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The government is considering a plan that would see the enrollment age of students gradually shift over a five-year period to accommodate changing the start of the academic year to September, it was learned Monday.

The plan is one element of a proposal to move the beginning of the academic year from its current schedule, in April, to September, partly aimed at dealing with prolonged emergency school closures nationwide to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Under the current spring enrollment system, 6-year-old children set to turn 7 in the year from April 2 are admitted to elementary schools as first-grade students.

The government is seeking to address the mismatch between the academic year and the period of eligibility for enrollment that would occur if it decides to start the school year in September.

The plan, presented to the ruling Liberal Democratic Party’s working team for considering the September admission system, would see students set to turn 7 during 13-month periods be enrolled as first-grade students, so that five years later the period for enrollment eligibility would begin in September, according to sources with knowledge of the matter.

Specifically, first-grade students for the academic year starting September 2021 would be set to turn 7 years old between April 2 and May 1 the following year, while students for the academic year starting September 2022 would be expected to turn 7 between May 2 and June 1 the following year.

The start of the period would become Sept. 2 in the academic year starting in September 2026, from which time the length of the period would be reverted back to 12 months.

Creating such a transition period would be effective in avoiding a sharp increase of new students, but seeing the criteria for first-graders change every year may cause confusion among involved parties, observers said.

The plan is one of several options being considered by the government. Other plans include keeping the period for enrollment eligibility the same as at present, running for 12 months from April 2, and accepting all children born between April 2 and Sept. 1 the following year as new students in September 2021. The latter plan would see students born over a 17-month period be enrolled at once, with the number of first-grade students estimated to go up by around 400,000.

The LDP is expected to compile a proposal for the government by early June on the possible shift to a September admission system, after collecting opinions from people related to the matter, the sources said.

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