• Kyodo News

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The education ministry plans to boost the number of teachers and other faculty members at public elementary and junior high schools in Japan by 60,000 on a net basis by fiscal 2018 to create smaller classes while dealing with students according to their learning levels, ministry sources said Tuesday.

As part of its medium- to long-term guidelines for faculty deployment, the ministry also plans to cut the maximum size of a class to 30-35 students from the current 40. This would be the first class-size reduction move since fiscal 1980, when they were cut to 40 from 45.

The planned addition of faculty members comprises an increase of 20,000 in the eight years from fiscal 2011, which starts next April, with a goal of providing more thorough education through smaller classes. Separately, 40,000 more employees in the five years from fiscal 2014 are being sought to improve special classes for students with disabilities and to teach students according to their abilities.

The move by the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry is in line with the ruling Democratic Party of Japan’s pledge made in the July House of Councilors election to promote smaller classes in schools.

But the plan could face difficulties when the ministry negotiates its budget with the Finance Ministry as it would require tens of billions of yen in the midst of severe fiscal circumstances.

According to the plan, the number of students in each class in elementary and junior high schools is to be gradually reduced to 35 over the first six years.

The class size for first- and second-graders at elementary schools is to be cut further to 30 during the final two years, as the first two years are considered important for children to adapt to formal education, sources said.

After adopting lighter curricula at schools nearly a decade ago, Japan has reversed its education policy to expanding teaching content and materials in recent years, increasing the demand for teachers and staff to handle the heavier workload.

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