The education ministry released a draft Wednesday of revised curriculum guidelines for high schools, including the introduction of rekishi sōgō (comprehensive history) and kōkyō (public affairs) as new compulsory subjects.

New comprehensive history courses will cover the modern and contemporary history of both Japan and the rest of the world. In public affairs students will learn about issues including those related to popular sovereignty — governing according to the will of the people. In 2016 the minimum voting age was lowered from 20 to 18.

Active learning programs intended to nurture students’ ability to independently identify problems and solutions through debate and presentations will be introduced in all subjects.

The ministry will solicit public comments on the draft until March 15, and announce the new curriculum guidelines by the end of fiscal 2017 on March 31. The new guidelines are scheduled to be introduced in stages from fiscal 2022.

Revisions to curriculum guidelines for elementary and junior high schools have already been made, and are set to be fully implemented from fiscal 2020 at elementary schools and from fiscal 2021 at junior high schools.

The complete revision of high school curriculum guidelines will be the first since 2009.

The ministry hopes that the revised guidelines and the fiscal 2020 launch of a new unified university entrance examination system will help raise high school students’ level of understanding. The new exams will replace the system currently handled by the National Center for University Entrance Examinations.

The number of credits required to graduate from high school will remain the same at 74. The ministry will not reduce the amount of educational content, in a continued shift away from the yutori (relaxed) education policy.

In addition the new guidelines will make it compulsory for high school students to take chiri sōgō (comprehensive geography), which will cover contemporary geographical issues including those related to the environment and disaster prevention.

The ministry will also introduce as an optional subject risū tankyū, in which students independently choose themes involved with the fields of mathematics and science for research.

Computer-related subjects such as information security will be introduced, and courses in programming will be compulsory through elementary, junior high and high school.

English will be reorganized into two categories, with one aimed at comprehensively developing students’ listening, reading, speaking and writing skills while the other focuses on strengthening their speaking and writing abilities.

The number of English words students will learn at elementary through high school will increase to about 4,000-5,000 from some 3,000 at present. This is in addition to the adoption of English as an official subject for elementary school fifth- and sixth-graders under the new primary education curriculum guidelines.

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