• Kyodo

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The education ministry on Wednesday presented its advisory panel with an outline of its proposed overhaul of school curriculum guidelines, suggesting modern history should be taught as a compulsory subject in high schools by integrating the existing courses on Japanese and world history.

The envisioned curriculum review apparently reflects the intention of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government to place emphasis on patriotism, observers said.

Abe and some members of his Liberal Democratic Party have called for making Japanese history, currently an elective, a mandatory subject in high schools. At present, world history is taught as a compulsory subject.

Since students learn history from ancient times, many high schools are short of study hours for the modern era. The envisioned new subject is expected to focus on turning points in modern history in Japan and abroad, such as the Industrial Revolution as well as World War I and II.

“We are not proposing from a passive stance a compromise plan to integrate the courses of Japanese and world histories. It is crucial to understand history by linking movements in the world and Japan,” said an official of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology.

To better prepare students for a global society, the draft outline for curriculum review also calls for upgrading English as an official course for fifth — and sixth-graders at elementary schools. Under the current system, English is taught as an ungraded subject.

But securing time to teach English in elementary schools is expected to be a major challenge as the total study hours in elementary schools will not likely increase.

To improve general English skills in reading, listening, writing and speaking, teachers will basically teach English without using Japanese in the classroom at junior high schools. High school students will likely be required to conduct debates and presentations in English.

For the purpose of nurturing greater social participation, the ministry proposed creating a new mandatory subject on citizenship as part of civics education in high schools.

The new subject is likely to involve consumer education and mock elections as the voting age in Japan will be lowered to 18 from 20 from the House of Councilors election next year. But critics have expressed concern about political neutrality in the classroom.

The planned new course will also likely involve mock trials and career education, including internships.

In November last year, education minister Hakubun Shimomura asked the Central Council for Education to study an overhaul of curricula for elementary to high schools.

The council plans to submit a report on the revisions by the end of March 2017. The new curriculum guidelines are expected to be implemented for elementary schools in the 2020 academic year, junior high schools in the 2021 academic year and high schools in the 2022 academic year or later.

School curriculum guidelines are reviewed about every 10 years because teaching priorities are viewed as changing in line with society. The current guidelines were fully implemented in elementary and high schools in the 2011-2013 academic years.

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