An increasing number of elementary and junior high schools in Japan are adopting “hybrid classes,” in which students can choose whether to go to school or take classes online, as the second term of the school year started amid the continuing spread of COVID-19.
Parents and other guardians are welcoming the increase in options, with some preferring children to stay home to prevent infections.
In hybrid classes, lessons conducted in classrooms are streamed live so that online participants can view the blackboard and classroom activities on their tablet devices.
Students joining classes online are urged to participate in practical subjects such as physical education as much as they can.
Multiple municipalities have adopted the hybrid model until Sept. 12, when the ongoing coronavirus state of emergency is scheduled to expire.
In the city of Saitama, some 20% of elementary school students and around 10% of junior high school students said in a survey conducted ahead of the start of the new trimester on Aug. 27 that they want to take lessons online. Japan’s school year starts in April.
A 35-year-old mother in the city opted to have her child, who is in the fourth grade of elementary school, take classes online in an effort to prevent infections at school.
The mother said, however, “I’m worried whether my child can build interpersonal relationships and follow the lessons after returning to in-person classrooms.” She explained that about 90% of students in the child’s class are going to school instead of taking lessons online.
Another mother, 43, said that she was thankful for the new option, as there had been a coronavirus case around her child and such a situation was making the child worried.
But she noted that students needed help from guardians in cases where errors occurred in the system for taking lessons online, saying, “The system may be unusable if an adult is not nearby.”
Kaori Suetomi, professor of educational administration at Nihon University, lauded the spread of hybrid learning environments, noting that households with concerns about possible infections at school previously had no choice but to have their children miss lessons on a voluntary basis.
“It’s commendable that schools have changed course and decided to continue students’ education rather than making them take holidays,” Suetomi said.
However, the professor pointed out that it is difficult for younger elementary school students to use devices by themselves, and urged schools to take measures so that lessons are given in ways suitable for each grade of students.
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