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About 13 percent of parents in Tokyo’s Shinagawa Ward have decided to send their children to schools outside of their conventional districts next year under a unique system that starts in April, officials said Monday. Under the system, the first of its kind in the country, children scheduled to attend public elementary schools in the area will be able to go to any school within a bloc of eight to 12 schools, as opposed to a single school appointed by the Shinagawa Board of Education. The ward has 40 schools that are divided into four blocs. As of the end of November, Oi Daiichi Elementary School, the biggest in the ward with 608 children, expects half of its enrollment in 2000 to come from outside its district. However, Yashio Kita Elementary School, which is in the same bloc, saw its expected enrollment of 25 students drop to 13, as 12 students are expected to choose other schools in the district. Oi Daiichi, which has a reputation of sending many children to exclusive private junior high schools, expects new entrants to number 107, with 48 coming from outside its district. At most schools, outflow exceeded inflow, and only a few see an increase in new students. A board of education official said the turnout was expected. He also commented on the situation at Oi Daiichi. “It is not true that (Oi Daiichi) has special lessons for junior high entrance exams, so we don’t think the new school system will intensify the entrance exam competition,” the official said. Shinagawa Ward’s innovative school-choice program is part of educational reform measures being proposed by the government to raise and broaden educational standards and curricula at public schools. Last year, the Central Council on Education recommended making the public school district system more flexible.

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