The Tokyo metropolitan education board has tentatively decided to adopt a contentious history textbook penned by nationalist historians for use in public schools for disabled children beginning next April, sources close to the board said Tuesday.

The board’s decision will make 24 junior high schools for physically and mentally disabled children the first public schools to use the textbook, although some privately run schools have already decided to use the text.

Critics of the textbook say the board’s decision may have been influenced by Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara, who has expressed support for the scholars who compiled the book.

Civic groups have also charged that the board of education is close to the textbook group because Ishihara, known for his hawkish views on relations with Japan’s Asian neighbors, has supported its activities.

The Fuso Publishing Co. textbook, compiled by members of the Japanese Society for History Textbook Reform, has sparked outrage in South Korea and China for allegedly glossing over Japanese aggression in Asia before and during World War II.

The sources said the metropolitan board decided to adopt Fuso’s textbooks on history and civic studies for the 24 schools following a majority vote at a closed meeting Thursday. The schools have a total of 980 students.

Local authorities are allowed to decide which textbooks to use in public schools. The books must be chosen by Aug. 15.

The metropolitan board of education is responsible for selecting textbooks for 45 schools run by the metropolitan government for physically and mentally disabled children, while boards in wards, cities, towns and villages in Tokyo independently choose textbooks for municipal schools.

The metro board has scheduled another vote early this month to select books for deaf and physically disabled junior high students, while other textbooks have been chosen for blind students as Fuso does not market a Braille version of its textbooks.

Since the education ministry on April 3 approved history textbooks for use from next spring at junior high schools, Seoul and Beijing have demanded revisions, mainly to Fuso’s textbook. But Japan has effectively dismissed the demands.

Many local education authorities in Japan are rejecting Fuso’s textbook, citing its “difficult language” and technical reasons, while a handful of private schools have chosen the textbook.

The Tokyo board of education will make a final decision in a meeting early this month.

In the selection of textbooks for use at public schools in Tokyo, the opinions of teachers at each school have traditionally been considered when decisions are made at municipal boards of education at local towns and cities.

However, the metropolitan board issued a notice in February telling members of municipal education boards to decide on the textbooks using their own judgment, and recommending they scrap the tradition of heeding the opinions of teachers.

In the notice, the metropolitan board, touching on history textbooks for use at junior high schools, also urged the municipalities to select textbooks “that best reflect the (education ministry guidelines) to deepen (learners’) affection toward the history of our country and raise their awareness as Japanese people.”

The authors of the contentious textbook argue that many current textbooks in use at schools are self-denigrating, overstating Japan’s role as an aggressor.

They claim that such textbooks are adopted because the opinions of teachers are respected and are urging that education boards — not teachers — take the lead in the selection of textbooks.

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