Finance Minister Taro Aso and education minister Koichi Hagiuda agreed Thursday to reduce the maximum number of students per class at public elementary schools to 35 by fiscal 2025 from the current 40.
The agreement was reached during their negotiations on a related funding request under the government’s draft budget for fiscal 2021, which starts in April.
The education ministry will submit a bill for a necessary law revision to next year’s ordinary session of the Diet, to be convened from January.
The government will aim to secure enough teachers to deal with the smaller classes over the five years from April 2021. The reduction in class sizes will be implemented gradually, starting from lower grades.
The maximum number of elementary school children currently allowed in one class stands at 40, except for first-grade classes, whose number was reduced to 35 in fiscal 2011.
The planned move will be the largest-scale elementary school class size reduction in about 40 years.
The education ministry proposed smaller classes in its fiscal 2021 budget request in order to cut coronavirus risks and make it easier to give lessons using computers. Members of the National Governors’ Association also sought smaller classes.
For public junior high schools, the ministry also called for reducing the maximum number of students per class to 30 from the current 40.
But the Finance Ministry was reluctant to go forward with that plan due to concerns about personnel costs. Smaller classes “will have little impact, if any, on the academic performance of children,” the ministry said.
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