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Ever since education was made compulsory, schools in Japan and the United States have faced the problem of students who are absent for reasons other than illness or family emergencies. But it is only fairly recently that the issue has reached near-crisis proportions.

In Japan, 119,617 students in elementary and junior high schools were absent for 30 or more days in fiscal 2013. Although the number is down from the record 138,733 set in 2001, it is up 7,000 from the previous year.

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