On the basis of the Central Council of Education's October report, the education ministry has revised the course of study at elementary and junior high schools to introduce moral education as an official subject beginning in fiscal 2018 and 2019, respectively. The ministry stresses that the focus of moral education, which has been taught since 1958 as an informal subject, should change from reading of related materials to teachings that encourage thinking and discussion by schoolchildren.
The revised course of study also says that moral education should not lead to imposing certain ways of thinking on the schoolchildren. However, a close examination of the plan reveals contradictions and problems. Grading of the students in moral education — even in descriptive forms — carries the inherent risk of casting children's ways of thinking into a mold.
The Abe administration has cited serious cases of school bullying, including one that led to the 2011 suicide of a junior high school student in Otsu to justify the introduction of moral education as a regular school subject. The updated course of study calls for teaching schoolchildren about "treating a person free of one's own likes and dislikes" and "treating a person without prejudice and in a fair and equitable manner," for first and second graders, and third and fourth graders, respectively. One wonders why teaching such virtues requires upgrading moral education to a formal subject.