• Kyodo News


A government panel on education is thinking of trying to abolish the five-day school week by letting public elementary, junior and senior high schools offer classes on Saturdays, according to the final draft of its second report obtained Saturday.

The draft also calls for introducing a system that would let parents and students choose which schools they want to attend and alter their budgets in line with their achievements to bring about distinctive education and attract students.

The new Saturday class and student choice options were drafted as part of the panel’s review of the “education with latitude” policy that was adopted to allow students to develop more of their individual potential, but critics have blamed the policy for causing a decline in academic performance.

The Education Rebuilding Council will hold a joint meeting on Monday to put the finishing touches on the draft report. The report will then be submitted to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in early June.

The panel, which is discussing ways to revitalize Japanese education, also plans to propose a drastic reorganization of national universities and a reduction in the number of freshman they accept, given the intensifying international competition between schools and the nation’s declining birthrates, according to the draft.

After the report is submitted, its contents are expected to be incorporated in the government’s major policy agenda, which will be compiled by the end of next month.

In addition to these policies, the panel plans to propose using both government-censored textbooks and supplementary material to provide moral education in schools, given the panel’s contrasting opinions on textbook choice for the subject.

It also eyes giving special budgetary consideration to “schools with difficulties in providing education” — those facing a breakdown in classroom management.

The plan to allow Saturday classes will be proposed as one stepo for achieving a 10 percent increase in class hours put forth in the first report the panel submitted to the Abe in January.

The report will urge the government to take action with an eye to changing the School Education Law’s enforcement rules, which currently designate Saturdays and Sundays as holidays for public elementary, junior and senior high schools, according to the draft.

The draft report also includes a plan to set up a “support team to help solve school problems” at local education boards — a team the report envisages as including police officers, lawyers and clinical psychiatrists.

It also proposes mandating English education at elementary schools and expanding the use of foreign teachers in the classroom and promoting university enrollment in September instead of only April.

The report is expected to set its eyes on establishing an evaluation system for schools and education boards and on reviewing the current 6-3-3-4 school-year system for elementary, junior and senior high schools and universities.

The five-day school week system was introduced to elementary, junior and senior high schools in phases from September 1992, and was fully implemented in April 2002.

Its aim has been to allow children to develop more of their individual potential, but the system has often been criticized as inviting a decline in children’s academic performance, although its effects remain unclear.

The government panel, headed by Nobel chemistry laureate Ryoji Noyori, was set up last October by Abe, who has placed top priority on revitalizing Japanese education.

Since its establishment, the panel has often been the target of criticism for its conservative bent. In early May, it was forced to withdraw a proposal that would call on parents to breast-feed and sing lullabies after concerns grew over its possible intrusion into the sphere of private life.

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