An education ministry panel approved at a meeting Wednesday a policy of allowing junior high school students to carry smartphones at school under certain conditions, so they can communicate while commuting in times of emergencies.
But the panel of experts confirmed that the ban should be maintained for elementary school students.
In a notice issued in 2009, the ministry banned elementary and junior high school students from bringing smartphones with them to school. As smartphones are now widely used, however, an increasing number of parents are calling on schools to allow their children to carry smartphones at school as a communication tool in the event of natural disasters.
Against this background, the panel agreed to review the ban for junior high schools while underlining the need to consider specific rules and ways to manage smartphones at school and restrict the viewing of harmful websites through discussions among students, parents and teachers. It is expected that parents will submit a consent form, and students will put their phones in lockers when they arrive at school.
After the panel compiles its final report in July, the ministry will inform education boards across the country of the change for junior high students. The policy is not legally binding.
While seeking to keep the ban intact for elementary school students, the panel said that they may be allowed to carry mobile phones designed for children if their parents seek permission.
After a powerful earthquake hit Osaka Prefecture in June 2018, the local education department changed its policy and started to allow students to carry mobile phones, but only while commuting.
Following the move by the prefecture, the education ministry began to review its ban in May 2019.
The 2018 earthquake killed several people in Osaka, including an elementary school girl.