National

80% of Japan's mayors oppose shifting school-year start to fall

Local authorities say central government should concentrate on preventing virus from spreading

Kyodo

Around 80 percent of the nation’s mayors oppose or remain wary about shifting the start of the school year to September from April, a recent survey shows.

The proposal emerged in the wake of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s unilateral request for schools to close in late February to curb the coronavirus pandemic.

The mayors say the government should instead concentrate on preventing the virus from spreading, according to the survey, which was conducted by the Japan Association of City Mayors.

Abe has said he will consider moving the academic year to September, which would put Japan in alignment with many other countries.

Many schools across Japan closed following Abe’s request and classes are expected to resume next month.

The survey covered 815 municipal chiefs and drew responses from 576. But the mayors are split: About 18.1 percent agree with the change and 17.9 percent disagree. Another 62.5 percent said they are wary of making such a change and nine declined to answer.

Among the mayors of 47 villages and towns surveyed by the National Association of Towns and Villages, one from each prefecture, only three supported the proposal. Of the rest, 38 opposed it and six said they neither agreed nor disagreed.

At a recent meeting of a Liberal Democratic Party panel addressing the issue, the heads of three local bodies including the National Governors Association participated online and reported the results of the survey.

“All efforts should be taken to fight the coronavirus,” said Hidekiyo Tachiya, mayor of Soma, Fukushima Prefecture. “This is not the time to debate the September academic term.”

Yasuomi Araki, mayor of the town of Kashima in Kumamoto Prefecture, said, “It’ll become a heavy burden for (those involved).”

Former education minister Masahiko Shibayama, who heads the panel, told reporters after the meeting that the government is expected to present its ideas on the issue early next month

“The opinions of the heads of the municipalities are important,” he said.

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