Police say kidnappers lie in wait to nab children in "blindspots" like quiet parks corners and entrances like these.

Police say kidnappers lie in wait to nab children in “blindspots” like quiet parks corners and entrances like these.

Panel calls for new university entrance exams (NHK — Dec 23, 2014)
Advisors to Japan’s education ministry have called for revising the university entrance exam system.

After about a year of study, the Central Council for Education submitted a series of recommendations to Education Minister Hakubun Shimomura on Monday.

The Council pointed out that the current standardized national entrance exam system tends to test the applicants’ ability to memorize texts. It suggested the exam system should be changed to test the applicants’ comprehensive knowledge or skills.

It also suggested that some exam questions should cover multiple subject areas. Applicants should write answers rather than filling in mark sheets, which is now required.

The Council also called for introducing third-party English exams to test the applicants’ ability to listen, speak, read and write English.

Japan high school student job-securing rate hits 20-year high
JIJI PRESS — DEC 13
The proportion of high school students in Japan who had been promised employment next spring as of the end of October topped 70 pct for the first time in 20 years, an education ministry survey showed Friday.
The proportion rose 7.0 percentage points from a year before to 71.1 pct, growing for the fifth straight year. The rate improved in all of the country’s 47 prefectures.
The improvement reflected an economic recovery, the ministry said, adding that employers have stepped up hiring after years of curbs.

See more at: 就職を希望する高校3年生の就職内定率が、5年連続で上昇していることがわかった。

For a very long time, Japan and the world has had an image of Japan as a very safe society to raise children, where children walk to school and home or to the shops and to play with their friends daily without being acccompanied by adults. But with child kidnappings on the rise over the years, are Japan’s children in fact still safe walking alone home from school? Crime figures (scroll to read police report data at the bottom of the page) show that nearly 200 children under 13 were kidnapped in Japan last year.  A quick comparison with data on child kidnappings in the US, now suggests the number of kidnappings in Japan have surpassed that in the U.S, where the figures for kidnappings by strangers have been dropping since the 1980s, and are considered by the FBI and other agencies to now be rather rare, averaging between 100-150 a year …see “Child abductions by strangers actually very rare“. While the 1999 US figures from the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children show that more than 58,000 children were abducted by nonfamily members, only an estimated 115 children were the victims of “stereotypical” kidnapping, i.e. kidnappings involving someone the child did not know or was an acquaintance and where the child was held overnight, transported 50 miles or more, killed, ransomed or held with the intent to keep the child permanently. (In 2013, the figures for missing children seems to be almost half those in 1999: 462,567 entries for missing children under the age of 18 into the FBI’s National Crime Information Center, also called NCIC. but it is not clear how many of these were stereotypical kidnappings).

In the US, according to CrimeLibrary data, kidnapped children were either taken by non-family members from their yard, home or outdoors, with less than 7% actually taken from shopping malls (than is commonly thought), but in the case of Japan, most children were taken returning home from school or on their way to play with other children. The latter pattern is worrying, because it suggests that the traditional practice of allowing children to go to-and-fro school independently, may be making children easy targets for kidnappings. On a NHK Asaichi TV programme featuring child kidnappings, police experts said kidnappers lay in wait at blindspots in neighborhood parks, along long stretches of quiet roads bounded by retaining walls, with wooded areas, or snatching kids from a waiting car at a carparking lot entrances along such roads.  Parents are advised to know your neighbourhood well, and walk the school route with your child to check for such blindspots where predators could lie in wait.

No. of kidnappings involving children under 13 exceeds 100 for first time in 9 years (JAPAN TODAY — DEC 13, 2014)
The number of kidnapping cases involving children 13 years old and younger this year has exceeded 100 cases for the first time in 9 years.
According to a report released by the National Police Agency, there were 194 kidnappings involving children between Jan 1 and Nov 30.
THE NPA said that about 30% of the kidnappings occurred during the time period from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. when children are usually on their way home from school or are out playing with friends.

Another safety piece was run as an editorial by Yomiuri Shimbun, Dec 23

[Note these numbers pale in comparison to the 70,000 children who are estimated to have been kidnapped every year… source: “Agonizing, lonel search for missing kids in China”, China Daily, The Japan News International, Dec 28]

Establish system to prevent accidents at day care centers

There seems to be no sign of decline in the number of accidents at day care centers and other institutions that take care of children.

We urge the central government, local governments and child care facilities to reinforce their cooperation and take thorough efforts to prevent a recurrence of similar accidents.

According to the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, 162 serious accidents took place in 2013 at certified day care centers and other child care facilities, more than triple the figure posted in 2010. Fatal accidents are also on the rise, with 19 of the accidents in 2013 involving deaths.

The situation is similar at after-school care centers, or facilities that take care of primary school students after school is out. More than 200 accidents occur at the facilities almost every year.

There seems to be a wide variety of accidents — cases such as an infant suffering cardiopulmonary arrest during a nap, a child choking on a rice-flour dumpling given as a snack, or a child being caught by a strong current while playing along a river. It is important to carefully assess the cause of the accidents and widely publicize preventive measures.

However, it is quite dubious whether systems to utilize lessons learned from such accidents have been sufficiently established.

The welfare ministry receives reports on serious accidents that occur at day care centers and other child care facilities from prefectural governments, but the ministry announces the total only once a year. The contents of the announcement are merely a general summary mentioning the categories of the accidents and places where they occurred. Some observers say the ministry’s annual report is not useful in preventing similar accidents from taking place at child care facilities.

In addition, municipalities currently do not have legal obligations to report the results of investigations conducted over fatal accidents at child care facilities to the welfare ministry. Given the present circumstances, we have to say it is difficult to share lessons learned from the accidents nationwide.

Efforts must be sped up

The Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry is in charge of kindergartens, but the ministry does not have sufficient information on accidents that have occurred at such facilities. The ministry has, so far, not publicized the information it has, nor has it made any analysis.

We urge parties connected to the issue to speed up their efforts in building a concrete framework for collecting and analyzing information regarding accidents, and bring the information to the public’s attention. It is also important to review ways of exchanging information with police.

The central government will start a new program for supporting children and child-rearing from next fiscal year. The program includes a plan to oblige day care centers and other child care facilities that receive government subsidies to report serious accidents to municipalities, in tandem with implementing measures to promote the diversification of child care services and expand the enrollment limit of day care facilities.

We believe the government is making appropriate efforts for clarifying systems on how to collect information on accidents. We urge it to manage the systems properly and use the data to prevent similar accidents from happening again.

Aiming to add to the new program, a government advisory committee has proposed establishing a database on accidents at child care facilities, and then publicizing the status of accidents on a website.

Babysitting will not be covered by the new program, but the advisory committee requested to the government that accidents regarding them should also be reported. We would like to ask the government to steadily implement the committee’s proposals.

It is also important to improve the effects of existing laws and systems, such as the Consumer Safety Law, which covers serious accidents caused by products and services.

In the case of child abuse, the government has established an expert committee in charge of verifying specific child abuse cases. The committee analyzes the causes of child abuse and makes proposals on how to prevent similar abuse from happening again. We believe it is worth discussing the establishment of a similar institution regarding accidents at child care facilities.