Curriculum Research Center

Outline of Research and Programs

The work of the Curriculum Research Center encompasses (1) surveys and research on basic issues surrounding curricular policies and programs in primary and secondary education, (2) liaison and research projects with research institutes, universities, and other bodies within Japan, and (3) provision of assistance and advice on primary and secondary curricular issues to Japanese educational institutions and educators.
    More specifically, the Center implements the National Assessment of Academic Ability in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), research on the curriculum, surveys on specific issues, the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) survey, research and development of evaluation standards and methods, designated experimental school and region-specific projects, projects on the compilation of instruction materials and case study collections, and support for development of the curriculum and teaching methods for boards of education, schools, and educators.

 National Assessment of Academic Ability

Conducted by MEXT with the support of municipal boards of education, school corporations, and other bodies and oriented to the maintenance and enhancement of equality of opportunity in compulsory education, the National Assessment of Academic Ability seeks to ascertain and analyze the academic abilities and learning patterns of schoolchildren throughout Japan and to investigate the outcomes of educational policies and programs, identify issues requiring attention, and achieve improvements therein. The assessment tests abilities in Japanese and mathematics among sixth-year elementary school students and third-year lower secondary school students. The Center is responsible for producing the questions and explanatory materials used in the tests, and for analyzing and reporting on the results.

 Comprehensive Surveys and Research on the Curriculum

The Center conducts the following studies in order to develop a comprehensive understanding of the academic abilities of schoolchildren under the national Courses of Study and to apply that understanding to achieve improvements in teaching practice.

  1. Research on the Curriculum
    Targeting specific categories of schoolchildren, this research seeks to comprehend the degree to which the objectives and content of the Courses of Study are being realized in different subject areas, and to contribute to improvements in curricular standards and teaching.

  2. Research on Specific Issues
    Matters that cannot be comprehended within the framework of Research on the Curriculum are addressed through research on specific categories of schoolchildren conducted via paper-based tests as well as practical and computer-based testing methods.

 Designated Experimental School Projects

The Center identifies themes of particularly high importance and conducts practical research in designated schools and regions in order to obtain materials needed to upgrade curricular standards and to ensure that curricular programs based on the Courses of Study are implemented smoothly.

 Research and Development on Evaluation Standards and Methods

The Center is pursuing research and development on standards and methods for use in objective evaluation of the degree to which the goals and content of the Courses of Study are being realized in different subject areas by schoolchildren in practice. Reference materials for use in determining evaluation standards were published in February 2002 for elementary and lower secondary schools, and in March 2004 for upper secondary schools.

 Production of Teaching Materials and Collections of Case Studies

The Center also produces teaching materials and collections of practical case studies on particularly important issues and contemporary issues, designed for use by schools in the course of improving their teaching programs.

 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS 2007)

Japan participates in the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) survey conducted by the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA). NIER is in charge of implementing the survey, which covers attainment standards and educational conditions in mathematics and science for schoolchildren aged 10 and 14. The survey is conducted every four years and, following on from 1995, 1999, and 2003, is being conducted in 2007 in some 60 different countries and regions worldwide. In Japan, the survey was implemented in March 2007, targeting fourth-year elementary and second-year lower secondary school students, with 150 schools and around 6,000 students selected at random from throughout the country. The results yielded every four years enable changes in schoolchildren's academic ability in mathematics and science to be identified. Information on survey results from other countries is also collected, and materials for use in future curricular amendments are produced. In fiscal 2007, which is the third year of the four-year program cycle concluding in fiscal 2008, the Center will mark responses to open-ended test questions in mathematics and science and input data thereon.

Project Research

Comprehensive Study on Career Education in Schools-Curricular Approaches to Cultivating Qualities and Abilities Needed for Social Independence among Schoolchildren Leader: MIYAKE Masao
Period: FY 2007-FY 2009
< Outline >

  Conducted over a three-year term beginning in the current fiscal year, this study explores strategies for establishing and expanding career education programs in schools, with the aim of identifying approaches to curricular development to cultivate qualities and abilities needed for social independence among schoolchildren, such as occupational and work-related outlooks, capacity for career design (future planning), self-affirmation, and communicative abilities.
  The research report on Advancing Education to Cultivate Occupational and Work-related Outlooks in Schoolchildren produced by NIER's Guidance and Counseling Research Center in 2002 is already in widespread use, and the section on "frameworks for study programs to cultivate occupational and work-related outlooks (examples)" has proved a particularly important reference for schools and local centers pursuing more advanced and refined programs of research and verification.
  Grounded in the findings from of research, and analysis of career education programs in countries other than Japan, the present research project involves evaluating the outcomes of career education as practiced in schools to date, verifying the educational significance of career education, and exploring models for instructional materials and teaching methods to support curricular development of career education in schools.

Research report