Hello all,

I trust you had a good summer, and it’s now back to school for those with children in the local school system, with a few days to counting down for those in international schools…

As usual, below is our regular roundup on news of what’s happening on the local educational scene:

Disaster drills were conducted across the nation((Jiji-Japan News, Sep 2) yesterday, to prepare for huge earthquakes, based for the first time on a gigantic Nankai Trough quake scenario, as Sept. 1 is Disaster Prevention Day. … and we should also familiarize ourselves with the new Emergency Warning System that was just launched on Friday (Aug 31, 2013, Yomiuri Shimbun).  See chart above at the top of the page:

The Japan Meteorological Agency instituted a new disaster warning system Friday by adding the words “emergency warning” to alerts when there is a risk of significant damage associated with natural phenomena.

The warnings will cover nine categories including volcanic eruptions and tsunami.

When warnings are issued, municipalities are obliged to alert residents to the warnings.

In cases of heavy rain or snow, the emergency warning will be issued when heavy rain or snow is predicted to reach to the level of intensity observed only once about every 50 years.

The new warnings will also cover large typhoons or extratropical cyclones when they are predicted to approach the nation. For earthquakes and tsunami, the definitions currently used for major tsunami and early earthquake warnings will be applied for the new emergency warning.

When torrential rains hit the Chugoku and Tohoku regions this summer, the agency issued special warnings to residents four times ahead of the official start of the new system, saying the rains warranted the emergency warnings.

Saturday classes could be restarted (Yomuiri, Aug 29)

Aiming to restart Saturday classes at all public primary, middle and high schools nationwide, the education ministry has decided to establish a subsidy program to encourage schools to invite instructors from local communities.

The Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry is aiming to reintroduce Saturday classes starting on a monthly basis by the 2017 academic year in an effort to improve students’ scholastic ability.

The subsidy program, which is also intended to strengthen ties between schools and their communities, is scheduled to begin next academic year. Under the program, the state will partially cover the costs of Saturday classes, including payment for instructors and fees for educational materials.

Also from next academic year, the ministry plans to provide subsidies or other forms of assistance to 6,700 schools, or about 20 percent of all public schools. The ministry plans to include ¥2 billion for this purpose in its initial budget request for fiscal 2014.

Reintroducing Saturday lessons would require one of the ministry’s ordinances to be revised. The current ordinance, which was issued to coincide with the introduction of a five-day school week, stipulates that schools are in principle closed on Saturdays, except in the event there is a “special need” for them. In autumn, the ministry plans to revise the ordinance to allow local governments to decide on their own initiatives whether to hold Saturday classes.

The ministry envisions company employees, public servants and other members of local communities acting as instructors on Saturdays, giving students the opportunity to experience various activities in what the ministry has dubbed “comprehensive studies,” or classes that encourage students to think and study on their own initiative.

Under the program, schools would offer English and supplementary classes to improve students’ academic ability in some subjects.

According to ministry officials, using local human resources under the subsidy program would solve problems such as securing the necessary funds to hire instructors and ensuring teachers get the appropriate number of days off. 

The ministry would subsidize a third of the costs, such as salaries for instructors, liaisons for would-be instructors and schools, and teaching materials. It also assumes that an estimated 4,000 primary schools, 2,000 middle schools and 700 high schools would be eligible for the subsidies.

About 350 schools nationwide would be designated as model schools under the plan to develop curriculums for Saturday classes. The schools would hold Saturday classes at least once a month and the ministry will examine the content of the curriculum and students’ achievements.

The ministry will select pilot schools based on the results of a planned survey to see if schools are interested in participating in the program.

The current five-day school week began on a once-a-month trial basis in September 1992, and was increased to twice a month in fiscal 1995. The five-day school week was fully implemented in fiscal 2002.

However, education experts have blamed the five-day school week for deteriorating scores among students. They also said students are not spending their Saturdays as initially envisioned, such as participating in community activities.

In January, education minister Hakubun Shimomura announced the ministry would consider restarting Saturday classes.

In a ministry survey conducted in fiscal 2010 and 2011, less than 10 percent of all public primary, middle and high schools have held Saturday events, such as lessons open to parents and members of local communities, as well as comprehensive study classes conducted by inviting outside speakers to the school. By contrast, many private schools conduct classes on Saturdays, the ministry said. 

Next, heartening news of simply OUTSTANDING! service by a volunteer group of university students … they surely ought to be commended for their work in supplying schoolbooks to help students of the Tohoku region:

Donated books help students in quake-affected Tohoku region (Aug 30, Yomiuri Shimbun)

A volunteer group of university students has been donating secondhand study guides to help middle and high school students in areas of the Tohoku region that were hit hard by the 2011 disaster.

Sankousho Takkyubin was founded by university students in Tokyo in April 2011, shortly after the Great East Japan Earthquake.

Yuta Akashio, 24, who was a junior of Aoyama Gakuin University at the time, learned that high school students in the disaster areas, who had been studying for university entrance exams, had lost their textbooks in the tunami following the earthquake.

Akashio had passed the university entrance exam after studying on his own, without the aid of a preparatory school. He thought that those students, too, would be able to pass their exams through self-study if study guides were available to them. With the help of a friend, he started collecting used study guides through Twitter and blogs. They launched a website and used it to communicate with students, sending the books they requested. Of about 20,000 books collected in the first year, 3,500 that looked almost new were sent to disaster-hit areas. The rest were sold, and the profits went toward shipping fees.

Plus Alpha, a cram school in Minami-Soma, Fukushima Prefecture, is one of the recipients of those books. It uses the secondhand books in English grammar class, which were donated from all across the country and collected by Sankousho Takkyubin.

“Those books are really helpful because it’s hard for me to buy them,” said Kana Ishii, 16, a second-year student at a high school in the city, who was studying at the cram school. She evacuated to Niigata Prefecture and Koriyama, Fukushima Prefecture, after the crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. Her mother became jobless for a time.

The requested books are sent to individual students and cram schools in devastated areas for free.

“This service helps keep the financial burden low on families, whose incomes became unstable after the nuclear crisis started,” said Plus Alpha head Hideyuki Kurosawa, 33. …

The group has received such encouraging responses as, “My child was happy to receive a book of old exam questions used by the school at the top of our list,” and “I passed the exam of my first-choice school.”

Akashio and other members of Sankousho Takkyubin were worried that their activities would affect the business of bookstores in devastated areas.

Since March of last year, the volunteer group has begun to cooperate with a firm purchasing and selling used books online. The group has started selling the books it has collected and is using the profits to buy brand-new books at bookstores in quake-hit areas. They are planning to host a campus tour to various universities, inviting about 20 high school students from Minami-Soma to the Tokyo metropolitan area.

Currently, about 80 students at 12 universities in the Kansai region and Tokyo are involved in Sankousho Takkyubin’s activities.

“I’ll do my best to support middle and high school students in devastated areas who want to study,” said Hiroki Tominaga, 21, a fourth-year student at Aoyama Gakuin University who has taken over the head of the volunteer group.

76 pct of Japan elementary school students like English (Aug 31, 2013 Yomiuri Shimbun)

Tokyo, Aug. 27 (Jiji Press)–A Japanese education ministry survey revealed Tuesday that 76 pct of sixth-grade students at elementary schools in the nation enjoy or somewhat enjoy learning English. 

The proportion stood at 53 pct for third-grade junior high school students, according to the survey, which was conducted in April together with an annual academic achievement test. It was the first such survey.
The percentage of students who would like to have friends from other countries and learn more about overseas came to 71 pct for the elementary school students and 61 pct for the junior high school students.
However, only 39 pct of the elementary school students said they want to or are somewhat interested to study abroad or work abroad in the future. The figure was even lower, at 31 pct, for the junior high school students.

Use findings of achievement tests to correct students’ weaknesses (Aug 28, 3013, Yomuiri Shimbun)

It is important to determine where children are weak in each school subject, a task that must be complemented by efforts to reflect such findings in methods for guiding them in their studies

The Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry has published the results of a nationwide achievement test conducted in April. The test, which covered sixth-grade primary school students and third-year middle school students, was intended to examine their basic knowledge about the Japanese language, arithmetic and mathematics, as well as their applied skills in these subjects.

The latest achievement test was the first to be administered on all such students in four years, and provided detailed data on the performance of students in each school and each city, town and village. Such data was not obtained from similar tests conducted under the Democratic Party of Japan-led government, as the education ministry conducted achievement tests targeting only about 30 percent of schools chosen as samples during the DPJ’s rule.

The latest data can be used by local governments to improve education by, for example, preferentially assigning teachers to schools whose students performed poorly in the latest test. We hope the education ministry will continue to use the participation-by-all formula in administering nationwide achievement tests.

What is noteworthy about the findings is a welcome change in the results classified by prefecture. A sign of improvement was evident in the performance of prefectures that had fared poorly in the average percentage of correct answers given by students in previous achievement tests.

In some of these prefectures, improvements in this respect were achieved through a mix of measures, including after-school supplementary lessons and achievement tests administered by local education authorities.

All this can be seen as a sign that the nationwide achievement test, first conducted in 2007, has encouraged local governments to introduce measures to improve the academic standards of students in their areas.

Poor at expressing opinions

The results of the ministry’s achievement tests, including the latest one, clearly show where students are weak. For example, they fared poorly in writing their opinions about documents they were told to read in the test. They also did badly at logically explaining the reasons for the answers they gave.

Questions of this kind were incorporated into the latest test. Not surprisingly, the percentage of correct answers was low.

A major task that must be tackled by the authorities is to improve the academic ability of children in fields in which they have a problem answering questions. With this in mind, the education ministry is scheduled to produce documents designed to provide teachers with some innovative ideas, based on the findings from the latest test, while also distributing them to local boards of education and other institutions. …

Children’s learning at home is another important issue to be addressed in working to improve their academic abilities. The percentage of children who review their school lessons at home has been increasing since they were covered in an awareness survey for the first time. The latest survey shows about 50 percent of primary and middle school students review their school studies at home. This can be seen as a certain measure of progress in encouraging children to study at home. …  Read more

A report compiled by a private panel of experts for the Foreign Ministry calls for promoting the Japanese language in other countries and enhancing Japan’s presence in the international community. The government plans to prepare a budget to propagate the language.

The report also wants to make it easier for young people abroad to learn Japanese.

The “Cool Japan” strategy, launched by the government to promote the Japanese culture of manga, anime and fashion overseas, is attracting the interest of young people around the world. Proactively concentrating on such trends is the correct thing to do.

Specifically, the report suggested setting up a Japanese-language course for beginners on the Internet. It is essential to utilize information technology to that end.

It also suggested expanding the program for the long-term dispatch of Japanese-language experts to foreign countries, which the Japan Foundation—the core organization for promoting the Japanese language abroad—has been implementing with the aim of increasing the number of foreigners teaching Japanese in their own countries.

If these policy measures prove effective in increasing the number of foreigners learning Japanese, their understanding of Japan will become deeper. This will increase the number of people who are pro-Japanese and knowledgeable about Japan.

Such measures also should prove useful for Japanese companies, which are increasingly launching overseas operations, to secure local Japanese-speaking staff.

Behind the ministry’s discussions to promote the Japanese language abroad is a declining global interest in learning Japanese. …Read the entire article here.

While the number of foreigners learning or speaking Japanese totals about 3.98 million, a figure 30 times larger than the number 30-plus years ago, the growth in Japanese-language learners abroad has slowed recently.

Although the number of people learning Japanese in Indonesia and other Southeast Asian countries is rising, it is declining in such countries as South Korea, Britain and Canada.

Interest in Chinese growing

Half of those people studying Japanese overseas are middle and high school students learning it as a second foreign language, with English as their first foreign language. Lately there has been a sharp increase in the number students studying Chinese as their second foreign language.

It is true that interest has grown among non-Chinese because of China’s fast-growing economy. Yet there are other reasons.

China has established government-affiliated educational institutions, such as the Confucius Institute, around the world, made efforts to teach the Chinese language to foreigners, provided them with learning materials and fostered foreigners teaching Chinese in their own countries.

Particularly in the area of primary education, the Chinese government is proactively inviting to China foreign teaching staff and school officials.

In the United States, some universities, as wells as primary, middle and high schools, have ended Japanese language courses, apparently because of growing interest in the Chinese language.

The report stressed that the biggest impediment faced by institutions teaching Japanese overseas is securing a sufficient number of Japanese-language teachers. It also pointed out that Japan had failed to provide foreigners with such advantages as studying in this country or finding jobs in Japanese companies …

Wrong reason to rescind censorship (Japan Times, AUG 29, 2013) 

Society must give children a chance to think deeply about war and other serious issues by allowing them unhindered access to relevant literature in school.

The Matsue City board of education in Shimane Prefecture on Aug. 26 withdrew its earlier decision to severely limit access to the 10-volume manga series “Hadashi no Gen” (“Barefoot Gen”), a best-selling antiwar and anti-nuclear weapons classic. The board said that individual elementary and junior high schools can return the series to their library shelves. The decision to do so was left to the judgment of each school.

Unfortunately, the board cited only a procedural reason for rescinding its decision and failed to express regret over violating children’s right to read books. Deplorably, the head of the board’s secretariat, who unilaterally made the original decision to remove “Hadashi no Gen” from school library shelves and require students to get teachers’ permission to read it, was not punished at all.

The series was drawn by the late Keiji Nakazawa, a survivor the Aug. 6, 1945, atomic bombing of Hiroshima who died last December. The main character, Gen Nakaoka, a 6-year-old boy, goes through various experiences during and after World War II. The series graphically depicts not only the harsh reality of the atomic bombing and the hardship in the immediate postwar years but also atrocities committed by the Imperial Japanese Army, such as the beheading of other Asians and rape. It also includes harsh criticism of the Emperor Showa, at times calling him a “murderer.”

In August 2012, a man sent a request to the Matsue City assembly asking that the series be removed from school library shelves, saying that its perception of history was wrong. The secretariat of the board decided in December 2012 to remove the series from school library shelves on the grounds that its depiction of atrocities committed by the Imperial Japanese Army was too violent, without letting the five board members know about the decision. The secretariat conveyed the decision to the city’s elementary and junior schools on Dec. 17 and again on Jan. 9-10.

The five board members decided on Aug. 26 to withdraw the December 2012 decision on the grounds that the secretariat made the decision without consulting the board members. Regrettably it did not touch on the issue of whether it is correct for an organization with public power to limit student access to books.

How can the cruelty of war be conveyed without truthful description? Society must give children a chance to think deeply about war and other serious issues by allowing them unhindered access to relevant literature in school and giving them guidance to help them understand what they are reading. Limiting access to information deprives children of the ability to think critically.

EDITORIAL: Books essential to help children learn about war and peace(08/31)

The Matsue municipal board of education retracted its request to municipal elementary and junior high schools to restrict students’ access to the manga “Hadashi no Gen” (Barefoot Gen), an internationally renowned series about the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, in school libraries.

The Matsue municipal board of education retracted its request to municipal elementary and junior high schools to restrict students’ access to the manga “Hadashi no Gen” (Barefoot Gen), an internationally renowned series about the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, in school libraries.

Since the secretariat of the board had issued the request without consulting board members, all five members judged that “there were flaws in the procedure.”

We think the decision to scrap restrictions on access is sensible, but it is regrettable that the reason does not go beyond the problem of procedures.

The controversy goes back to August 2012, when a citizen filed a petition with the municipal assembly to have the manga removed from school libraries on the grounds that its historical perception concerning wartime actions of the Imperial Japanese Army and war responsibility of Emperor Showa is erroneous. The municipal assembly turned down the petition, and the school board also took the position of not removing the manga from library shelves at the time.

Like the citizen who filed the petition, many of the people who support the request to limit access are raising questions about the manga’s historical perception and its view of the emperor system.

But the true worth of “Hadashi no Gen” is the way author Keiji Nakazawa aptly described the horror of the atomic bomb based on his own personal experiences. That is why the series has continued to attract readers both at home and abroad. Those who argue that the book should be put out of reach of children just because they do not agree with the historical view in the book are narrow-minded, to say the least.

There are many books that attract readers because they carry strong messages of the writers from cover to cover. People who totally reject the value of works just because they don’t like some parts lack an understanding toward literature.

The board’s initial stance to turn down the request for removal was right. From now on, other education boards should also firmly reject requests for such restrictions.

But the way the board secretariat dealt with the situation after the request was turned down is problematic. Five senior members, including the superintendent of education at the time, read the series again. They agreed that scenes in the final volume of the series that depict the actions of the Japanese army in Asia are “cruel” and decided to ask elementary and junior high schools to limit access to the series.

Because children are in their developmental stages, their opportunities to freely read books must be fully guaranteed. The municipal education board’s secretariat completely lacked consideration in this regard.

War is cruel. How should education make use of books that squarely address the atrocities of war? We need to come up with wisdom and ingenuity. Younger generations who do not know war cannot learn the preciousness of peace if we have them avert their eyes from the cruelty of war.

It is important that children are given the choice to read books. Based on that, when children who choose to read books come up with questions or express shock, we need to deal with them in earnest.

Such smart ways to deal with books should be promoted in schools and at home.

–The Asahi Shimbun, Aug. 30

Manga artists recount war memories in exhibition…

Even earlier news:

Tokyo eyes 12-year education (Yomiuri, Aug 25, 2013)

The Tokyo Metropolitan board of education plans to open an integrated 12-year public school that includes advanced academic content beyond the government’s curriculum guidelines, in a bid to boost human resources able to compete at a global level in the fields of science and math.

The board said it aims to open the first public school offering a 12-year education by 2017.

The school will cover primary, middle and high school and be nationally designated as a “special curriculum school.” It will provide an education based on original teaching guidelines that emphasize science and math.

Taking advantage of the opportunity to provide a consistent education over many years, the school will make a proactive effort to teach advanced content earlier. Emphasis will also be placed on English.

The current curriculum system, comprising six years in primary school, and three years each in middle and high schools, has been revamped under the new system, which divides 12 years into three four-year stages: fundamentals from the first to fourth years; amplification from fifth to eighth; and development from ninth to 12th.

The old school building of Tokyo Metropolitan Senior High School of Fine Arts, Performing Arts and Classical Music will be used for the first four years, while Tokyo Metropolitan Musashi High School and its attached junior high school will be used for the subsequent eight years.

Students will be screened based on results of a math and science aptitude test before entering the school. However, an applicant selection process and the timing of enrollment has yet to be decided. A Tokyo Metropolitan board of education task force will work out such details in consultation with outside experts by the end of this academic year.

Thousands wait for after-school childcare (Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug 24)

The shortage of child care centers, which take care of children after school, has become a serious problem nationwide.

School facilities, including vacant classrooms, must be utilized to open more after-school child care centers in urban areas. However, little progress has been made due to a lack of coordination between the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, which has jurisdiction over after-school child care centers, and the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry, which supervises local education boards.

Record No. of enrolled students …

According to a survey compiled earlier this month by a national liaison council for after-school child care centers, there are currently about 21,635 after-school child care facilities nationwide and 888,753 students are enrolled in them, both record highs. The council is operated by staff at child care centers and parents.

The survey found 6,944 students were on waiting lists for enrollment in after-school child care centers, but it is difficult to know the exact number because applications for the centers are not handled solely by local governments. “There are potentially a lot more students waiting,” a council official said.

Local governments in urban areas have been establishing day care centers for preschool children at a rapid pace. Therefore, there is expected to be a more serious shortage of after-school centers that take care of older children after they enter primary school. Read the rest of the article here.

Education ministry promotes own project (Yomiuri, Aug 24)

Since the 2007 school year, the education ministry has been promoting its own program, separate from the health and welfare ministry’s efforts, to utilize space such as empty classrooms at primary schools for various after-school activities for children.

Called “hokago kodomo kyoshitsu” (after-school children’s class), the program is basically designed for children whose parents both work and are not home yet when children return from school. However, any child can use the program.

More and more municipalities have begun to implement this program instead of the traditional after-school child care program under the supervision of the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, but some have pointed out the education ministry program lacks standards for the scale of activities or the allocation of staffers.

Shinozaki No. 4 Primary School in Edogawa Ward, Tokyo, has renovated empty classrooms on the first floor and operates a kodomo kyoshitsu until evening hours even during long vacation periods. On average about 120 children from the first to sixth grades participate in the program each day. They draw pictures or play with friends in the schoolyard, for instance, while five to six staffers keep an eye on them.

Any children can register to participate in the program, but half of them have two parents who work during the day.

The Edogawa Ward Office has opened kodomo kyoshitsu at all ward-run primary schools. Because any child can participate in the program, which is run directly by the ward’s board of education, “It’s easy to gain the cooperation of schools,” said a board official.

Although only children whose parents are both working can use the program in the hour to 6 p.m., the Tokyo metropolitan government decided not to receive subsidies from the health and welfare ministry for its after-school child care program.

The education ministry started the hokago kodomo kyoshitsu project for a number of reasons, including an insufficient number of places for children to play safely in their communities. But different areas implement the program differently.

The education ministry’s subsidies mainly cover personnel costs. As there are limits on the number of days the classrooms are open each year, local municipalities partially shoulder the costs for operating the program. The Kawasaki and Yokohama city governments operate the program in evening hours as part of traditional after-school child care by the health and welfare ministry.

To hold after-school child care programs, such factors as the scale of activities and hours of operation are decided according to the health ministry’s guidelines. The ministry plans to compile standards on such points as staff qualifications and personnel distribution this fiscal year under the Child Welfare Law.

On the other hand, the education ministry has no guidelines for kodomo kyoshitsu, leaving everything to local education boards.

“As a result, [the education ministry program] cannot fulfill the original purpose of the health ministry’s program to provide a homelike place for children whose parents are both working,” said an official of the national liaison council for after-school child care centers.

Louise George Kittaka tells prospective ALT teachers in Japan to think twice before they “ink” (get tattoos) because of BOEs and schools’ dim view of tattoos…

Think before you ink if you work with kids (Japan Times, Jul 22, 2013)

Reader PP is arriving in Japan soon to begin a stint as an assistant language teacher (ALT). He writes: “I am very interested in getting an irezumi(traditional tattoo) in Japan. Are there any artists that will tattoo a foreigner? If so, who and where? My interviewer for the teaching position tried to warn me that tattoos are a ‘no-no’. ”

He goes on to describe a story he heard about another ALT: The man had taken off his shirt to water some plants on his balcony, when a student’s parent happened to walk by and saw his tattoo-riddled back. The parent apparently called the school, claiming that they had hired a member of the yakuza — the Japanese mafia, who traditionally have tattoos. The ALT had to change jobs and cities as a result.

It’s true that many Japanese people, particularly the older generations, still associate tattoos with yakuza, and that many in mainstream society shy away from being inked. However, partly fueled by growing interest from overseas, tattoos seem to be gaining a modicum of acceptance among younger people. Just the other day in downtown Tokyo I saw a Japanese woman with a toddler on one arm and a full “sleeve” tattoo on the other.

Having said that, since PP is going to be working with schoolchildren, it is advisable not get a tattoo in a place that is likely to be seen by his charges — or their parents, for that matter. It is guaranteed that his fellow teachers and the local board of education will also take a dim view of an ALT with a visible tattoo. … Read the rest here.

Story of WWII student-nurses set for Net (Aug 25, Yomuiri Shimbun)

An animation movie depicting the Himeyuri Gakutotai (Lily Corps), an army nursing unit of female students formed to care for injured soldiers during the Battle of Okinawa, will be released on the Internet later this month with English subtitles.

The 30-minute animation was produced by Himeyuri Heiwa Kinen Zaidan (Himeyuri Peace Memorial Foundation), which comprises former corps members and their supporters.

The Japanese-language version of the film has been shown at the Himeyuri Peace Museum in Itoman, Okinawa Prefecture, since last year. The foundation decided to make a version with English subtitles so children all over the world can see it.

Former corps members have talked about their experiences to museum visitors, including students on school excursions, since the museum opened in 1989. They decided to produce the original animation, mainly for older primary school students, after realizing how hard it was to convey their tragic memories only in words. …

While keeping faithful to the facts and feelings of the former corps members, the members translated the narration into simple expressions in English.

The version with English subtitles is scheduled to be released on the video-sharing website YouTube by the end of this month.

Yoshiko Shimabukuro, 85, a survivor of the corps and now chief curator of the museum, said: “Even today, many people become victims of civil wars and other armed conflicts around the world. We want to tell people about the tragedy that befell Okinawa Prefecture, which is far from places where many children live, so they can understand the horror of war.”

The girls nursing corps was formed with 222 students of Okinawa Shihan Women’s School and Okinawa Daiichi Women’s High School in March 1945.

The students took care of injured and ill soldiers mainly inside underground shelters at an army hospital. In all, 123 of the students and 13 of their teachers died in bombings or mass suicides …



Elsewhere in the world, new concepts of schools are emerging:

The son of a friend of mine attended the school of the arts mentioned in the article below. The boy was a free-spirit, and difficult kid through the teen years who wasn’t thriving academically, until he entered this unique music & arts program school that also incorporated a rigorous IB curriculum … .. it allowed kids to find their way, learn new instruments and unusual new skills in a varied and unusual curriculum, try new things and skills, see article below:

Global education lessons: Singapore leads in STEM, now takes on the arts

(CS Monitor) Chew Jun Ru knew he wanted to become a musician back in high school. But the eldest of four had parents who shared the traditional Singaporean view of the arts – they insisted he find a career with a solid future

What do you all think of this new iPad-centred school? I think that many “home-schools” are already somewhat looking like this … do you want your neighborhood school to look like this too?  Tell us in the comment section what you think would be the pluses and downsides to such iPad-centred schools.

What does a Totally Technology-centric school look like? Can you imagine a school where every facet of life uses technology? Let’s take a look at what a totally technology-centric school might actually look like

“A New Concept of School

In these new schools, the traditionally ultra-scheduled school day is a thing of the past. The schools will be open every weekday from 7:30 am to 6:30 pm. As long as the students are there from 10:30 am to 3pm, they can otherwise come and go as they please. While the school will close on Christmas and New Year’s, families can otherwise decide when they want to go on vacation, since their students won’t be missing any classes in the traditional sense.

See also this related link: The Teacher’s Guide To The One iPad Classroom

Global education lessons: Canadian summer school transcends remedial

Primed to perform, five middle school girls take their positions like dots on dice: four at each corner, the tallest in the center. In time to music, they carry invisible loads, push against air, wield imaginary shovels …

Global education lessons: German’s respected voc-tech path with Meisters (CS Monitor, September 1, 2013)

In Germany, more than half of all students take vocational training – and for those not ready, an intensive pre-apprenticeship program “rescues” youths by helping them identify a profession and prep to work with a serious Meister.

Global education lessons: Australia teaches to test – a better test (CS Monitor, September 1, 2013)

As the US moves to the Common Core, it might well look to Australia’s victories with testing that promotes effective learning. It hasn’t been controversy-free, but the nation is coming to terms with assessment. …

For that to happen, Leung needs to know the strengths and weakness of her students, a diverse group of seventh- through 12th-graders at Merrylands High School in Sydney’s western suburbs. For this, she relies on a battery of techniques, ranging from quizzes designed to tell her students’ starting point to mind-mapping exercises, games, brainstorming sessions, traditional tests, and tasks on online platforms…

Leung’s classroom exemplifies a trend earning Australia accolades from international education experts: testing that promotes effective learning and teaching. This ranges from classroom tests like Leung’s to certification tests administered at a statewide level. Here, as in the United States, teachers may find themselves teaching to such external tests; the difference is that the quality of those assessments is much higher than the multiple-choice format the US favors. … Read more

Global education lessons: China’s mentor schools bridge rich-poor gap (CS Monitor, September 1, 2013)

As the US struggles with inequity between richer and poorer school districts,  Shanghai’s stellar urban schools offer hands-on help to rural schools with intensive teaching and administrative mentoring..

First Person: Today’s College Is Not Your Father’s Four-Year Plan

Yahoo News, as part of its “Born Digital” series, asked students and parents to write about how college has changed over a generation.

First Person: College Education Now a Minimum Requirement

Yahoo News, as part of its “Born Digital” series, asked students and parents to write about how college has changed over a generation.

1912 eighth grade exam: Could you make it to high school in 1912?

Kids’ health, safety and societal issues:

The Meteorological Agency on Aug. 30 started a system to use a “special warning” designation for natural disasters that are very likely to cause heavy damage…

As Mr. Mitsuhiko Hatori, director general of the agency, said, a special warning means that a life or death situation is imminent. Once such a warning is issued, the general public and local governments must think that a life-threatening situation is approaching and take necessary action — that is, evacuate quickly to minimize the possibility of disaster-related casualties.

Special warnings will be issued for heavy rains, storms, high tides, high waves, heavy snow and blizzards. But the agency will continue to use the conventional terms “emergency earthquake early warning” (kinkyu jishin sokuho) for an earthquake whose intensity is six or higher on the Japanese scale of seven, “eruption warning” (funka keiho) for a volcanic eruption that requires evacuation and “major tsunami warning” (o-tsunami keiho) for a tsunami that is more than three meters high. The agency said that these conventional terms are on a par with special warnings.

In the case of heavy rains, a special warning will be issued for each municipality when a record heavy rain for the past 50 years is imminent. The agency has set a criterion for issuing a special heavy rain warning by studying past precipitation records, including precipitation for three hours periods and for 48 hour periods, in individual municipalities across the country….more

Unanswered calls from children (Japan Times)

Seventy-five percent of calls made to telephone counseling services for children go unanswered. A better system to help every child who calls is needed….

15-year-old girl attempts Y4 mil identity fraud (Sep 2, Japan today)

Police said Saturday that a 15-year-old school girl from Tokyo’s Adachi Ward has been arrested for attempted identity fraud after she allegedly posed as a woman’s son in need of cash.

Students can continue their learning at home, since the apps on their iPads will be available to them at home as well. Rather than following a specific curriculum that is applied to all students of a particular grade and age level, a personalized learning plan is developed collaboratively between the teachers, parents, and student. The learning plan is reviewed every six weeks with all involved parties chiming in. At least in theory, the days of some students being bored because the teacher is moving through the material too slowly and others struggling to keep up – are gone. Each student can develop their own natural talents, foster their independence, and generally be more creative.

Since there are no ‘set hours’ for all students to be in the schools and no formal classes, the education minister is looking to see if these new schools can be exempt from the requirement for students to spend a certain number of hours in school.”

Fukushima-related news:

Leaks suspected from more tanks at Fukushima plant (September 01, 2013 Asahi Shimbun AWJ)

Radiation levels of up to 1,800 millisieverts per hour have been detected at four locations at the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant, as the operator checks storage tanks following a leak of 300 tons of radioactive water…

Aging hikikomori children’s lifelong dependency on parents (Aug 14, Japan Today)

Tepco fixes leaky pipe but finds hot spots, jump in radiation

Tokyo Electric patches a radioactive pipe after finding a lethal hot spot and rising tritium and strontium levels near its leaky water tanks.


Last but not least, check out these educational resources:

Newly uploaded page is this resource listing book titles on Education in Japan, the school system and its history, higher education in Japan, social or psychological and other issues related to Education in Japan. Please go to our Pinterest page on Education-in-Japan

Kelley King and Michael Gurian’s “With Boys in Mind / Teaching to the Minds of Boys” September 2006 | Volume 64 | Number 1 Educational Leadership:Teaching to Student Strengths  – ASCD pp. 56-61

Is something wrong with the way we’re teaching boys? One elementary school thought so and decided to implement boy-friendly strategies that produced remarkable results…

NHK has this folktale storytelling resource in 9 languages:

TTFN (Ta ta for now) …

Digitally yours,

Aileen Kawagoe