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Let’s discuss changes to education in Japan

This week’s featured article

MIZUHO AOKI, THE JAPAN TIMES

The education ministry will lay out new school curriculum guidelines that for the first time urge elementary and junior high schools to teach students that the disputed Senkaku Islands and Takeshima islets are “integral parts of Japanese territory,” a draft revision released Tuesday said.

The changes in the legally binding guidelines follow the ministry’s revision of nonbinding manuals for junior high school teachers in 2014 that urged instructors to teach that the two island groups are Japanese territory.

The new guidelines, revised about once every decade, will be fully implemented in elementary schools in the 2020 academic year starting that April and in junior high schools a year later.

The new elementary school guidelines say instructors should teach that both island groups are integral parts of Japan. The junior high school guidelines, meanwhile, urge teachers to instruct students that “no territorial dispute exists over the Senkaku islets,” and that Japan is “making efforts to peacefully resolve” issues over Takeshima and a group of Russian-held islands off Hokkaido that are known as the Northern Territories in Japan and the Southern Kurils in Russia.

Meanwhile, English education in schools will see a major revamp under the new guidelines as the country seeks to bolster the English communication ability of children in an increasingly interlinked world. English will be taught as a regular subject for the first time in elementary school starting from the fifth grade, with the introduction of reading and writing exercises.

The shift will double the annual number of English classroom hours to 70 from the current 35. To squeeze in the extra hours, the ministry’s advisory board suggested extending class hours or holding classes on Saturdays or during the summer vacation period.

Along with these changes, the so-called foreign-language activity classes currently taught only to fifth- and sixth-graders will become mandatory for third- and fourth-graders.

Apart from English, computer programming will also be introduced in elementary schools for the first time.

School curriculum guidelines are revised about every 10 years to review teaching priorities in line with changes and advances in society.

First published in The Japan Times on Feb. 15.

Warm up

One-minute chat about school.

Game

Collect words related to students, e.g., learning, kids, teacher.

New words

1) dispute: to argue or debate, e.g., “The player disputed the result.”

2) integral: necessary for something to be complete, e.g.,”Music is an integral part of my life.”

3) revamp: a complete reorganization or revision, e.g., “The newspaper needs a complete revamp.”

4) bolster: to support or strengthen, e.g., “The police bolstered their case with fresh evidence.”

Guess the headline

N_ _ education ministry g_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ to urge schools to teach that Senkakus and Takeshima belong to Japan

Questions

1) How will education about issues concerning Japanese territory change?

2) From which grade will students start learning English?

3) How often are the curriculum guidelines revised?

Let’s discuss the article

1) What do you think about the change regarding education about the islands?

2) What do you think about the revamp of English education?

3) If you could revise the educational guidelines in Japan, what changes would you make?

Reference

教育は社会を担う次世代にとって絶大な影響を与えるものですが、今回の 改革ではいくつかの大きな変更がされました。このことは日本の社会に とっていったい何を意味するのでしょうか。

子供世代は教えられたことを受け入れやすく、何を教えるかがどのような 国民を作るかに非常に大きく影響してきます。目覚ましく変わっていく社会の中で、私たちは日本の子供たちに何を伝えていけばよいのでしょうか。

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