We are pleased to put out for our readers a special edition of our EDU WATCH blog today.

In remembrance of the victims of the March 11th Disaster…

Trouble in paradise
Painted by K. Kawagoe (13 yrs) in Kanagawa Prefecture

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Disaster claimed 1,046 minors (Yomiuri, Mar 8, 2012)

A total of 1,046 people aged 19 or younger died or went missing in the three prefectures hit hardest by the Great East Japan Earthquake, and nearly two-thirds of the victims were aged 60 or older, according to the National Police Agency. The agency on Tuesday released statistics on the number of people missing in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures by age and gender for the first time since the devastating March 11 earthquake and tsunami. The NPA said 15,786 people were confirmed to have died in the disaster as of the end of February.

Semester shift to align universities globally means major overhaul (universityworldnews.com Mar 5) A call to shift enrolment from the current April to September, made by the prestigious University of Tokyo and supported by at least 30 other universities, has turned the spotlight on higher education internationalisation in Japan and reviving universities’ depleting revenue. But a changeover would also have an impact on broader recruitment practices. Although the university first raised the idea of changing its semester dates last year, it was in an announcement in January that University of Tokyo President Junichi Hamada outlined a timetable for change, saying he “would aim to conclude the transition five years from now”.

Pupils excelled on 3/11 but life since a struggle (Japan Times, Mar 10)

Shin Saito, a junior high school teacher in Kamaishi, still has nightmares about the day he and his students had to desperately dash to higher ground as tsunami crashed into Iwate’s coast, barely managing to escape the terrifying waves. “My nightmares start with me standing in the school grounds and the earthquake striking. During my dreams, somehow I know that they’re dreams but I still have to run and escape,” said Saito, a 39-year-old English teacher at Kamaishi East Junior High School.

Time has stopped for parents of dead and missing children (Japan Times, Mar 11, 2011)

Almost one year on from what was one of the most tragic episodes of the March 11 disasters, Karino is among many grieving parents for whom time has frozen. For the 49 days before the discovery of her daughter’s body, things had been easier. Each day she would visit the devastated area around the school and look for her daughter. She had something to cling on to, something to keep her going. Now she can’t stop her mind from wandering. Her surviving children, Yu, 15, and Yui, 18, avoid mentioning their deceased sister’s name: “They know it will only make me weep.”

MARCH 11–ONE YEAR ON / 80% of Fukushima preschools limit kids’ outdoor time (Mar.11, Yomiuri)

Japanese school baseball team a symbol of recovery (Seattlepi.com, Mar 13)

One year after their lives were torn apart by the devastating earthquake and tsunami, players from Ishinomaki Technical High School are ready to compete on one of the biggest stages in Japanese baseball. When the magnitude-9.0 earthquake hit on March 11, 2011, manager Yoshitsugu Matsumoto was leading his team through practice on the school’s baseball field. Earthquakes are all too common in Japan, but like everyone who experienced that terrible day, Matsumoto knew this one was different. Within minutes, the school was transformed into an evacuation center, and it wasn’t long before the same field the team was practicing on was under 4.5 feet of water. The players and Matsumoto would spend the next three days in the school before moving to a safer evacuation facility.

Informal job offers for graduating students increase (Yomiuri Shimbun, Mar. 17, 2012).

A joint survey by the labor and education ministries indicates improvement in the job market for this spring’s university graduates, as 80.5 percent of university students set to graduate this month had received unofficial job offers as of Feb. 1, up 3.1 percentage points from the record low at the same time last year.

Though the 80.5 percent shows the job market for would-be graduates is still tight, a labor ministry official said: “Due to demand for reconstruction projects following the Great East Japan Earthquake, companies’ appetite for hiring has improved slightly. The percentage of students with unofficial job offers should continue to increase.”

The percentage of students who have received informal offers of employment has also improved in areas affected by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry and the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry surveyed 4,770 university students set to graduate this month from 62 national, public and private universities.

The survey found 80.7 percent of male students received unofficial job offers, up 1.8 percentage points from last year, while 80.3 percent of female students were given such offers, up 4.6 percentage points from the same period last year.

By major, 79.4 percent of students studying humanities received job offers, up 2.6 percentage points from last year, while 85.6 percent in science faculties got informal offers, up 5.3 percentage points.

By region, university students in the Chubu region saw a sharp increase in unofficial job offers–up 8.8 percentage points from the same period last year to 79.5 percent, followed by students in universities in the Kyushu region–up 6.8 percentage points to 77.3 percent.

In the Chubu region, the percentage of students who received informal job offers dropped by 10.7 percentage points in 2010 compared with 2009. The number in Kyushu fell by 4.7 percentage points in 2011 compared with 2010.

Meanwhile, 86.4 percent of high school students set to graduate this month received unofficial job promises as of the end of January, up 2.9 percentage points from last year.

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Big increase in disaster-hit areas

In disaster-hit areas, unofficial job offers have drastically increased compared with last year.

At Iwate Prefectural University’s Miyako College, 81 percent of students had received unofficial job offers as of Wednesday, up 18 percentage points from the same period last year, according to the school’s employment assistance counseling section.

The college instructed students to start job-hunting earlier than in the past, taking into account the companies in coastal areas in Iwate Prefecture affected by the disaster.

The improved job-hunting results at the college have come from students’ intensive job-hunting efforts and an increase in job offers by companies due to reconstruction efforts.

In quake-struck Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures, the percentage of high school students who received unofficial job offers as of the end of January was 92.5 percent, up 2.8 percentage points from last year, in Iwate; 88.1 percent, up 17.2 percentage points, in Miyagi; and 88.7 percent, up 7.8 percentage points, in Fukushima.

Next up, are the news summaries and excerpts on education in Japan:

Todai still No. 1 in Asia, Times ranking says (Yomiuri, Mar 16)

LONDON (Kyodo)–The U. of Tokyo maintained its crown as Asia’s most prestigious institution of higher education, while Japan placed third behind he United States and Britain overall, according to a global survey of academic opinion released Thursday.

In this year’s Times Higher Education World Reputation Rankings, the University of Tokyo placed eighth among the world’s top 100, the same as it did in last year’s rankings.  Harvard University in the United States placed first.

Among other Japanese universities in the top 100, Kyoto University ranked 20th, down from 18th in 2011. Osaka University, Tohoku University and Tokyo Institute of Technology came between 50th and 60th.

In this year’s Times Higher Education World Reputation Rankings, the University of Tokyo placed eighth among the world’s top 100, the same as it did in last year’s rankings. Harvard University placed first.

Among other Japanese universities in the top 100, Kyoto University ranked 20th dow from 18th in 2011. Osaka University, Tohoku University and Tokyo Institute of Technology came between 50th and 60th.

By country, Japan shared third place with the Netherlands. The United States had 44 universities in the top 100 rankings and Britain had 10.

“Japan has maintained an outstanding showing in the global top 100 reputation rankings,” said Phil Baty editor of the Times Higher Education Rankings.

” But there is also a very exciting group of East Asian countries or regions enoying significant increases in the prestige of their universities, with China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore all seeing their top universities rising up the reputation table.”

End of excerpt.

Read Terrie’s Take on Todai and a rigid education system

For an overview of Todai, see About TODAI & School of Science – UTRIP – School of Science

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Japan fails to settle university dispute (nature.com, Mar 15)

It has been a rough year for materials scientist Akihisa Inoue, the president of Tohoku University in Japan. Last March, an earthquake crippled his campus (see Nature 483,141-143; 2012). Since then, he has had to retract a series of papers because they contained text that had appeared in his previous publications, and has faced continuing calls for his resignation from the university, which he has rejected. His critics, mostly professors at his university, claim that some of his work cannot be replicated, and that there are irregularities in the data in some of his papers (see Nature 470, 446-447; 2011).

Record high for youth suicide / Suicide rates among students increased nearly 11% last year (Yomiuri, Mar.10)
The number of students who committed suicide last year in the country hit a record figure of 1,029, up 101 cases or 10.9 percent from the previous year, the National Police Agency said Friday.

It was the first time that the number exceeded 1,000 since the NPA started recording statistics in 1978.

The NPA also reported the total number of suicides across the nation has exceeded 30,000 for 14 consecutive years up to 2011, though the number declined by 1,039, or 3.3 percent, to 30,651 from the previous year.

Of the students, the number of university students who killed themselves rose by 16 to 529 from the previous year while the number of high school students who did so increased by 65 to 269, according to the NPA. The combined figures accounted for about 80 percent of the total number of students who committed suicide.

By age group, the number of people 19 or younger who committed suicide rose by 12.7 percent to 622 from the previous year, and the figure for those in their 20s increased by 2 percent to 3,302.

Of the students, 140 committed suicide due to academic underachievement and 136 did so due to worries about their future after leaving school, the NPA said.

Of the total, the number of males who killed themselves decreased by 1,328 to 20,955 from the previous year, and the number of females increased by 289 to 9,696. The number of female suicides exceeded 30 percent of the total for the first time since 1997.

By age, suicide victims in their 60s numbered 5,547 and formed the largest group among all age brackets, though the figure was down 6.1 percent from the previous year.

Among the reasons given for 22,581 people committing suicide, the largest portion, 14,621, or 65 percent, left indications that they had killed themselves due to health problems. The reasons were found in suicide notes or other evidence.

Those who committed suicide because of economic problems totaled 6,406, those who did so due to domestic problems numbered 4,547. School issues accounted for 429 cases, according to the NPA.

Meanwhile, 56 people killed themselves for reasons related to the Great East Japan Earthquake in the period from June 2011 through January this year, according to the Cabinet Office.

Regarding reasons for the disaster-related suicides, health issues and economic woes were cited as the main reasons for 16 victims respectively.

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Read on to know more about Young people suffering

Students play ‘doubleheader’ in entrance exams (Yomiuri, Mar. 17, 2012)

This article–the first in a five-part subseries featuring recent changes in school entrance examinations–focuses on a private middle school in Osaka Prefecture that gives entrance exams that start in the late afternoon and last until night, hoping to secure a large number of applicants.

OSAKA–The hands of a clock pointed to 8:25 p.m. when an examiner told test-takers: “Put down your pencils.” Some examinees heaved a sigh of relief as they stopped writing to place their pencils back on the desk. It was already dark outside when the evening session of the Jan. 14 exam at Osaka Toin Middle School in the city of Daito, Osaka Prefecture, ended.

Most of the 704 examinees had taken entrance exams for other schools earlier that day, and then come to Toin to take the exam that started at 4:30 p.m.

It was therefore a natural reaction that many of these students said they “felt exhausted” when they were leaving the Toin room. Accompanied by parents, many students seemed to be rushing home, as they were due to sit another entrance exam at a different school the next morning.

Such systems offering afternoon testing enable students to take exams at two schools on the same day. The system has been popular in Tokyo and neighboring prefectures for many years, but only a few schools in the Kansai region had adopted the system before the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008. In the economic slump that followed, however, many schools have moved their entrance exam schedules to earlier dates than before–with an aim to secure a stable number of enrollments, as school managers were concerned they might see a drop in the number of applicants.

As a result, many schools decided to conduct their examinations during the first three days after the “opening day” for entrance exams fixed by the association of privately run middle schools in Osaka Prefecture. To secure a time slot during these competitive days, more and more schools set their exam hours in the afternoon, which up until then had not been utilized by many schools.

Osaka Toin–operated under a system that integrates middle and high schools–is popular for its high-ranking educational results. It boasts a large number of graduates going on to the country’s most prestigious universities, including the University of Tokyo and Kyoto University.

In 2010, however, Toin faced a sharp drop in the total number of applicants for admission to the middle school, with only 754 students applying–lower than the previous year by 237.

As a solution, Osaka Toin–a school that usually sets its entrance exams on three separate dates–moved the beginning time for one of the three exams to the afternoon in 2011. Owing to the change, 589 students applied for the afternoon exam, with the total number of applicants for that year jumping to 1,309.

For this year, the school gave afternoon tests twice, with applicants totaling 1,316–a level similar to the previous year.

Satisfied with the results, Kunihito Terakawa, the vice principal of the middle school, said, “Students were given more chances to take [entrance exams], and we thus had more applicants.”

To shorten the testing time of the 2011 afternoon exam, the school reduced the number of questions so that the exam would end at 7:30 p.m. However, teachers felt they could not fully examine applicants’ scholastic abilities through such a simple test.

To address concerns, this year Toin set as many questions for the afternoon sessions as they usually do for morning exams. As a result, the afternoon test on Jan. 14 lasted until 8:25 p.m., while eight students, who arrived late at the venue, took the exam until 10 p.m.

Criticizing afternoon exam systems, some educators say it is “more like ‘night exams’ than ‘afternoon exams,'” and that it could present a heavy burden on examinees.

Countering such criticism, the vice principal notes, “Many students take regular classes at cram schools until 10 p.m. or so. In light of this, later testing hours should be accepted.”

According to research by Nichinoken Kansai–a cram school operator headquartered in Kobe–the number of schools that held entrance exams in the afternoon this year rose by six to 27 in the Kansai region, a large increase from 11 in 2009. The 27 schools include Seifu Middle School in Osaka and Nishiyamato Gakuen Middle School in Kawaicho, Nara Prefecture.

Commenting on the trend, Naoki Morinaga, the chief of the Nichinoken Kansai section in charge of the research, says students “are in favor of afternoon exam systems as they want to secure an admission at an early stage [by taking as many exams as possible].”

To meet the demands of both schools and students, afternoon exams are expected to become more widespread.

Schoolboy held for threatening to hijack bus on Twitter (Japan Today, Mar 15)

YOKOHAMA —
Police said Wednesday they have arrested a 15-year-old boy after he allegedly tweeted about his intention to hijack a bus and kill passengers.

According to police, on Oct 31 last year, the junior high school student from Yokohama used a handheld game console to post a message to Twitter reading, “I’m going to hijack the bus to Shinagawa tomorrow. I’m going to kill everyone,” TBS reported.

The Toei Bus service operated by the Tokyo Metropolitan Bureau of Transportation increased security for two days following the tweet, but no busjacking occurred.

During police questioning, the boy was quoted as saying that he was feeling stressed at school, and he wanted to see if he could get a reaction by tweeting something shocking.

Read about all-child kabuki shows in … Kids’ spirit blossoms at autumn festival (Oct. 22, 2011)

KAKAMIGAHARA, Gifu–Amateur kabuki, which is called “jishibai” or “noson” (farming village) kabuki, is most commonly performed in Gifu and Aichi prefectures, where the tradition runs back more than 300 years.

Children’s kabuki is a feature of an annual autumn festival at Murakuni Shrine in Kakamigahara. Every year since the early 1970s, all-child kabuki shows at the adjacent Murakuni-za theater have been dedicated to the shrine on the second Saturday and Sunday in October.

Established in 1877, Murakuni-za is the the oldest existing playhouse for jishibai. Large-scale renovations were carried out over three years from 2007, and the theater has been designated an important national asset of tangible folk culture.

For this year’s festival, 21 primary school students performed three pieces on Oct. 8 and 9.

The young performers had rehearsed since mid-August, and their dedication was evident in the hourlong program. The impressed audience applauded and threw congratulatory ohineri money wrapped in paper and other gifts onto the stage. Read more here…

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Update corner: See new page on the newly established Waseda International School in Shinjuku, Tokyo (catering to kids aged 4 -12 yrs) uploaded to the blog at this page.

Another school update was submitted by Makuhari International School, see this page.

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Next, a look at the educational scene elsewhere in the world:

Asian universities challenge US-UK domination of rankings (Guardian, 15 Mar 2012) Survey puts Harvard in top spot, while all the leading Asian universities gain higher rankings than in 2011

Harvard heads up Times Education World Reputation Rankings (Educationnews.org Mar 15)

Today’s world will reward the most innovative young people. World leaders, business executives, educators, and policy makers have joined in the global debate on how we create the next generation of innovators. Even parents are asking themselves the question: “Is my child an Innovator?”

Is your child an innovator? (Educationnews.org) How do you train an innovator? Which schools are doing it better than others? Are teachers equipped with the new skills required to educate students in this decade? Are curricula incorporating the essential content that will help young people become more innovative? Are parents playing their part so as to ensure their children can face tomorrow’s challenges and ultimately lead richer, fuller lives? In his must read new book, Creating Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change the World (Scribner, April 17, 2012), Dr. Tony Wagner, Innovation Education Fellow at the Technology and Entrepreneurship Center, Harvard University, addresses these issues. Read more here

Racial divide runs deep in U.S. schools, study finds Evantage

Exploring identity through education abroad (UniversityWorldNews, 11 Mar 2012)

A five-week study-abroad course can be life-changing… read more

Irish language gains popularity among growing number of US students (BBC, 15 Mar 2012) Why a growing number of Irish-Americans are learning Irish

St Patrick’s Day has always been a time when Americans have acknowledged their Irish roots, whether real or desired, by celebrating Irish culture in a variety of ways. …While the Irish language has struggled to survive alongside the more dominant English language, one man from Ireland is helping to lead a modest revival in the US.

Janet Eilber, Artistic Director of the Martha Graham Dance Company, discusses the role of dance in education and personal development in Where is the next Martha Graham?

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Parenting, Health & Safety issues:

Distracted children are ‘sharper’  (17 Mar 2012, Telegraph) Children whose minds wander might have sharper brains, research suggests.

A study has found that people who appear to be constantly distracted have more “working memory”, giving them the ability to hold a lot of information in their heads and manipulate it mentally.
Children at school need this type of memory on a daily basis for a variety of tasks, such as following teachers’ instructions or remembering dictated sentences.
During the study, volunteers were asked to perform one of two simple tasks during which researchers checked to ask if the participants’ minds were wandering.
At the end, participants measured their working memory capacity by their ability to remember a series of letters interspersed with simple maths questions.
Daniel Levinson, a psychologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the United States, said that those with higher working memory capacity reported “more mind wandering during these simple tasks”, but their performance did not suffer.
The results, published online in the journal Psychological Science, appear to confirm previous research that found working memory allows humans to juggle multiple thoughts simultaneously. Read more here...

Tighter permitted radiation levels in food

While some might claim that the Japanese government is hiding the real situation with radiation in food, in fact, we think the DPJ is doing its best to renew trust with the public. The Ministry of Health is introducing new rules limiting the amount of cesium allowed in food to levels significantly below (just 20%) the current allowable limits. Meat, vegetables and fish will have a limit of 100 becquerels/kg, milk and baby food will be 50 becquerels, and drinking water 10 becquerels. The producers of most foods will be held to the new standards from April 1, while rice and beef producers have until October 1st. (Source: TT commentary from e.nikkei.com, Feb 24, 2012)

Will new child care system reduce waiting lists? (Yomiuri, Mar.15)

Efforts must be accelerated to increase child care facilities and reduce the number of infants on waiting lists for day care centers.

The government has formulated a basic framework for a new system on children’s preschool education and child-rearing. The core of this initiative is to integrate kindergartens and day care centers into “overall” child care facilities. It will submit relevant bills to the current session of the Diet, which ends in late June.

About 25,000 infants are on waiting lists for day care centers throughout the country. Many kindergartens, on the other hand, are underenrolled.

The planned all-encompassing facilities will combine the functions of kindergartens and day care centers. Kindergartens and day care centers, which are administered separately by the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry and the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, will come under the unified jurisdiction of the Cabinet Office. Subsidies, currently provided separately, also will be unified.

Authorized day care centers will, in principle, also become overall child care facilities.

Under the new system, day care facilities–even ones that are not officially authorized–will be supported by public money as long as they meet newly set standards. The government hopes this will make it easier for business corporations to get involved in managing such facilities, and that this will lead to an increase in child care facilities.

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Kindergartens not keen

The new system aims to expand child-rearing assistance, which would be a major plank of the integrated reform of the social security and tax systems promoted by the government. It plans to cover most of the additional more than 1 trillion yen that will be needed annually to fund the system with revenue brought in by a planned increase in the consumption tax rate.

It is doubtful, however, whether waiting lists can be shortened or eliminated by establishing integrated child care facilities.

One concern is that many kindergartens are lukewarm toward the switch to integrated facilities. Many want to educate children aged 3 or older, as they have done until now.

Eighty percent of child

ren on the waiting lists are 2 or younger. If child care facilities are integrated and also must accept infants aged less than 3, they will have to pay for the construction of additional amenities.

It is necessary to consider measures that will lessen the burdens that will be imposed on kindergartens, thereby encouraging them to integrate with day care centers.

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Concern about standards

Another concern is about the standards that will be used for authorizing the overall child care facilities. The Tokyo metropolitan government provides subsidies to facilities that meet its standards–even if they do not meet the more stringent requirements set by the central government.

If these day care centers approved by the metropolitan government are transformed into overall child care facilities, they will have to meet stricter requirements on matters including staffing.

The waiting list problem is most serious in Tokyo and other major cities. Care must be taken to ensure the system can meet the actual needs of each region.

The Liberal Democratic Party has criticized the planned system, arguing that it could trigger a drop in the quality of child care and an increase in the burden on guardians, leading to “the industrialization of child care.”

However, the major opposition party is not opposed to the expansion of child care facilities per se. We want the ruling and opposition parties to hold thorough discussions on this matter so the heartfelt demands of working mothers can be met.

The Kawasaki disease is named after Tomisaku Kawasaki, a Japanese pediatrician who first described the illness in the medical literature in 1967.  Although it is more prevalent among children of Asian and Pacific Island descent, KD affects people of all racial and ethnic groups. It is estimated that more than 4,200 children are diagnosed with Kawasaki Disease in the U.S. each year. The cause of KD is unknown, although an agent, like a virus, is suspected.–The Kawasaki Disease Foundation.

Kawasaki disease in kids at record high (Japan Times, Mar 17)

The number of Japanese suffering from Kawasaki syndrome, an autoimmune disease that mainly afflicts children and whose cause and cure remain unknown, has been steadily increasing, a recent nationwide survey showed.

The total number of patients under age 4 stood at 12,755 in 2010, exceeding 10,000 for the sixth straight year, according to the biannual survey.

Of even greater concern, the disease’s incidence per 100,000 children under 4 came to 239.6, the highest rate recorded since the study began in 1970, eclipsing the rate of 219.9 seen in 2008.

The 2010 total also was the third-highest level on record, after the 15,519 incidences in 1982 and the 12,847 cases four years later.

Kawasaki syndrome is the most common cause of acquired heart disease among children in developed countries. It is an acute febrile illness of unknown etiology that primarily affects children younger than 5, and can damage coronary arteries supplying the heart, triggering a heart attack.

“The incidence of the disease has been rising steadily since the mid-1990s, although we don’t know exactly what has been behind the latest increase,” said Yoshikazu Nakamura, a public health professor at Jichi Medical University in Tochigi Prefecture.

The survey was led by a professor at the university. It collected data in 2009 and 2010, covering 2,033 medical institutions with pediatric departments. Of these, 1,445 submitted valid responses.

Kawasaki syndrome was first discovered in Japan, when pediatrician Tomisaku Kawasaki diagnosed the disease in 1967. Since then it has been found worldwide in children of all ethnic origins.

The cause of Kawasaki syndrome has yet to be identified, but it is widely believed that viral or bacterial infections can spark an autoimmune reaction in the patient, possibly causing coronary artery aneurysms.

It inflames small and medium-size blood vessels throughout the body, especially in coronary arteries.

Major symptoms include high fever, strawberrylike red bumps on the tongue, swollen lymph nodes in the neck, skin rashes and bloodshot eyes.

The standard treatment is intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG), produced using antibodies from the blood of 3,000 to 10,000 healthy donors.

When administered in high doses, the treatment considerably reduces the symptoms of most Kawasaki syndrome patients, including inflammation.

Still, IVIG is not effective on 20 percent of patients, prompting researchers to look for other treatments, including steroids.

A research team at the health ministry conducted a clinical trial of steroids from September 2008 to December 2010 at 74 medical institutions across the country involving patients with potentially serious afflictions.

The patients were divided into two groups. One was treated only with IVIG and the other with both IVIG and steroids.

The trial found that 23 percent of those in the first group contracted coronary artery aneurysms, but the symptom was detected in only 3 percent of patients administered both IVIG and steroids.

See also Kawasaki disease (Wikipedia); Kawasaki Disease (Kids Health.org)

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‘Child benefit’ to likely pass Diet by the end of March (Yomiuri, Mar.16)

The child-rearing allowance was one of the key policies the DPJ pledged in its manifesto for the 2009 House of Representatives election. Since the system’s launch in fiscal 2010, the program has been implemented in legislation-specified terms ranging between six months and one year.

With the passage of the revised law, the newly christened child benefit program will become permanent.

The amount of the child benefit will remain consistent with the current child-rearing allowance at 15,000 yen a month given to families for each child under age 3. From the time children are 3 years old until they are old enough to enter middle school, families will receive 10,000 yen monthly for their first two children.

Families will receive 15,000 yen each for the third and any subsequent children until the children are old enough to enter middle school. Families will receive a flat amount of 10,000 yen for middle-school-aged children.

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In our Check-it-out! Corner…

“My Favorite Museum Exhibit: A Great Big Chunk of Assyria” (BoingBoing, Feb 1)

Gakushu Manga for learning – on our forum, comes this series recommended for promoting history learning with kids, read this evaluation of the quality of the series:

“I know a number of truly elite academics in Japanese archaeology. And these people have many publications (of great value in my mind) that I am sure no academic elitist would think of writing or getting involved with.

I have on my desk a book titled Shogakukanban Gakushu Manga Shonen Shojo Nihon no Rekishi, vol. 1, Nihon no Tanjo (Shogakukan Editions of Manga Pictorial Learning Texts for Children, Japanese History, vol. 1, The Birth of Japan, Shogakukan 1981, 1994, 77th printing 2005). This is the first volume in a 23-volume manga (comic book) series on Japanese history for grade school children ages 10 to 12. The series editor is Kodama Kota (Professor Emeritus, Gakushuin University)(Note 5) and the editor of the volume I have is Sahara Makoto (Head, now deseased, of the National Museum of Japanese History, Sakura City). There are about 6,000 to 7,000 archaeologists in Japan. Sahara Makoto is one of the top 10, one of the top 0.2% of Japanese archaeologists. Yet he does not hesitate to edit a manga book for grade school children. Because he is truly elite. And the list of advisors for this book includes many other top academics, among them Kobayashi Tatsuo, who is probably Japan’s most frequently interviewed archaeologist, and possibly one of the most frequently interviewed archaeologists in the world.

These top national archaeologists get fully involved in publishing a manga book on Japanese history for grade school children because, as truly elite academics, they feel they are responsible for getting their research to all of the people, not just to other top academics. I know these people. I doubt if any of them ever thought about the broad interpretation of Article 1 of the Japanese Law for the Protection of Cultural Properties, which roughly translated reads: The purpose of this law is the protection of cultural properties for the benefit of all the people of this nation and of all the peoples of the world.(Note 6) But Kodama’s “Words from the Editor” introducing this series are instructive:

Explaining history through the medium of manga is quite an adventure. But when people read history or hear history, they form individual pictures in their minds. The intent of this series is to try to use the manga pictorial form to explain history to children who do not yet have the experience to form pictures of history.
This statement reflects a strong sense of responsibility to the ordinary people. It does not reflect an awareness of the Law, and it also does not seem to reflect a feeling of obligation simply because these ordinary people are the ultimate funders of Kodama’s research. This statement shows the heart of a truly elite academic.

Go to a large book store and browse the books for grade school children. You will certainly find there a lot of other books, especially manga versions, that are written and edited by leading Japanese scholars. These scholars are mostly truly elite academics. They have confidence in their academic abilities, a love of their research that motivates them to want to share it as widely as possible, and a sense of obligation to everyone else, including grade school children.

An elite academic, such as Sahara Makoto in archaeology, cannot be imitated and certainly cannot be faked. Elite academics are first of all elite humans. The “elite” is something that comes from the heart, and that reflects the heart as much as or more than the academic. And it is the heart that really separates the truly elite from the elitist.” Source: Charles T. Keally

Science News Watch (NHK World):Japan’s oldest lacquer tree wood Science Watcher (NHK Dr. Eiji Mizushima focuses on the news of a lacquer tree discovered in a shellmound in Fukui Prefecture. It has been dated as the oldest ever found in Japan, 12,000 years old. Is this the origin of Japan’s rich lacquer culture? And Science Navigator Rena Yamada, who is also a disaster prevention instructor, introduces a new type of tsunami defense that has been invented: seawalls that are sunk on the ocean floor and raised remotely to the surface when there is a tsunami danger. Watch it here.

And also some historical or national cultural heritage news, Reviving the Asuka Beauties: Restoration of the Takamatsuzuka Tomb Wall Painting which made the news this week.

Check out the news about The Hunger Games: Jennifer Lawrence on Katniss, a “futuristic Joan of Arc” the movie to fill the void after Harry Potter…

IT and learning connections:

This article looks at the usefulness of mobile apps for language learning Brushing up your Japanese on a small screen (WSJ)

Khan Academy’s iPad app was just released just moments ago, read the review here at Edudemic.com Sneak Peek: The new Khan Academy iPad app

iAchieve: Putting technology in the hands of children (Educationnews.org)

In Fort Bend, schools have introduced iPads into classrooms as an early step in iAchieve, aiming to… Read more

Autistic children respond readily to interactive learning technology

Future interaction: Touch Screens

The BBC looks at technologies that promise to take the touchscreen to the next level

Web-Based Tools Help Parents Educate Kids About Money (16 Mar Educationnews.org)

The Wall Street Journal reviews several new tools aimed at teaching young kids the basics of money… Read more

Colleges demand student athletes give up Facebook privacy  (Educationnews.org)

College athletes in the U.S. are increasingly being subjected to close monitoring of their social media activity. They’re often required to ‘friend’ an appointed representative who makes sure players aren’t embarrassing the school on Facebook or Twitter

And that’s a wrap for now.

Digitally yours,

Aileen Kawagoe