Sex education or propaganda?

The education ministry, under the direction of a Cabinet committee, has once again failed in its duty to educate young people by pursuing its own misguided propaganda. Supplementary material, some 1.3 million copies of which were distributed to high school students in a health class this summer, contained a falsified and misleading chart about the relation between age and ability to have children.

The material was aimed at encouraging female high school students to “lead a healthy life.” However, what the material actually stated was that after the age of 22, a woman’s ability to have children declines precipitously. The chart offered as evidence was taken from foreign researchers. However, the original chart was changed to make it appear that the age of 22 is the peak age for bearing children. To do that, the educational material added a dotted, vertical line not in the original graph and reworked the curve of the graph to give an incorrect representation of the studies’ results.

The research from varied sources in many countries actually shows that there is no specific peak age for childbearing. Rather, there are peak years through the 20s to the early 30s when women tend to be more fecund. Even that research is tentative, because childbearing is highly dependent on social and cultural factors. The average age of marriage, personal decisions on conception delay and accurate reporting on the use of contraception, amongst many other factors, make it extremely difficult to determine a peak age for bearing children.

Despite all this evidence, and these complicating factors, the material distributed in Japanese high schools stated that 22 is the peak age for women to have children. The Cabinet Office committee pushing the material was surely attempting to address the nation’s continued low birthrate. However, the solution to that problem is not to give spurious information to high school students.

The incorrect information is also a serious problem because the education ministry did not give students good examples of solid research, conclusive findings and accurate citations. The chart used in the material was falsified, incorrectly cited and left unexplained. Surely, that is not real scientific education. In short, it seems the material was telling young women what to think and what to do.

Much better would be a program of sexual education based on accurate research with appropriate age-level discussions. Teenagers need to learn the basic essential facts about their bodies and their future potential to have children.

Misinforming teenagers with misappropriated and misleading information is not the way to raise the birthrate in Japan. If the government wants to accomplish this goal, it should provide more child care facilities, ensure companies uphold the right of their employees to take maternity leave and child care leave and still easily return to their jobs, and pressure companies to encourage their employees to go home at a decent hour so they can spend more time with their families.

  • Chandrakant Kulkarni

    In India, a Text Book for high school students quoted: “Since the females are getting more & more jobs nowadays, the unemployment of Men is rapidly increasing”…

  • RedCrane

    An excellent editorial!

    LDP propaganda takes many forms.

    Take NHK for example. After LDP spokespersons began to lament the declining birth rate in Japan, NHK dramas began to prominently feature cute babies and young children. It became impossible to watch TV for any length of time without hearing a baby cry.

  • Ivar

    And one final essential element to increasing the birthrate (probably more important than all the others put together): Ensure free (or at least very cheap) education up to and including university level!

    In a highly developed society like Japan’s, a high educational level is if not necessary, at least a great help when looking for any job other than the night shift at a konbini. If a couple is in any way in doubt as to whether they can secure that for their children, those who do have children at all, will choose to have fewer, often just one, and with the reduction in secure lifetime employment, more people will have those doubts.

    Not to forget that fewer people will marry, as they wait and hope to either meet or become someone among the dwindling numbers of financially secure partners.

    (This is true also for less developed countries, with the significant difference that even the night shift at 7-11 may be a step up.)

  • Cippiri Merlo

    The last paragraph is the only part of this article that makes sense. The rest of it is the usual JT hoax rant about Japanese society/politics with a sensationalist and misleading title

  • Ronald W. Nixon

    What’s wrong with 22? I find that a reasonable age.

  • Paul Johnny Lynn

    If this is true, the authors of the original report should sue the education ministry.

  • Toolonggone

    I wouldn’t be surprised. The MEXT has a history of misinformation stemming from substantially low level of empirical research. Exactly the reason why their English & foreign language education makes little sense.

  • wisteria

    Could you please post a link to the graphs?

  • Cippiri Merlo

    “Falsified” maybe quite a big word to describe some data that were promptly corrected afterword, but still thank you for posting this material