211 municipalities offer unified education

September 20, 2014 The Yomiuri Shimbun

Twelve percent, or 211, of the nation’s municipalities offer combined public primary and middle school education, an education ministry survey has found.

The first of its kind to be conducted, the survey found such an education system in use at 1,130 combined primary and middle schools. Of this number, 30 percent utilized an unconventional division of the first nine school years, such as using a 4-3-2 system — four years at one school, three years at another and two at another — rather than the more traditional 6-3 system.

The Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry has been trying to legislate the integrated primary and middle school system, so use of a unified system may rapidly spread in the future.

The current system mandates six years of primary school and three of middle school, but a consistent curriculum could be provided over the mandatory nine years for the unified primary-middle school education.

Under a unified system, the higher grades in primary school can take classes from subject-specific teachers, which could lead to higher academic achievement. It could also help avoid the problem in the conventional system in which some newly enrolled middle school students drop out because they cannot adjust to their new environment.

Utilizing the nation’s system for preferential measures to establish special schools, Tokyo’s Shinagawa Ward created the first integrated primary-middle school in the 2006 school year, and the city of Kure in Hiroshima Prefecture did so in the 2007 school year.

This triggered the spread of such schools across the nation.

In the survey conducted this May, municipalities across the nation were asked about their implementation of a consistent nine-year curriculum as an integrated educational system.

Of the 1,130 schools that had adopted a unified educational system, the largest number, about 40 percent, had a combination of one middle school and two primary schools. This was followed by about 30 percent with one primary school and one middle school.

Of the total, 27 percent divided up the nine years in other ways than the 6-3 system, with 293 schools using a 4-3-2 system and two schools using a 5-4 system.

About 90 percent of municipalities said they had achieved good results through combined school education, such as solving the issue of middle school students dropping out.