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An advisory panel urged the government on Thursday to consider introducing classes with fewer students at junior high schools after the coronavirus crisis is contained.

The Council for the Implementation of Education Rebuilding called on the government to examine the effect of reducing the maximum number of students per class at public elementary schools in stages from 40 to 35.

After the examination, an ideal teaching system should be considered for junior high schools and other schools, the council said.

Under the revised compulsory education standards law, enacted in the ongoing session of the Diet, the class size is being reduced for the second grade of public elementary schools in fiscal 2021 and for a higher grade in each of the following years.

With the move, all six elementary school grades will shift to smaller classes by fiscal 2025. It is the first time in around 40 years that Japan has moved to downsize public elementary school classes for all grades. The first grade class size was reduced to 35 students in fiscal 2011.

On a proposed shift of the annual enrollment of students from April to September, the council said it is appropriate to diversify and make the timing of enrollment flexible for university students, not limiting it to spring or autumn.

The council agreed to promote reform in tandem with the business world in line with the career path of students.

The panel, however, said that shifting the enrollment of elementary, junior and senior high school students to September faces many challenges and would therefore need sufficient understanding and support from the public.

In addition, it stressed a need to promote the digitalization of education.

The council proposed a shift to data-driven education, including by using students’ study records for teaching, and adopting online classes.

The quality of education and children’s opportunities to get educated should be maintained even in the event of an epidemic or disaster, it said.

The council, chaired by Kaoru Kamata, former president of Waseda University, submitted the proposals on post-epidemic education to Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.

Acting on the proposals, the Central Council for Education, an advisory panel to the education minister, will hold discussions.

“Running the existing system flexibly will be required in the post-coronavirus period in order to provide diversified education optimized for each child while utilizing digital technologies,” Suga said, asking relevant ministers to “implement the proposals steadily.”

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