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Earlier this year, the Education Ministry announced a set of guidelines for public schools that go into effect next April. These changes include reduction of the school week to five days, a 30 percent cut in “academic content” and the development of “general studies,” the gist of which remains vague but that will nevertheless amount to between 70 and 130 hours a year. In addition, the ministry has directed each local board of education to expand “optional” subjects, which have been interpreted as community volunteer activities and the like.

These changes are being referred to as a shift toward yutori (comfortable) learning in the face of increased gakko hokai (classroom breakdown) and a steep rise in truancy, not to mention the age-old bullying problem, which is mostly confined to public schools. The general population’s opinion, however, is that the new guidelines will lead to a lowering of standards and achievement.

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