Current Concerns (20): LEC uni, new child-care bill, no. of quake-proof schools up

Child-care bill could be enacted in July Though it is an improvement of working conditions for women, might this policy not backfire and make employers more reluctant to hire women employees?

The Yomiuri Shimbun

LEC Tokyo Legal Mind University, the nation’s first joint-stock company-run university, will stop accepting undergraduate students from the 2010 academic year, it announced Thursday.
The university has been plagued by a dearth of new students, and the company has suffered debts of about 3 billion yen in operating the university. This is the second university run by a company to stop accepting students.
The university in Chiyoda Ward, Tokyo, will keep providing lectures for its 459 students, and its graduate school, which has 34 students, will continue accepting students.
The university was opened in 2004 by Tokyo Legal Mind K. K., which operates a nationwide chain of preparatory schools for public licensing tests, under the system of government-designated special zones for structural reform.
(Jun. 20, 2009)
EDUCATIONAL RENAISSANCE / Can repetitive drills solve Osaka’s low natl test scores? (Jun.18)  Debate over whether intensive drills will improve academic scores – excerpt below (read entire article here  … link will expire soon):
“… Hashimoto in October announced a plan to improve the local education system. Among the measures is included a 10- to 15-minute period before class to run through kanji and mathematics drills.
On a recent afternoon at Tanagawa Primary School in Misakicho, a town on the southern edge of Osaka Prefecture, about 20 fifth-graders spent 10 minutes running through calculation drills before their classes began.
Their teacher held up a stopwatch and said, “Ready…go!” The kids quickly began running through so-called 100-box calculation sheets.
These charts are used to improve skills in addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. Boxes in the first column and first line of each chart contain the numbers 0 to 9, usually in random order. Using these figures, students fill in the 100 boxes as quickly as possible by performing a specific mathematical operation.
One minute after the start of the practice, one student after another began to signal that they had finished. They then continued to work on an additional 100 division problems.
The calculation chart was made famous by Hideo Kageyama, who is vice principal at Ritsumeikan Primary School in Kyoto, author of several influential books and a superstar in Japan’s education world. Kageyama also has been invited by the Osaka governor to serve as a member of the prefectural board of education.
Since 2007, Tanagawa Primary School has been conducting intensive, repetitive practice sessions before regular classes. Almost every day, students practice recitation and run through kanji drills in the morning and arithmetic in the afternoon.
“We feel that we failed to establish a firm scholastic base for our students, so they were unable to apply their knowledge,” Principal Junko Yahagi, 58, explains.
In addition to consistent drilling, the Kageyama method requires children to keep early hours and eat breakfast every day. The school, too, focuses its energy in this area. It offers cooking lessons for parents three times a year, showing them how to make nutritionally balanced breakfasts. Almost all of the students now eat breakfast every morning.
However, Tanagawa has yet to have enough data to prove the intensive drills are actually effective. Three times a year, the children must take a schoolwide arithmetic test. For the 2008 school year, the students averaged 91.2 percent–a level that has been maintained over the past several years.
Yahagi considers this a worthy endeavor: “The children start their day with the drills, which stimulate their brains enough to keep them focused from the get-go. We believe our students now have a sound scholastic base.”
The prefectural board of education has produced a variety of downloadable materials to promote this intensive drill approach. The materials include 40 kinds of worksheets for primary schools and 90 types for middle schools, in addition to the relevant teachers’ manuals.
According to the board, 80 percent of public primary and middle schools in the prefecture–not counting the two ordinance-designated major cities of Osaka and Sakai–have introduced some form of drills.
However, the principal of another primary school in the prefecture expressed concerns over the board’s promotion of drills.
“If there is too much focus on achieving better results,” he says, “I suspect some schools may become more superficial in their teaching.”
Are drills really the answer for helping students in Osaka Prefecture improve their scholastic abilities? The answer to that question will come with the results of this year’s national academic achievement exams in August. … snip…
In September, the governor declared a “state of emergency in education,” while also refusing to reappoint two members of the board whose terms were about to expire. One of his new appointees was renowned educator Hideo Kageyama, vice principal at Ritsumeikan Primary School in Kyoto.
In addition, Hashimoto invited Kazuhiro Fujihara, a former principal at Wada Middle School in Suginami Ward, Tokyo, to serve as a special adviser to the board. Fujihara is known for having introduced after-school tutoring sessions, during which students were taught by instructors dispatched by a major juku cram school chain.
With the help of his aides, Hashimoto has compiled a reform plan, which included the following measures in addition to promoting repetitive drills:
— Holding after-school self-learning sessions at all primary and middle schools.
— Dividing students into classes of certain subjects based on their ability levels at all primary and middle schools.
— Encouraging schools to work with juku to offer after-school tutoring sessions.
— Encouraging schools to use Nintendo DS game consoles as learning aides.
However, there was a strong backlash against Hashimoto’s top-down approach, with many educators insisting that he fails to understand that schools today face many serious issues, such as bullying and truancy.”

7,300 schools at risk in strong earthquake The Yomiuri Shimbun (Jun. 17, 2009)

About 7,300 public primary and middle school buildings and gymnasiums would be in danger of collapse if hit by an earthquake of intensity upper 6 or stronger on the Japanese seismic scale of 7, with the number decreasing by about 3,300 from last fiscal year, according to a national survey by the Education, Science and Technology Ministry, details of which were released Tuesday.

According to the survey on the country’s 124,976 public primary and middle school buildings and gymnasiums, 41,206, or 33 percent, lacked sufficient seismic resistance as of April 1, including the 7,309 buildings that would not be able to withstand an earthquake of upper 6 or stronger.

The percentage of quake-resistant buildings and gymnasiums increased by 4.7 percentage points from last year to 67 percent this fiscal year.

Meanwhile, the law concerning special measures for earthquake and disaster prevention, which was revised last year, requires local governments to conduct seismic resistance tests on school buildings and gymnasiums that were built before 1981, when the current seismic resistance standards were set.

The survey found that 95.7 percent of school buildings and gymnasiums have had their quake resistance checked based on the law, while 3,205 buildings have not.

The law also requires local governments to release the results of the seismic resistance tests, but 320 municipalities have not done so.

“It’s really disappointing that those municipalities haven’t released the results of the tests yet one year after the revision of the law,” a ministry spokesman said. The ministry plans to put the names of such municipalities on its Web site.

The government earmarked 264.1 billion yen in this fiscal year’s supplementary budget to improve the seismic resistance of public school buildings and make them more environmentally friendly.

If the budget is implemented, the percentage of quake-resistant buildings will increase to 78 percent, and there will be no school buildings or gymnasiums that are at significant risk of collapse if hit by powerful earthquake of intensity upper 6 or stronger, according to the ministry.

(Jun. 17, 2009)


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