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The education ministry has released the draft of revised curriculum guidelines for high school, which will go into full force in fiscal 2013, replacing the current guidelines that went into effect in fiscal 2003. The new guidelines have two goals: coping with the diversification of high schools and improving students’ scholastic ability.

While many high school graduates enter prestigious universities, a number of others drop out. To arrest a decline in students’ scholastic ability and boost their practical knowledge, the new guidelines will abolish the current mandatory electives in Japanese, mathematics and English, and establish required courses instead.

The required course in Japanese will teach students how to make presentations, speeches and engage in discussions, and will nurture interest in traditional language-related culture. Classic Japanese will become a required subject.

The required course in mathematics will include basic statistics. Reflecting the revised Fundamental Law of Education, high schools will also have to devise a plan for moral education.

The required course in English will nurture an ability to communicate in English by “comprehensively” utilizing listening, reading, speaking and writing skills. High school students will learn 1,800 English words instead of the current 1,300 words. Thus in total students will learn 3,000 English words at middle and high schools, 800 more words than now. In principle, English will be used to teach English at high school.

High schools also will be allowed to review junior high material to help those students who failed to learn it.

The draft has also revived some items that were dropped when the current guidelines were written. It also includes activities to increase the practical application of the subjects being taught.

The critical question is whether students will be able to follow what is taught under the rather ambitious new guidelines. The education ministry should make sure it can sufficiently prepare teachers to work effectively under the new guidelines and give students the motivation they need to learn.

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