59. Recent circumstances of education in Japan

Shoji Sugita
The "Five-school days a week" system in public schools started April, 2002 in Japan. I will explain
about it at first and then describe some other recent problems on education in Japan.
TThe "Five-schooldays a week" system
"Five schooldays a week" system is popular in the U.S. and European countries. However, in Japan
Saturdays have been schooldays for a long period of time. Since April 1992, a Saturday a month has
become holiday and in April 1995, two Saturdays a month became holidays in public schools.
Recently, the School Education Law was revised and the new system started.
The new system by the Law is available in public schools. However, private schools don't need to
observe this, but only are expected to be in line with it.
1. Good points of the new system
● Students will be able to get more natural, social experiences.
● It makes students work as youth volunteeres, nursing assistants in elderly houses , cleaning,
  recycling activities and so forth.
● Experiences of art and culture for students will be more available.
● Spending time with their families, particulary with their fathers will be more possible.
● Local governments will create the new planning for students. For instance, in Saturday schools
  children will receive special lessons of English conversation, Math, computers and some other
  interesting subjects by volunteer university students, graduate students and so forth.
● Public zoos and science pavillions may have free entrance for children on Saturdays. 
2. Weak points of the new system
● Scholastic attainments of students might decrease. A lot of parents are anxious. For instance,
   the recent poll of parents' opinions by the Sankei Press showed that Opposition 61%, Agreement
   28% to the system. That lazy, strolling children in the street and playing in the game centers
   would increase.
● Most of private schools would keep Saturdays as their schooldays at least two days a month.
   Therefore, the level of scholastic attainments of their students will not decrease.
● Most cram schools would start Saturday schools and would teach Math. English, Science
   and some other subjects to the students.
   (Note) Cram schools are popular in Japan now and more than a half of junior high students
     usually attend there two or three days a week after leaving their regular schools. Sometimes
     elemetary school and senior high school students, too. Cram schools are very good business
     and also are very competitive in Japan. However, poor or lasy children don't attend there.

● Most of preschools would start Saturday schools and would teach academic subjects for senior
   high students to keep their good level. However, poor students and the students who participate
   in ivolunteer activities can not attend there.
   (Note) The preschools are popular in Japan now, too. The schools chiefly aim to help graduates
    of senior high students to be successful in their entrance examinations the following year, but
    sometimes they teach senior high students, so the schools are very good business and
● Then, some public junior high and senior high schools might start informal extra classes on
   Saturdays by themselves to keep their academic levels of their students. However, lazy students
   don't attend there, because these are not compulsory. And these might cause "Class collapse"
   in the regular classes.
●  The new system is painful for parents of " Work in double harness", and might cause disorder
   of their children.

Like these, there would be two groups: childre who study hard and do not study, and schools being
successful and not being succeful in the future in Japan.
3. Measures to do with the system
To avoid a decline in grades parents must take advantage of the new system.
● At first, parents have to be conscious of their own resposibilities for their children and have to
   make the most effective ways to spend their Saturdays.
● Public schools have to create the most effective system of learning for their students.
● Local governments have to design effective ways for school children to cooperate with
   communities, volunteer groups and some others. For instance, English conversation classes
   by native-speakers, nursing activities, doll dramas, music concerts, computer classes etc.
   These are to be interesting and useful for them, for if not, they don't like to attend there.
   Therefore, organizations should be stable and have enough budgets to insure the device.
● Private schools will be expected to keep high levels of scholastic attainments and be competitive
   with each other and with public schools.

These are real meaning of the new system and make Japan more healthy and better in the future.
U Civilian principals of public schools
Previously, principals of public schools had to get an advanced-class or first-class certificate of
teaching and have experiences of more than five-years teaching ( at elementary, junior high, senior
high, universities, juvenile reformatory and some others).
And as for the principal of private schools, they don't need these certificates, but need to get the
required teaching experiences.

However, last year, the School Education Law was revised and the principal of public school doen't
now need a teaching certificate or teaching experience. The prefectural board of education
had to recognize a civilian to be a principal. They became the first so-called civilian principal in a
public school in Japan.

Now, there are few civilian principals in Japan, in the prefecturals of Tokyo, Hiroshima, Saitama and
some others. In the future, the number of them will increase gradually, and they will be expected to
exchange the advantages of them to the professional principals each other.
V Junior high students' losing interest in Math and Science
According to "International Mathematics and the Science Education Investigation" by The
International Educational Attainment Level Evaluation Academy (IEA),1999, Japanese Junior High
 ● Math........ Rank 5th in 38 countries      ● Science ........Rank 4th in 38countries

And also, according to The PISA Investigation of OECD, attainment of Japanese junior high students
was in a high rank.

However, the number of junior high students who say, " I don't like Math and Science" is increasing.
● And also, the number of " I want to work in the area of science or technology " is decreasing.
   For instance, in Year 1995, 53%, but in Year 1999, going down to 38%

Therefore, we have to change the ways to let the students enjoy more practical experiments in any
(Source) Education, Science White Page,2001
 Described April 30, 2002