• Jiji

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The government adopted a bill on Tuesday to reduce the maximum number of students per class at public elementary schools to 35 by fiscal 2025 from the current 40.

The bill calls for reducing the class size for the second grade in fiscal 2021, which begins in April, and for the next grade in each of the following years.

It will be the first time in some 40 years for Japan to downsize public elementary school classes for grades other than first grade. The class size was already reduced to 35 for the first grade in fiscal 2011.

“We’ll look after each student carefully to bring out their potentials, as the downsized classes will complement the utilization of information and communications technology in education,” education minister Koichi Hagiuda told a news conference.

The education ministry had called for reducing the class size for public elementary and junior high schools to 30, in order to strengthen measures against the novel coronavirus and promote education utilizing personal computers.

After the Finance Ministry took a cautious stance, citing concerns over higher labor costs and a decline in the quality of teachers, the ministries agreed to cut the class size only for elementary schools to 35.

Hagiuda also pledged that the ministry will work to secure high-quality teachers with diverse backgrounds.

According to an education ministry survey released Tuesday, the competition rate for public elementary school teachers hit the lowest level since the survey started in fiscal 1979.

One out of 2.7 applicants passed employment examinations for public elementary school teachers in Japan who began working in fiscal 2020, the survey showed, compared to 2.8 to one in the preceding year.

Including other public schools, such as junior high and high schools, and special needs schools, the competition rate for exams for teachers hired in fiscal 2020 came to 3.9 to 1, compared with 4.2 in the preceding year and marking the second-lowest level on record after 3.7 in fiscal 1991.

The fall in competition rates comes as many local governments have been recently increasing the employment of teachers in line with the massive retirement of teachers who were hired for students born during the second baby boom in 1971-1974.

The exams for teachers hired in fiscal 2020 were carried out in fiscal 2019.

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