/ counselling and instruction for environmental conservation activities, based on their experience and knowledge, to civilians and entrepreneurs who wish to undertake environmental preservation activities. They also provide information through the web and compile reports of their activities.
EE in the National Government
Looking forward, the strategy of the Ministry of Environment Japan is two-fold: Policy and linking non-governmental organizations (NGOs)/civil society organizations (CSOs). Through policy, they will promote international cooperation with the UN and other education programs and policy processes (United Nations University Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability (UNU-IAS), Regional Centers for Expertise (RCE) & ProSPER.Net (Promotion of Sustainability in Postgraduate Education and Research), the Global Environmental Education Partnership (GEEP), and bilateral policy dialogues. They will also increase interagency coordination to streamline EE/ESD programs. Specifically, the Environmental Partnership Offices will promote EE policy in the local areas, 11 ministries will coordinate on the National Implementation Plan on ESD (2015-2019). The Ministry of Environment Japan (MoEJ), Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Japan (MEXT), Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries (MAFF), Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry (METI), and Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism (MLIT) will work together on the promotion of environmental conservation activities through environmental education. Secondly, the Ministry of Environment Japan will work in NGOs and CSOs by disseminating EE through teaching (organizing seminars, develop and publish textbooks and research), research (increase capacity and outreach through the Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES)), and practice (implementing EE/ESD by Regional Centers of Expertise (RCEs) and other NGOs/NPOs).
At the state level, the Environment Ministry, in cooperation with the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Japan (MEXT) WILL seek public input and draft policy to promote EE. They will seek to implement measures to encourage willingness for conservation activities and EE in cooperation with local governments.
The Eco-Picture Diary Environmental Education Project (EDEEP) was developed and introduced by Recycle Design, a Yokohama-based civil society organization, to inform students, their family members, and other citizens about particular socio-environmental issues and strategies in Yokohama City, Japa