The state of history and geography education in Japan

According to the articles excerpted below:
About 30% of Japanese state high schoolers graduate without learning Japanese history and only 43% of Japanese high school students could find Miyazaki Prefecture on a map, and 50% could locate Iraq on the world map, while 7% did not know where Tokyo was.
Kanagawa plans compulsory Japanese history The Yomiuri Shimbun
The Kanagawa Prefectural Board of Education has announced plans to make Japanese history mandatory at its 152 prefecture-run high schools as early as the academic year beginning 2012.
Prefectures across the country reportedly have been considering making Japanese history compulsory at high schools, but Kanagawa Prefecture will be the first to do so. Japanese history is currently an elective subject, in line with the government’s teaching guidelines.
The guidelines stipulate that high school students are required to study world history in a geography-history category, with students allowed to choose between Japanese history or geography.
Under a report on new teaching guidelines released in January by the Central Council for Education, an advisory panel to the education minister, world history would be the only compulsory subject.
The Kanagawa education board said it would keep world history compulsory and create two new subjects–“local history” and “modern Japanese and world history”–that meet the Japanese history requirements.
Under the plan, high school students would have the choice of studying both Japanese and world history, or studying world history, geography and the two new subjects.
The education board said it would implement the plan to coincide with the introduction of the new teaching guidelines for high school students to be issued during the next school year.
Starting in April, the education board will discuss how to make its own textbooks for the new subjects as they do not fall under the government’s teaching guidelines.
Students who choose local history and modern Japanese and world history will be required to take one or two credits in each subject. To earn a credit, students have to complete 35 50-minute classes over the course of the year. It was decided to set the minimum requirement at one or two credits so as not to overburden students also studying world history and geography. The education board plans to pilot the two new subjects at some schools in the 2010 school year.
In Kanagawa Prefecture, about 30 percent of students from prefectural- run high schools graduate each year without learning Japanese history.
With such low rates of study, the prefectural education board, along with those in Tokyo, Chiba and Saitama prefectures, in September 2006 urged the Education, Science and Technology Ministry to make Japanese history mandatory. “In this age of rapid globalization, it’s essential that students take subjects that deepen their understanding of their own country’s history and culture,” an official at the Kanagawa Prefectural Board of Education said.
The ministry made world history compulsory in teaching guidelines issued for the 1994 school year, saying world history had not been taught adequately at middle schools.
Takaichi Hikichi, head of the education board, said at a press conference: “Some young people don’t even know there was a war between Japan and the United States. I want high school students who are open-minded, and who can contemplate these issues, to take another look at the nation’s history and culture.”
(Feb. 16, 2008) Daily Yomiuri
74% of students fail to find Iraq on map Kyodo News
Only 26 percent of Japanese high school students were able to correctly locate Iraq on a map, despite the considerable media attention given to the country while Japanese troops were providing postwar reconstruction aid, a survey by an academic society of geographers showed Wednesday.
The Association of Japanese Geographers stressed that this and other results show the need to improve geography in schools.
Only 38 percent of the students identified Switzerland correctly, and only 30 percent were able to pinpoint Vietnam, according to the survey released by the association’s Commission on Geographic Education.
In its second survey following the first such investigation in 2005, the commission surveyed 6,159 students at 51 high schools in Tokyo and six other prefectures, and 3,747 students at 31 universities and colleges across the country from December to Gebruary to check their geographic knowledge.
The United States was the most familiar country, with 84 percent of students locating it without difficulty.
Iraq was the least familiar country to the surveyed university students, with only 50 percent correctly locating it on a map. Iraq was followed by Finland, which was correctly located by 65 percent of the students.
Students also were tested on Japanese geography. More than half of the high school students failed to pinpoint the location of Miyazaki Prefecture, despite the widepsread popularity and the media attention given to its TV personality-turned governor, Hideo Higashikokubaru.
Miyazaki was recognized by 43 percent of the high school students, the lowest among the 10 prefectures picked for the survey. Tokyo was best known among them. Yet, 7 percent did not even know where Tokyo is, according to the survey.

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