The education ministry has issued a notice to boards of education across the country urging teachers not to use “inappropriate” supplementary learning materials, in the first move of its kind in decades.
The notice, issued Wednesday, comes in the wake of recent incidents in which teachers used images released by the Islamic State militants and a map that referred to the Sea of Japan also as the East Sea, as the body of water is known in South Korea.
It’s the first time in 40 years the education ministry has issued a notice regarding supplementary teaching materials.
The ministry inspects school textbooks to exclude inappropriate phrases and expressions but teachers are allowed to use other materials, including newspaper articles, audiovisual materials and self-made texts, to supplement their lectures.
The last time the ministry issued such a notice was in 1974, when it asked teachers not to use materials that reflect the views of certain political or religious groups, or those that do not match students’ developmental stages.
The new notice asks schools to consider a variety of issues when using supplementary materials, stating that when teachers deal with issues that are uncertain or can be discussed from various perspectives, they should not place an excessive emphasis on certain facts or views, and should not be biased toward a particular perspective.
“We hope the notice will encourage schools to create and use materials that are useful to students,” said Ryoei Chijiiwa, deputy director of the school curriculum division at the ministry.
The new notice also has a clause that says it is the responsibility of school principals to ensure “supplementary materials deemed useful and appropriate from an educational standpoint are utilized.”
The move follows recent cases in which teachers in elementary and junior high schools in Tochigi, Mie, and Aichi prefectures showed images of Japanese hostages being brutally killed by the Islamic State group to pupils, some of whom became ill.
In October, a junior high school in Musashino, Tokyo, was found to be using a map that labeled the Sea of Japan also as the East Sea, in brackets.