Report from the IAEVG International Conference, Japan - Blog - University of Derby

Report from the IAEVG International Conference, Japan

By Jane Artess, Principle Research Fellow, International Centre for Guidance Studies

I recently attended the IAEVG (International Association for Educational and Vocational Guidance) conference in Japan. The conference was entitled Restructuring Careers Over Unexpected Powerful Forces and the ‘unexpected powerful forces’ part of the title relates to the recent earthquake and nuclear accident which is still uppermost in the Japanese collective mind.

The broad themes of the conference which spawned 250 papers/sessions were:

  • Delivery systems for lifelong career guidance for all.
  • Career counselling approaches to empower people.
  • Public policy for diversity.
  • Pathways that lead individuals to construct career and life.
  • Addressing the needs of those who are: socially isolated; NEETS; and unemployed.
  • Assessment, measurement and evaluation.
  • Preparation and training for career teachers and practitioners.

I was very impressed with Japan. It seems to be highly organised and yet strangely calm, if at times a bit inflexible. For example, the state-owned railway is very punctual, trains are spotless, stations have no litter (or litter bins as it seems everyone takes their litter home) and sport minor works of art where you might expect advertising hoardings to be.

Similarly, airport buses run to time, bags are checked in to the hold by handlers who issue tickets and bow as the bus leaves the bus stop.

In the conference the workshop session-timing was tracked by pairs of university students managed by a conference organiser, who would ‘ting’ a bell ten minutes before the end, then again two minutes before the end and yet again at the end (!) if the session looked likely to run over time.  In our workshop, it was suggested by our (Canadian) chair-person that as there were lots of questions remaining, that those who wished could stay on into the lunch hour … this did not go down at all well with the Japanese organiser, who gestured everyone out of the room at the end of the session and the students appeared to be quite anxious about being responsible for the session running over its allotted time, even though there was no likelihood of interfering with the next session.

People in Japan appear to be very polite; people do bow in shops and cafes as well as more formal occasions. I popped into a coffee shop in Tokyo and on paying the bill was bowed to and the door held for me as I left – leaving me thinking that our local Costa could really up its game.

There seems to be some silent consensus about how to behave which seeps into everyone. I did not see any children having tantrums, teenagers throwing cans or anyone smoking in the street – but I did see lots of people jogging and riding bicycles.

Hospitality appears to be taken very seriously; for example, international visitors to the Sky Tree are fast-tracked past hundreds of queuing locals, and as a bewildered traveller at the airport, I was approached several times by staff asking if I needed help. Taxi seats are clothed in lace and crisp cotton and drivers bow as they drag your case to the curb side. A beautiful origami bird greeted my first night at the hotel.‌

While I was in Japan I was lucky enough to visit Takezono-Higashi junior high school. Here we were shown around classes in Music, PE, Maths, Japanese etc. Pupils keen to practice their English were involved in presenting to us on the ‘Tsukuba Style’, a student-led peace project which includes a field trip to Hiroshima and a Lantern Art project.

I saw a lot of engaged faces and interaction with teachers.  I also saw several children wearing masks over their nose/mouth and was told this was to prevent the spread of germs when one has a cold, but is also used by shy pupils as a way of covering their face.

I noticed that the school took every opportunity to prompt learning – even using staircases to explain colloquialisms in English.  

One thing I wish I had taken a photograph of was the orderly rows of matching trainers that had been left along the back wall of the hall in this huge music lesson.

Even on trains available space was used for learning. The photograph below shows A1 sized posters hanging from the ceiling on a train.  When I first noticed these I thought they were advertising but on a closer look, you can see they are educational posters aimed at children – the one in the foreground being about Hiroshima.

I was left wondering how long these would stay in place on the Bakerloo or Northern lines, and wondered whatever happened to the ‘science in the underground’ project – does anyone remember that? (

Japan is such a long way from the UK you could be forgiven for asking, was it worth it? I would say it was. I felt I learned a lot about career development and guidance, about theoretical differences between the West and the East, and some of my assumptions were challenged and refreshed but most of all, I learned about cultures by watching and listening to others. Conference participants were from all over the world and Asian countries were particularly well-represented.  In the session I contributed to we counted delegates from Japan, Thailand, Finland, Sweden, Singapore, Germany Ireland, USA, South Africa, India, Canada, Pakistan, UK … and more… I now have a wodge of business cards I promised to follow up, a paper to write with my co-presenters, a growing desire to write something comparative about career education and guidance in Japan and the UK, and a new batch of LinkedIn friends.  Yes it was worth it.    Would I go again? …in the words of an aspirant prime minister “Hell yes!”

The Next IAEVG international conference is to be held on 15th – 18th November 2016, in Madrid. For further information contact