Moral edn lessons to teach kids to be more law-abiding

Moral education to stress following rules / Revised notebooks to also focus on virtue of diligence (Mar.16)

Primary and middle school students will be taught about the importance of abiding by rules in moral education classes, the Education, Science and Technology Ministry has announced.

The plan is part of revisions being made to supplementary teaching material. The revamped exercise books, known as Kokoro no Noto, or notebook for mental education, will go into use from April.

In addition to the existing topics, such as self-esteem, relationships with others and the value of life, the new books will include pages focusing on the virtue of diligence.

It will cost 400 million yen to print 5.2 million copies of the new workbook, which will be distributed for free to first-, third- and fifth-grade primary school students and first-year middle school students.

Currently, four levels of the notebooks are used separately in classes for lower, middle and higher grades of primary school and for middle school students.

The contents of the revised notebooks reflect new teaching guidelines based on the revised Fundamental Law of Education.

Instead of having moral education as an official subject under the new guidelines, the ministry asked each school to put a teacher in charge of promoting moral education and to compile a yearly teaching plan.

The ministry also revised the workbook content and expanded its size, from eight to 16 pages depending on the level, giving more space for students to take notes.

This is the second revision for the primary school versions and the first change to the middle school one. The notebooks originally were compiled in 2002 and edited by psychologist Hayao Kawai.

Students are encouraged in the new workbooks to consider the concept of adhering to rules. The exercise books become more detailed on this issue as students advance through the grades.

For instance, the revised books for lower primary school has a page titled “Things you should not do,” which uses illustrations to show it is bad to speak ill of others or to lie.

The book for midlevel primary school grades expands on this description, while the notebook for higher primary school grades asks students to think about why they should not do these things.

Koji Sato, 46, a teacher of Yamagata municipal No. 3 Primary School, who has been teaching moral education for more than 20 years, said, “It’s always been difficult to teach the importance of following of rules as children tend to see it as something imposed by adults, and so they naturally tend to rebel.”

“If children learn the process by which they can think on their own and do so naturally, they can understand things faster, so I think it’s very important that the revised notebooks have a section [that makes students think deeply],” Sato added.

However, many teachers obtained their teacher’s license without receiving any training on how to teach moral education classes.

Prof. Toshihiro Yokoyama of Kwansei Gakuin University, who worked as an examiner for a project to revise textbooks under the then Education Ministry, said: “The most important thing in moral education is how to ask students questions that make them think for themselves. So the quality of teaching has to be improved.”

(Mar. 16, 2009)

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