Nissan Seminar: Education, Equality, and Meritocracy in a Global Age: The Japanese Approach

Convener(s): Professor Hugh Whittaker, Dr Natalia Doan and Dr Giulio Pugliese

Speaker(s): Professor Takehiko Kariya, University of Oxford, and Dr. Jeremy Rappleye, Kyoto University

This year’s Nissan Seminar will be held online.  Please click on the seminar title to register in advance and receive the meeting details.

Education, Equality, and Meritocracy in a Global Age: The Japanese Approach


How has schooling functioned in the construction of meritocratic national systems historically? To what extent will these historical patterns and normative commitments continue in the new era of a global meritocracy? How can educators effectively balance the inherent tension between individual merit and standardized quality? Our new book explores these questions by focusing on the Japanese model, one of the most equitable and meritocratic systems in the world. Looking at Japan’s educational history and policy shifts, we investigate and argue how the Japanese experience can provide a more rigorous discussion of meritocracy, equality, and education.


Takehiko Kariya is Professor in the Sociology of Japanese Society at the Nissan Institute of Japanese Studies and the Department of Sociology at University of Oxford. His main areas of research are in sociology of education, social stratification, school-to-work transition, educational and social policies, and social changes in postwar Japan. His recent publications include Education Reform and Social Class in Japan (Routledge, 2013), and Who Killed Japan’s Modernity? What Comes After ‘Catch-up’ (in Japanese, Iwanami, 2019)

Jeremy Rappleye is Associate Professor at Kyoto University, Graduate School of Education. He graduated from Oxford, Department of Education (MSc/DPhil.). His main research field is educational studies, with a particular emphasis on Japanese education, viewed in comparative perspective (comparative education). His recent publications include Comparative Education as Cultural Critique (Comparative Education, 2020) and – more specific to Japan – ‘Borrowings, Modernity, and De-Axialization: rethinking the educational research agenda on Japan for a Global Age’, in A. Yonezawa, Y. Kitamura, B. Yamamoto, T. Tokunaga (eds.) Education in Japan in a Global Age (Springer, 2018).