International Perspectives on Family Life Education
As Family Life Education (FLE) continues to evolve and expand throughout the United States, interest in this approach to strengthening and supporting families is also growing worldwide. In March 2018, two longtime NCFR members—Ayako Kuramoto, Ph.D. (2nd from right in photo), professor in the Department of Human Sciences at Seinan Gakuin University, and Kinuyo Kurokawa, M.A. (2nd from left), professor at the Naruto University of Education—traveled from Japan to Minneapolis to get a firsthand perspective. In addition to visiting the NCFR office to talk briefly about the Certified Family Life Educator (CFLE) credential, they met with representatives of the University of Minnesota to learn about the parent education license and attended the Minnesota Association for the Education of Young Children conference.
Following her visit to Minneapolis, Dr. Kuramoto, one of the key players behind the effort to advance Family Life Education in Japan, invited me to speak at a full-day International Symposium on Family Life Education. This symposium, held at Jissen Women’s University in Tokyo in December 2018, represented another step forward in advancing Family Life Education in that country. I had the honor and privilege to be one of four presenters to share information on this topic from our respective countries (United States, South Korea, Taiwan, and Japan).
Keiko Takahashi, Ph.D., professor of human life sciences at Jissen Women’s University, and a committee that included Hiromi Gocho, Ph.D., past-president of the Japan Society of Home Economics, organized the symposium. This planning team was interested in learning about the development and implementation of Family Life Education from other countries to determine best measures in advancing the practice in Japan. Presenters were asked to share information about the history of Family Life Education in their country, content, implementation, challenges, and recommendations for Japan.
Jo-lin Chen, Ph.D., managing director of the Taiwan Council on Family Life Education and associate professor of child and family studies at Fu Jen Catholic University, shared a brief history of Family Life Education in Taiwan, which included the passing of the Family Education Act in 2003. The Ministry of Education and a Family Education Advisory Committee are responsible for the formulation of laws, regulations, and policies pertaining to Family Life Education; research and development on their implementation and promotion; and the planning, delegation, supervision, and evaluation of national family programs. Additionally, these bodies coordinate identified qualifications and training methods for Family Life Education specialists. In Taiwan, this practice is promoted within the government, the business community, schools, and the media.
Challenges in Taiwan include the need for a sufficiently trained labor force, funding, various definitions of family, and social challenges—including single parenthood, intergenerational culture, international marriage, and family violence.
The content of Family Life Education within Taiwan includes education about marriage, parenting education, gender, multicultural and intergenerational issues, filial duty, ethics, family relations, and family resources and management. There is a special focus on children with one parent and those who are orphaned.
Family Life Education challenges in Taiwan include the need for a sufficiently trained labor force, funding, various definitions of family, and social challenges—including single parenthood, intergenerational culture, international marriage, and family violence.
Dr. Chen’s suggestions for Japan included legislation of Family Life Education, establishment of a system that integrates this practice into local institutions including the business community and schools, university curricula that supports the training of Family Life Educators, and government investment.
Heekeum Cho, Ph.D., professor at Daegu University in South Korea, 2018 president of the Korean Home Economic Association, discussed the Healthy Family Framework Act, described as a “basic law of family policy,” which was enacted in 2003 and has been enforced since 2005. The act resulted from a demand among home economists for research and education focused on family life issues including rapid changes in family and society (declining birth rate, growing elderly population, increase of two-earner families, change in the value of marriage and children, increasing divorce rate, and an increasing number of multicultural families). Additionally, the idea of universal welfare for ordinary families is emerging. The vision behind the act included health, home, healthy society, and construction of welfare state. There were five major directions for the effort: strengthening of family functions, potential development of the family, cultural development of family and community, response to various family needs, and integration of family and society. Initially the act was proposed as the Framework Act of Family Welfare but was later changed to the Healthy Family Framework Act.
The general provisions of the Healthy Family Framework Act are the citizens’ right to maintain their family’s health with the support of the government and the simultaneous responsibility of the citizens and government to instill family values, promote marriage and childbirth, and prevent family dissolution. Goals of the act include improvement of the family as a unit; improvement of family relationships and gender equality; prevention of divorce and support to the divorced family; and healthy family education, including premarriage education, parent education, family ethics education, and the realization of family values.
The act includes provisions regarding qualifications of service providers, but there are multiple positions and supporting agencies, including the Ministry of Women and Family, the Korean Home Economics Association, and the Citizens’ Association of Healthy Families. Private qualifications certified by family-related academic associations (e.g., Korean Association of Family Relations) include the family worker, family counselor, and family manager. Dr. Cho emphasized the triangle of politics (human power, idea, and policy) and the efforts of various individuals to make this idea real through policy.
NCFR member Dr. Kuramoto was the speaker representing Japan. In her presentation she discussed issues identified as concerns in Japan, including child abuse, poverty, gender inequality, karoshi (death by working long hours), changing family structure, increasing double-income households, division of labor, and gender disparity in housework and child care.
In addition to resolving family problems, the promotion of Family Life Education is considered a way to improve the social contribution of home economics and the status of home economists. The identified content reflects traditional home economics subjects, such as family relations, child rearing, family resource management, clothing, design, and nutrition, as well as other approaches—the body-of-knowledge model, the family ecosystem model, and the NCFR’s 2011 Framework for Life Span Family Life Education have all influenced Japan’s approach.
Dr. Kuramoto discussed issues identified as concerns in Japan, including child abuse, poverty, gender inequality, [and] karoshi (death by working long hours).
Qualifications for the position of Family Life Advisor were presented by the Division of Home Economics Education in 2010. In 2016 the seminar “Summary and the Challenges of the Activities for Establishing the FLE System” was presented by the Division of Home Economic Education with a goal of “developing consensus and new qualifications for the social contribution of home economics.” In 2017 the Japan Society of Home Economics began creation of the Family Life Advisor qualification.
Challenges include creating a training program for Family Life Advisers; program development, including evaluation of medium- and long-term programs based on theory; cooperation and collaboration needed within home economics and other fields; and workforce settings.
My presentation regarding Family Life Education (FLE) in the U.S. began with the village story that is often used as an analogy for working upstream. I reviewed the principles identified in the figure created by myself and Carol A. Darling, Ph.D., CFLE, titled Foundations of Family Life Education Model: FLE is preventive, educational, strengths based, and research and theory based. A brief overview of the 10 FLE content areas was followed by a discussion regarding employment settings. Additionally, I provided a brief history of Family Life Education and an overview of the CFLE program, including information on obtaining and maintaining certification. I wrapped up my presentation with discussion of the challenges (lack of identity as a discipline, unstable funding for FLE programs and agencies, and the diversity of settings in which FLE takes place) and strategies for growth (promote and support standards of practice, educate employers and the public, incorporate FLE into intervention settings, increase recognition of Family Life Educators as providers in legislation, increase and stabilize funding for evidence-based and informed prevention programs, and promote and normalize FLE through the media. My recommendation to Japan focused on the need to strike a balance of the need to establish meaningful standards of practice and a reasonable and obtainable method by which to award certification.
Family Life Education in the U.S. is preventive, educational, strengths based, and research and theory based.
While the history, content, philosophy behind, and implementation of Family Life Education in each highlighted country varied, it was clear that there were more similarities than differences. In addition to presenting with the amazing women from Taiwan, Korea, and Japan, I had opportunities to meet with representatives of agencies and academic institutions from throughout Japan. I was struck by the grace and passion the participants and presenters showed regarding the value of family and the important role that Family Life Education can play in strengthening individuals, families, and society. It was very rewarding to have the opportunity to collaborate and learn from these wonderful family professionals.