New high school draft curriculum avoids islets row

Kyodo News

A draft revision of the education ministry’s curriculum guidelines for high schools released Monday does not specifically mention the Takeshima islets disputed with South Korea.

This follows the tussle between Tokyo and Seoul earlier this year over a reference to the territory in a similar document for junior high schools.

The draft covering high school geography classes remains unchanged from the current document in terms of guiding teachers to “touch on Japan’s territorial issues” but without giving specific examples of such problems.

The South Korean-controlled rocky islets in the Sea of Japan, which are called Takeshima in Japan and Dokdo in South Korea and include numerous reefs covering a total area of 210,000 sq. meters, have long been a source of dispute between the two countries.

In July, the government decided to refer to the uninhabited Takeshima islets in a nonbinding teaching guideline for junior high schools, marking the first time such an educational document has mentioned the territory.

The document will supplement the new educational guidelines for social studies at junior high schools from the 2012 school year, according to the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry.

Meanwhile, the revised high school curriculum guidelines also call for English classes to be taught primarily in English and stipulate that the number of English words to be taught during junior high school and high school will be increased to about 3,000 from the current 2,200.

The draft seeks provisions that enable students to review the contents of compulsory education, which cover elementary and junior high school years, in light of the diversification among students who go on to attend high school, owing to a 98 percent advancement rate.

The ministry gave up on an earlier plan to make Japanese history compulsory in the geography and history section, while keeping world history as a compulsory class.

According to the draft, high school students are required to earn at least 74 units for graduation — the same as in the current guidelines — while schools are asked to come up with moral education programs in response to a recent revision of the basic education law.

The new high school guidelines, scheduled to be finalized for announcement in February or March, will take effect for students entering high school in the academic year which begins in April 2012 for mathematics and science, and for those admitted for the 2013-2014 academic year for other subjects, according to ministry officials.

The ministry’s curriculum guidelines, first proposed in 1947 and revised roughly every 10 years, indicate the minimum standards of course content which schools are required to teach students.