The Central Council for Education, an advisory body for the education minister, has submitted a report calling for upgrading moral education to an official school subject. The education ministry will soon start preparations to introduce it on a par with traditional subjects like Japanese, mathematics, social studies and science at elementary schools and junior high schools, beginning in fiscal 2018 and 2019. But treating moral education as a formal subject in the curriculum will entail various problems, given that it deals with matters closely related to children's ways of thinking and attitudes. The danger of the state seeking to instill in them controversial values cannot be ruled out.
Moral education has been taught to schoolchildren since 1958 as an informal subject. There are no official textbooks, and teachers do not grade students. Usually one class a week is dedicated to moral education. Upgrading moral education to a formal subject will require the use of textbooks and some form of grading such as written evaluations that enter students' permanent record.
The education ministry will soon begin working out the standards for screening textbooks in moral education. The screening, in accordance with the ministry's standards, raises the prospect of values preferred by the government finding their way into the textbooks.