Current concerns (18) Regulations on running pte nurseries to tighten in Tokyo; possible liberalization of nursery system

The Tokyo metropolitan government likely will adopt stricter procedures from April in its certification of private nurseries, while keeping a closer eye on facilities that already are operating, it has been learned.

The current certification system–which has less stringent standards than those used by the national government–was established to encourage more corporations to enter the market.

The metropolitan government plans to reexamine the current criteria and confirm the financial health of operators before accepting applications. It also plans to scrutinize employee numbers to ensure that staff numbers are not overstated.

The metropolitan government’s certified day care facility system started in 2001 in a bid to reduce the number of infants on waiting lists. As a result, the number of day care facilities in the capital increased to about 430. The move attracted attention as a model case involving the relaxation of regulations.

However, misconduct by certain facilities came to light last year. A certified nursery in Nakano Ward closed suddenly due to financial difficulties, and a trio of scandals emerged in which the metropolitan government asked for subsidies to be returned due to false claims by facilities over staff numbers.

To prevent such misconduct, the metropolitan government plans to ask operators to submit financial reports for the previous three years during the early stages of the application procedure. Previously, such documentation was only required in the final stages of certification.

After a facility has opened, the government plans to inspect it within three months to confirm whether staff numbers tally with those claimed in the application.

In the past, initial inspections were usually conducted 18 months after a facility had opened. For the first time, inspectors will include a nursery teacher and a nutritionist.

At a metropolitan assembly last year, an assembly member reportedly pointed out that the cost of foodstuffs used at some certified day care facilities was extremely low. Therefore, the government also likely will step up its checks on the quality of the food served at such facilities.

Govt may let parents choose nurseries The Yomiuri Shimbun
The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry likely will revise its current stystem in which municipal governments allocate children to authorized nursery schools to enable parents to directly enter into contracts with nurseries that they wish to send their children to, sources said Saturday.
Presently, municipal governments allocate places at nursery schools authorized by prefectural governments.
The authorized nurseries are approved by prefectural governments after meeting standards set under the Child Welfare Law and ministerial ordinances. The standards cover matters such as the number of certified nursery teachers and the floor area of facilities. As of April 2008, about 2.02 million children attended 22,909 public and private nursery schools nationwide.
The revision also would specify common nationwide standards to enable new operators with prefectural government permission, in principle, to establish new nursery schools if they meet the standards.
The ministry hopes that the Social Security Council will agree to the revisions before the end of the month at a meeting of its special section on measures to tackle the declining birthrate, eying a revision to the law during the ordinary Diet session in 2011.
Municipal governments currently receive applications for entry to the authorized nursery schools. They allocate places after taking into account the situation of each household. Single-parent families and those on social security are among households that can apply. The municipal governments also collect fees.
Some parents and guardians will children in the authorized nursery schools are unhappy with the system, complaining about matters such as the distance of the allocated nurseries from their homes. Some applications have even been turned down in municipalities with many chidlren on waiting lists to enter the nurseries.
As of April last year, 19,550 children were on waiting lists and unable to attend nursery school. Many of these were in Tokyo, Osaka Prefecture and neighboring prefectures.
The ministry also will push to have new operators establish nursery schools in an attempt to increase places and get children off waiting lists.
Under the revised system, municipalities will only be responsible for judging whether child care is necessary for the applicants. Once the need has been established, parents will apply directly to the nursery schools. They also will pay fees straight to the nurseries, the sources explained.
Problems may arise if individual nurseries have the final say on the pros and cons of accepting a child. Children in great need of care, such as those from single-parent families, may be unable to enter some nursery schools. Some nurseries could even refuse to accept children from low-income households.
To prevent such situations from arising, the minsitry plans to make it mandatory to give priority to such children.
The ministry also is considering establishing offices at municipal school operations.
In addition to enabling parents to select nursery schools in line with their preferneces, the ministry elieves the revision could strenghthen competition among nurseries, leading to improved services, including a wide range of opening hours.
But fearing escalating fees and excessive competition, the ministry plans to put off the liberalization of care fees demanded by the government-established Council for the Promotion of Regulatory Reform.
The system of contacting nursery schools directly was included in the council’s second report compiled in 2007 and examined in the special section.
Nursery school operators are more guarded about the proposed revision, complaining that it will “greatly increase clerical work” and is a “retrogression of public responsibility”.
This could mean it will take some time before an agreement is reached, the sources added.
(Sun, Feb 8, 2009)

Ministry OK’s controversial


The Education, Science and on Thursday released details of two textbooks that passed its 2008 screening process, including a textbook.

The textbook in question was written by members of the for History . The text, “Chugakko Shakai Rekishi” (Middle School Social Studies and History), is published by the Sha .

The society switched publishers and resubmitted the textbook to the government for screening after their previous publisher, Fusosha Publishing Inc., declined to continue publishing their earlier textbook, “Atarashii Rekishi Kyokasho” (), after it stirred up controversy over the from which it depicted .

According to , the society’s of the textbook said the Imperial “was unable to prevent improper killing and abuse” of and civilians during the war.

The ministry told the society it had to give an account of the serious damage and hardship Japan inflicted on other countries during the war. The sentence was later edited to say that Japan had “committed improper murders and abuse, and caused great damage.”

The society criticizes used till now, saying they are based on a “masochistic” view of history.

Nearly 300 parts of the textbook have been singled out for correction, and all have been edited as part of the screening process, said.

The submitted this time was very similar to the one submitted for screening in the 2004 and published by Fusosha. In terms of content and , the new book is almost the same as the history textbook previously published by Fusosha. The new textbooks may be used in the next if adopt them.

The reason only two applications were screened this year probably reflects a planned renewal of school textbooks under new teaching guidelines that will be implemented for middle schools in the 2012 . This means many textbook publishing companies have put off their submissions for textbook screening until later.

Another textbook that passed the ministry’s screening is the high school text. “Seibutsu II” (Biology II), published by Tokyo Shoseki Co., used in high schools.

No textbooks failed the screening, added.
(Apr. 10, 2009)


Only 9 percent of high school science teachers feel students enjoy class (Mainichi) A mere 9 percent of high school science teachers feel that a majority of their students enjoy their classes, the lowest rate compared to elementary and junior high school levels, a recent survey has discovered.


For Japanese Students, Boring Careers Are Looking Pretty Good (Time Apri 15) Heading en masse to new positions in Japan’s major corporations, fresh university graduates in black suits have become as common a sight in Tokyo as April’s cherry blossoms. But this year, things are different. According to a closely watched annual survey, the companies that were once synonymous with Japan Inc. – Toyota, Sony, Sharp and Canon – have lost their luster as potential employers. For those seeking secure jobs-for-life, students are instead looking to relatively low-risk industries such as railroads and public utilities. …

“… the top five dream employers? Central Japan Railway and East Japan Railway Co. rose to first and second place (up from 4th and 9th place last year). Japan Post — formerly the public office that the government began to privatize in 2007 — jumped 357 spots to rank 30th. Chubu Electric Power and Kansai Electric Power both gained more than 50 places each to rank in the top 50.

It’s not surprising that automakers and electronic companies are no longer as appealing as they once were. Toyota Motor, which has typically ranked in the survey’s top 10, will likely post its second straight operating loss in its 2010 fiscal year — right when the students polled by Recruit will be entering the workplace. The company is expected to report a loss of $4.9 billion when it announces its 2009 results on May 8. Last week, Sharp Corp., too, slashed its outlook for its fiscal year ending March 31, to a net loss of $1.29 billion. …

Export-driven companies, out. Instead, “Students consider companies in industries like infrastructure and food, which are robust in a recession… companies that are stable and don’t go away,” says Ito. “Their parents think the same.”

Grad students in engineering fields, of whom 1,860 were polled, still chose Panasonic as their ideal employer (followed by Sony), but automotive-related companies dropped in rank, and household products (including cosmetics) and pharmaceutical companies grew in popularity. The largest gains were seen by cosmetics companies Kao and Kose, food company Meiji, and three pharmaceutical companies: Shionogi & Co., Chugai Pharmaceutical Co., and Astellas.

Kevin Gibson, managing director of headhunting firm Robert Walters Japan, says he, too, is witnessing a flight to risk-free industries. “We see a gravitation away from banking and, oddly enough, manufacturing is perceived as insecure now,” Gibson says. Robert Walters is placing a large number of executive and management talent into health care and the pharmaceutical industry. “It’s getting fantastic people from I.T. and banking — people that [those industries] wouldn’t normally be able to employ.”


Foreign students finding jobs scarce (Yomiuri)   
 Foreign students seeking work in Japan after graduation are facing difficulties in finding jobs as employment conditions deteriorate because of the economic downturn. 



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