• Kyodo

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Taishukan Publishing Co. violated industry rules by providing free classroom materials to schools that agreed to use its English textbooks this year, the publisher and the education ministry disclosed Friday.

The Tokyo-based publisher denied intentionally providing the materials to the public and private high schools and said its employees did so at their own discretion. About 1,500 sets of study materials were distributed, at a cost of ¥290 ($3) each.

The Textbook Publishers Association of Japan, headed by Taishukan President Kazuyuki Suzuki since February, bans companies from providing cash and goods, including teaching materials, to individuals involved in the textbook selection process to ensure fair competition.

“This is a clear violation of the rules and a serious case. We will deal with it firmly,” education minister Hiroshi Hase said at a news conference. The Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry will ask 38 other high school textbook publishers to check whether similar cases occurred.

According to Taishukan, three of its sales staff distributed about 1,500 sets of study materials, including practice exercises, to 11 public schools and three private schools in Tokyo, Ibaraki, Saitama, Kanagawa and Niigata prefectures between March and April.

The 14 schools involved all agreed last summer to start using Taishukan’s English textbooks from last spring.

“We wanted to help the schools that chose our textbooks. But we were naive,” one of the employees was quoted as telling the company during an in-house investigation.

In the textbook selection process, many public highs schools choose the texts they want to use and request their endorsement by the local education board. In private and state-run high schools, the principal does the endorsing.

The Taishukan case is the latest of many violations that have cast doubt over the fairness of the textbook selection process.

In October, it was revealed that publisher Sanseido Co. had shown textbooks in the process of being reviewed for government censorship to various school principals to get their opinions in return for cash gratuities. In January, the education ministry said Tokyo Shoseki Co., Japan’s largest textbook publisher, was doing something similar by showing an unapproved English textbook to teachers it had paid.

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