Date of this Version

December 2004

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Details

Masako Gavin (2004) Abe Isô (1865-1949) and his views on education

Preprint version

Copyright © Masako Gavin, 2004.



Many intellectuals in the late Meiji period were dissatisfied with the trend at that time towards state-oriented education. They hoped for a ‘spiritual revolution’ that would go beyond institutional change and would reform basic habits of thought and reshape patterns of behaviour.1 Abe Isô, one of the most eminent intellectuals of the day, believed in a liberal approach to education and opposed the trend towards state-oriented education and the egocentric approach that superceded it. This paper studies his views on education, and in particular his response to tokuiku (the national moral teaching).

Firstly, this paper discusses Abe’s criticism of the trend towards state-oriented education, its conventional, authoritarian method of teaching morality, which he argued, failed to inspire students to serve the community and which exercised considerable ideological control. Secondly, it presents an overview of Abe’s thoughts on education, central to which was his belief that spiritual independence was only possible through a liberal approach to education. Finally, this paper studies his recommendations for rectifying perceived flaws in the existing educational system. It will be clear from this analysis that Abe hoped that educational reform would result in a positive transformation of society.



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