A number of education boards began preparatory classes Saturday out of concern that children’s education may suffer as a result of the introduction of the five-day school week later this month.

“Saturday school” classes started in some areas, including Tokyo’s Taito Ward, Noda city in Chiba Prefecture and Fukaya city in Saitama Prefecture.

The schools are designed for students who want help in their studies or with their regular class work. Attendance is not mandatory.

The Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry introduced the five-day week at the beginning of April in an effort to reduce academic pressure on students and so that they can have more free time for other activities.

Some people are concerned that Saturday schools will make the five-day week meaningless.

In Noda city, all elementary schools are offering smaller supplementary classes for arithmetic on Saturdays. More than 40 percent of pupils have registered for the courses, the education board said. Sports and traditional arts classes are also being held in the city.

“We want to provide various choices for children on how to spend Saturdays,” said an education board official.

Fukaya city is also providing elementary school classes on Saturdays in which volunteer teaching staff can help pupils with Japanese and arithmetic. The city also plans to introduce Saturday classes at junior high schools in May.

In Tokyo’s Taito Ward, the teaching staff includes university students who teach English, math and Japanese to junior high school students at various levels.

About 75 percent of the 340 students at Asakusa Junior High School in the ward said they want to register, more than double the number the school had expected.

The school has hired more university students as teaching staff to cover the shortfall.

“I cannot have a day off Saturday because I am preparing for an entrance exam. I cannot study at home, but I can do so with other students together at school,” said a male junior high school student.

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