The curriculum for general courses taught in high schools, which has remained untouched since the current system was established after World War II, will be reformed as part of a plan to drastically revamp secondary education.
The general course structure is expected to be split into a number of categories, with emphases placed on math and science education or developing skills that could benefit local communities, according to officials familiar with reform discussions.
Japanese high schools currently teach general courses, as well as providing specialized education options to some students, such as those that cover agriculture and engineering studies. In 1994, this integrated course system was created to allow students to choose from a broad range of subjects both in general and specialized subjects.
At present, about 70 percent of students are enrolled in general courses.
Hiroyuki Yoshiie, a member of a special group within the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s Headquarters for the Revitalization of Education, has called for a speedy reform of the current high school education system, which he said was outdated.
“This is completely a Showa system,” he said, referring to the Showa Era which lasted from 1926 to 1989.
In particular, the general course has one-size-fits-all educational content, and most students select high schools according to their junior high school grades and test scores instead of choosing schools from the perspective of what they want to study, Yoshiie said.
The forthcoming reform reflects a sense of crisis among educational authorities about declines in the amount of time that high school students spend studying and their willingness to study.
According to surveys conducted by the education ministry and others with children who were born in 2001, 9.3 percent of first-year junior high school students said they do not study at all after school on weekdays, with the figure rising to 25.4 percent for first-year high school students.
The surveys also showed that 37.7 percent of first-year junior high school students think that studying at school will be very useful for their futures, while the figure fell to 27.4 percent for first-year high school students.
The LDP lawmakers in the education group and the government’s Education Rebuilding Implementation Council plan to work out proposals for high school education reform by the end of this month.
Some members involved in the discussions have called for scrapping the general course system altogether. The lawmakers tasked with studying education reform, however, concluded that the framework should be maintained in order to provide a general education that would benefit society.
Following the proposals, the Central Council for Education, an advisory panel to the education minister, will discuss specific categories for the revised general course. The ministry hopes to amend high school standards after the panel reaches a conclusion.
Also included in the high school education reform discussions was how to prevent the dropping of difficult subjects, such as the sciences, in favor of liberal arts by students who believe doing so will help them pass university entrance exams, according to Yoshiie. Therefore, devising a system to encourage students to study liberal arts and sciences in a balanced way is expected to be a key topic of the discussions.