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The Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry on Tuesday released the results of its screening of textbooks for use in junior high schools from next April.

The following are some questions and answers about how Japan’s textbook screening procedure works.

When and how did the current textbook screening system begin?

In the early 20th century, when Japan was pursuing an expansionist policy to gain colonial possessions, the government compiled elementary school textbooks to unify how people thought.

At the time, only elementary school education was compulsory in Japan.

In 1947, after the end of World War II and under the Allied Occupation, the government enacted the School Education Law, which allows elementary schools, junior high schools and high schools to use textbooks compiled by nongovernmental publishers.

At the same time, the law also stipulates that all textbooks must be authorized by the education ministry to maintain academic standards.

How are textbooks screened?

Publishers first submit draft versions of their textbooks to the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry. Ministry officials who specialize in textbook screening then check to see whether the books meet government-set standards for textbooks.

The standards are the academic guidelines, which stipulate what students should be taught during each school year, and the Criteria for Authorization of Textbooks, a list of various conditions, including the scope and accuracy of the content and fairness in descriptions of political or religious issues.

After this, the government’s Textbook Authorization Research Council, which is comprised of scholars and schoolteachers, checks the results of this screening.

If the council finds the textbooks do not meet the criteria, it points out erroneous, unbalanced or inappropriate descriptions and orders publishers to amend them. While publishers can rebut the council’s views, the textbooks will not be authorized unless they receive council approval.

How often are textbooks screened?

All textbooks are screened every four years, or the amount of time it roughly takes from the start of a textbook’s compilation to its distribution. The timetable for when to screen textbooks for each level of education — elementary school, junior high school or high school — has been set by the ministry.

Publishers can correct typos and update data and other information in any textbook after it receives ministry approval.

Do any other countries use a similar screening system?

Some countries, including Germany and Norway, have a screening system for textbooks used in their elementary and secondary schools.

Other nations, including China and South Korea, have government-compiled textbooks in addition to those compiled by private companies and screened by the government.

Others, including Australia, Canada, France and the United States, have no textbook screening system, and publishers can compile textbooks freely. To maintain academic standards, those countries often have students take examinations for graduation or promotion to a higher grade.

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