An advisory body to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has disclosed a second set of recommendations on improving the quality of public education. Among them is a call for upgrading moral education. Elementary and junior high schools already have a class on morality once a week, but it is not a course based on textbooks. To “have all children acquire a high degree of norm consciousness,” the Education Resuscitation Council proposes that moral education become a full-fledged subject using government-screened textbooks. Although students would not be evaluated by numerical assessment, the proposal risks instilling children with moral values preferred by the government.

Under the proposal, textbooks would be approved by the government. Supplementary material will also be used. Children would be taught respect for people and nature through biographical accounts of great figures and classic works. Care would also be taken to involve students emotionally with art, culture and sports. It is clear that the government’s ideas would be reflected in the choice and treatment of textbook items. Thus it would be easier to manipulate the minds of children concerning the “attitude of loving the nation” and “public spirit,” listed as education goals under the revised Fundamental Law of Education.

The panel also recommends letting public schools offer Saturday classes. This would virtually undermine the five-day school week system without a proper review. The system was introduced in phases from 1992 to 2002 as part of a “more relaxed” education policy. On the basis of aptitude tests, the education ministry believes that the policy, as a whole, has succeeded in halting a decline in academic performance and has helped children feel more enthusiastic toward their studies.

The panel calls for improving teachers’ pay to attract more talented people, but it fails to recommend increased investment and financial support for education in concrete terms. The reform will lead to an increase in teachers’ burden without a commensurate increase in financial support. This will only cause the quality of education to deteriorate.

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