Breaking away from the nation’s traditionally rigid and formatted educational system, high schools will begin focusing more on nurturing the unique abilities of each student in the coming century, according to the draft of the Education Ministry’s new teaching guidelines, released Monday.

New courses will be designed to help develop a student’s sense of social responsibility in the local and international communities, foster a “lifelong interest in learning” and develop his or her ability to identify and solve problems in a “relaxed academic environment.”

“We want to move in the direction of a more flexible education system that will allow students to pursue subjects that especially interest him,” said Tomoyoshi Endo, senior curriculum specialist in the ministry’s Elementary and Secondary Education Bureau. “This is essential if a student is to deepen his understanding in his field throughout life.”

If implemented, the guidelines would allow students to choose how to fulfill basic course requirements in all areas other than in health and physical education.

For example, students enrolled in a school where English is the only foreign language offered will be presented with a choice between taking “Oral Communication I” or “English I” for their first year.

Students will also be able to choose between taking Math I or the newly designed “math fundamentals” class to fulfill their math requirement.

The courses of study would also allow schools to create their own subjects and classes. Based on a final report by the ministry’s Curriculum Council released in July, the new courses will go into effect in the 2003 academic year, when a five-day school week begins in high schools.

Revised every 10 years, the courses of study set the direction for the nation’s education by instructing teachers on how and what to teach. Textbooks that do not follow courses of study can be rejected by the ministry.

To create a “relaxed environment,” the new courses of study will reduce the mandatory number of credits required for graduation from 80 to 74. The content covered within most classes, however, will remain unchanged, the ministry said.

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