An Education Ministry panel proposed Friday that elementary and junior high schools scrap relative ranking of students’ academic achievements within a classroom in favor of absolute criteria.

If the Curriculum Council’s proposal is accepted, it would mark the first radical change in Japan’s postwar schooling system.

The proposal was submitted in an interim report on school curricula to Education Minister Tadamori Oshima.

The council’s proposal concerns curriculum guidance records prepared by schools to keep track of students’ academic achievements. These records, which also contain students’ health data, are used to prepare students’ report cards.

The formats of the records are determined by local education boards, based on guidelines set by the the Education Ministry.

For students from the third grade up to those in the seventh, the ministry recommends that teachers stream students within a class or school into five different ranks.

The Curriculum Council says, however, it is becoming increasingly difficult to obtain objective assessments with the system because the size of classrooms is shrinking as the populations grays.

Teachers in rural areas say they cannot give the top grade of 5 to two pupils of equal academic standing within a class of just over 10 students under the relative evaluation system, as there is a fixed limit on the proportion of students to whom the top grade can be awarded.

Besides the ranking of academic achievements, the curriculum guidance records also contain a column for remarks by teachers about a student’s character and attitude.

The council recommended that, in principle, these remarks should be disclosed to the student in line with the government’s plan for increased disclosure of information.

The panel said each local education board should have the final say on whether or not to disclose such information.

The personal remarks by teachers are used extensively by senior high schools as part of their criteria for admission purposes.

Since they are not disclosed to the students, they have been a source of conflict between students and teachers when pupils fail to gain entry to their preferred schools.

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