Textbooks used in the nation’s elementary and junior high schools should be edited down to cover only basic and standard issues, an advisory panel to the education minister decided Wednesday.

The decision is in line with a planned 30 percent reduction in the curriculum covered by elementary and junior high schools in the 2002 school year.

The planned reduction includes a cutback in class hours per week and a lower number of minimum credits in compulsory subjects, said officials at the Education Ministry’s Textbook Authorization Research Council.

The new curriculum aims to foster a “willingness to learn” in a “relaxed atmosphere,” by reducing the workload on students in almost all subjects at elementary and junior high schools. The council also moved to simplify its textbook screening process, abolishing screening for simple misprints and misspellings.

The curriculum, revised every 10 years, sets the direction for the nation’s education by instructing teachers on what and how to teach. Textbooks that do not follow the curriculum can be rejected by the ministry during its screening process.

The workload will be cut in almost all courses by one-third, and the plan directs textbook publishers to screen out material that is overly detailed, overlaps with other subject areas or is unrelated to the main text.

Instead, the ministry is emphasizing cultivating the ability to learn and problem-solving skills. Rather than forcing students to cram facts, formulas and techniques into their heads, their studies should stimulate students to think about what they should learn and how, the guidelines say.

Calculation of volume was eliminated from elementary school math, while creation of weather charts was erased from junior high science classes, and quadratic equations were moved up to math classes in higher grades.

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