This section is from the book "Arts & Crafts Magazine Vol1-2", by Hutchinson & Company.
AT the conference of teachers in the elementary and secondary schools and technical insti-tutes of the Metropolis, convened by the London County Council, the most interesting proceedings, perhaps, so far as our readers are concerned, were comprised in the morning and afternoon sessions of January 6. On each occasion the big Medical Examination Hall, Victoria Embankment, was filled by a highly interested audience. At the morning session "Art Teaching in Japan" was the topic, and Baron Suyematsu, lately Minister of the Interior in Japan, presided, and Dr. Tadokoro, Adviser to the Depanment of Education in Japan, was also present.
The address of the occasion was delivered by Mr. Edward E. Strange, of the National Art Library, Victoria and Albert Museum. Baron Suyematsu, in introducing him, referred to him as one fully qualified to speak on the subject of the educational system of Japan. On the walls was a collection of Japanese drawings, recently presented to the County Council, and a selection from the National Art Library at South Kensington was also shown. The former, consisting almost wholly of nature studies, had been viewed with special interest as the wonderful work of Japanese school children; but before Mr. Strange had proceeded very far in his address, the admiration with which they had been regarded had greatly diminished, for the lecturer declared that these drawings could not be fairly regarded as examples of the work of the pupils in the schools, that they were not really representative, for they had been "touched up" for exhibition. The shock caused by this announcement was followed up by Mr. Strange's statement that there was no nature study in the primary-schools of Japan. Everything was done from drawn copies. Handling alone was considered, and the children were crammed with a few tricks of technique derived from the old painters - traditions handed down by generations of drawing masters. Most of the drawings in the secondary schools were on the same lines. The fine art of the cultured classes in Japanese painting would soon be lost altogether. The arts of Japan had less dignity and recognition in their own country than we afforded them. The art teacher in Japan was generally looked down upon by his colleagues, and probably, too, by his pupils. He had one companion in his degradation, namely, the Japanese teacher of classics. Japan was equipped with an educational system which was even more thoroughly organised than our own; but in regard to art teaching it was doubtful if the small amount of time given to the lessons in the schools in that country could ever produce sufficient technical skill for a practical application of the art to the general purposes of after-life. The teaching of drawing in Japan was not compulsory in the primary schools, but in the higher schools it became part of the regular course, though the time allotted to it did not exceed two hours per week as a rule. The instruction was given without definite aim or policy, and not in any special relation to the national art, but with a growing desire to imitate European methods of education.