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Many schools like my children’s are getting makeovers, due to construction of new wings, earthquake reinforcement work, and disaster prep work.

NHK news today featured a school in Matsubushi, Saitama that has been renovating its toilets to be more barrier-free and to include more modern public conveniences like automated taps and diapering changing tables and baby-seats. The impetus came as a result of a realization that schools which serve as disaster centres, are currently inadequately equipped to handle large numbers of evacuees without these modern public conveniences.

Before renovation:
image

After renovation:

Students snapping shots of sakura blossoms with their smartphones on the way home from school (EIJ photo)

Students snapping shots of sakura blossoms with their smartphones on the way home from school (EIJ photo)

Sakura spring greetings to readers of our regular roundup on educational news focused on Japan!

In this post, we bring you news of two new international school openings as well as other news focused on educational issues and the educational scene in Japan.

It may be time to re-examine the oft-stated belief and widespread perception that Japanese (and Asian) youths that they are lacking in creative thinking and problem-solving ability, as the results of 2012 OECD survey find that Japanese youths rank 3rd in problem-solving after the youths of Singapore and South Korea (NHK Apr 1, 2014)

Japanese teenagers finished 3rd in a global assessment of young people’s skills in solving problems encountered in real life.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development surveyed 15-year-olds in 44 countries and territories in 2012. About 6,300 Japanese youths took part in the study.

Real-life problems included buying the right train ticket from a vending machine, and observing a robot vacuum cleaner to identify a certain pattern in its motions. Participants posted their solutions online.

The Japanese teens scored 552 points compared to the survey average of 500. Singapore finished on top, followed by South Korea.
Japan’s education ministry says the youths did well overall regardless of their school and family environment, suggesting that the comprehensive curriculums of Japanese schools may be paying off.

However, the Japanese teens ranked lowest in self-assessment of patience and flexibility in solving problems.

The ministry says education programs should focus more on nurturing those skills.

See original source of report:  *** PISA 2012 Results: Creative Problem Solving (Volume V): Students’ Skills in Tackling Real-Life Problems, Student performance in problem solving DOI:10.1787/9789264208070-7-enCreative Problem Solving: Students’ skills in tackling real-life problems (Volume V); Snapshot of student performance in problem solving (pdf)PISA in Focus N°38: Are 15-year-olds creative problem-solvers? *** One interesting piece of data is the finding that the strong problem-solvers in Australia, UK and US are found among the strong and top performers in mathematics, while in Italy, Japan and Korea, the strong problem-solvers are found among the moderate to low-performers in mathematics … what this distinction implies should be a subject of further study.

Take the test yourself here and find out if you are smarter than the 15 year olds who took the test.

See related news: CNN: Report: 15-year-olds in Asia are better problem solvers than in the U.S (Apr 1)

 

Japan to help struggling families pay school lunch fees (Jiji Press, Apr 4,  2014)

The Japanese government plans to provide financial assistance to help households on welfare pay lunch fees, bus fares and costs of educational materials for their children who go to nursery school, kindergarten, or other types of authorized preschools, officials said Thursday.
The government is considering providing subsidies to cover half of such expenses, starting in fiscal 2015 that begins in April next year, the officials said.
At present, families receiving public assistance are exempt from paying childcare fees to nursery schools or kindergartens, but there is no publicly subsidized system to help them pay other necessary expenses such as lunch fees.

Also from Jiji Press, Mar 28: Number of Children on Nursery Waiting Lists in Japan Falls by 2,009 from a year before to 44,118, said the health and welfare ministry, the number of such children as of Oct. 1 dropping for the third straight year… however … the No. of children on waiting list for daycare centers still a serious problem, gov’t says (Apr 01, 2014 Japan Today), see excerpted article below:

“”The number of children on the waiting list for daycare centers nationwide was about 44,118 in fiscal 2013, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare said Monday.

Although the number decreased for the third year in a row, the shortage of such facilities is still a serious problem, a ministry official said, according to NHK…The government promised a plan to secure 400,000 places for children on the waiting list over five years, starting from last April.

Tokyo has the most number of children on the waiting list at 11,589, followed by Chiba (1,958), Osaka (1,761), Kanagawa (1,703) and Saitama (1,391). Kawasaki had 1,534 followed by Fukuoka (1,046), Hiroshima (951) and Sapporo (824).

The ministry spokesperson said they are urging local governments to increase the number of daycare centers but the reality is “we are not catching up,” he said.”

Meanwhile in related news, Japan Times has published a useful article (Mar 17) explaining the concept of ‘gakudo’ or after-school clubs:

After-school clubs falling short as more moms work

Working parents in Japan not only face long waiting lists when they want to enroll their children in day care centers, they also find themselves looking at equally long lists for “gakudo,” or after-school clubs, when their children take the next step and enter elementary school.

According to the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, as of last April there were 8,689 children nationwide on waiting lists for such clubs, where mostly first- through third-grade elementary school students spend their time after school and during school breaks — up from 7,521 around the same time a year earlier.

According to a survey in December by the International Affairs and Communications Ministry, more than 70 percent of women between the ages of 35 and 44 are either working or seeking employment.

Many working mothers have had to give up their jobs just because they can’t secure spots for their children at such facilities. The problem has become so acute that there is now a term describing difficulties confronting working mothers with first-graders: “shoichi no kabe” (the hurdle of the first grade).

Even students who are fortunate enough to gain admittance to an after-school club benefit for only a limited time. Many clubs — particularly the traditional, publicly funded ones — accept students only through the third grade, meaning that older children often have nowhere to go after school. Many end up staying home alone, often with a TV or computer games as their only companions.

Concern for such kids has recently given rise to another term: “shoyon no kabe,” or the hurdle of the fourth grade.

The government has taken aim at the problem and is looking to increase the number of after-school clubs nationwide. Officials have set a target of getting almost 1.3 million kids into clubs by the end of fiscal year 2017. Meanwhile, private enterprises — such as cram schools and private day care facilities — have rushed to fill the void, although for fees that some families can’t afford. Here are some questions and answers on after-school clubs:

How did the concept of gakudo come about?

The history of gakudo goes back to the 1960s, when a group of working mothers and fathers started after-school clubs and operated them themselves after finding themselves hard-pressed to find a place where their children could go to after school.

The Child Welfare Law of 1997 stipulates that children whose mothers and/or fathers are working should be given a place to stay after school until they reach “about 10 years old.”

Currently, about 880,000 children nationwide between the ages of 6 and 10 — or 1 in 4 students — use some kind of gakudo. Such facilities numbered 21,635 across the nation as of last May, 40 percent of which were public, while the rest were either publicly built and privately operated or privately owned and operated by parents and companies, according to Zenkoku Gakudo Hoiku Renraku Kyogikai, the nationwide liaison council for after-school clubs.

What sort of problems do after-school clubs face?

The biggest problem is that the number falls short of demand, especially in big cities.

A survey by the liaison council suggests that the actual number of children on waiting lists might be between 400,000 and 500,000, many more than are officially recognized. …” end of excerpt, read more about the costs, different types of gakudo’ here

Japan is strapped for IT programmers and this next article tells us there is a bright future for anyone interested in programming here … see:

Kids flock to Tokyo’s ‘Bit Valley’ to learn programming (March 31, 2014 Asahi-AJW)

Inside a skyscraper, high above Tokyo’s Shibuya district, a group of elementary school children sits patiently in front of their computers.

Someone shouts, “Development time, start!” and suddenly the click-clack sound of typing on keyboards echoes around the room.

Shibuya has been dubbed “Bit Valley” because of the number of IT companies operating within its borders. But here on weekend mornings at CA Tech Kids, rather than creating software to sell, the focus is on teaching children how to program.

Yumene Takeda, a sixth-grader who has not yet studied English, has no problem typing the alphabet and symbols. He began toying around with a computer at home when he was in the third grade. Now he says: “I want to make video games by myself. When I grow up, I want to get a job at a company that makes video games.”

“I love computers,” says fourth-grader Shinnosuke Chuman, whose dream is to become an astronaut.

Their parents, tired of Japan’s cram school-centric education, dream of their children becoming a future Steve Jobs of Apple or Bill Gates of Microsoft.

“They make something themselves and present it. The creativity, making presentations in front of other people and all that are fun in ways that learning by just sitting at school isn’t,” says Kazuhiko Chuman, Shinnosuke’s father, who works at an IT company.

President Susumu Fujita, 40, of CyberAgent Inc., the parent company of CA Tech Kids, came up with the idea at an executive training camp last year because he was concerned about growing public criticism of children’s use of mobile games. “I want to contribute something to society,” he says.

CA Tech Kids first began last summer with three days of pay-to-join classes. It was overwhelmed with applications and hurriedly increased capacity. Many parents, including ones of children who commute from over an hour away in Saitama, pleaded for the school to keep holding the classes.

The school opened as a regular business in Shibuya last October and has a branch in Osaka’s Umeda district as well. The second session of courses began in January. CA Tech Kids is now accepting students for the third session that begins in April. The three-month introductory course of six lessons costs 36,000 yen ($350).

Yuta Matsuyama, a 25-year-old CyberAgent employee who makes teaching materials, began programming at age 9. “If you’re going to get into video games anyway, it’s more creative to make them than to buy them.”

A LACK OF PROGRAMMERS

Computer education for kids isn’t new in Tokyo. In Tokyo’s Sumida district, an NPO called Canvas has run a programming school for children since 2002.

Nanako Ishido, Canvas’ 34-year-old director, says, “We want (students) to learn creativity and teamwork skills through programming.”

Over the last 12 years, a total of 300,000 students have completed courses at the school.

But while that might sound like a huge figure, there are still not enough IT engineers in the industry, according to CyberAgent President Fujita.

“People in Japan always talk about improving English skills, but there is a huge shortage of programmers,” he says. “There is a headhunting war, and competent programmers are being offered fat salaries.”

In the global IT world, it is natural for programmers to start up companies the way Gates and the late Jobs did, but Bit Valley still has to catch up.

Be that as it may, even the precocious Matsuyama is surprised at the ability of elementary students at CA Tech Kids to absorb information. When instructed to develop their own creations, one fifth-grade boy made an “unlimited calculator.” While regular calculators can only display a certain number of digits, he made a smartphone app that can calculate numbers of any size by using the device’s scrolling feature to move the display sideways.

Matsuyama was particularly impressed with the boy’s ability to show and explain his app to his peers.

“He was just like Jobs at the presentations,” Matsuyama says with a laugh. “Japan’s future is bright. We can be hopeful.”

Govt aims to help kids adapt to primary school (Mar 29 Yomiuri Shimbun)
The education ministry has decided to provide financial support for primary schools that offer preparatory classes for preschool children on Saturdays, as part of efforts to reduce problematic behavior among new primary school students.

The government is working to alleviate children’s anxieties over entering primary school and prevent so-called first-year student problems, such as failing to adapt to the new environment and walking around during class.

The Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry plans to subsidize 3,000 primary schools across the nation. It believes children will take to their new school routine more easily if they experience primary school life before official enrollment.

As activities likely to be helpful, the ministry has cited such things as reading and writing hiragana, playing with numbers, listening to stories, English conversation and exercise classes.

According to the ministry’s outline for education at kindergartens, such activities as reading and writing hiragana and English conversation are not required. For this reason, the ministry is emphasizing activities to get children accustomed to a learning atmosphere while having fun, rather than having them acquire academic development in “lessons” at a primary school.

As teachers, the ministry envisages high school and university students, as well as foreigners in the community.

First-year student problems in primary schools, which began to attract attention around 2000, have become a national issue in recent years. Children are entering primary school who cannot cope with group activities in a class, and who make a fuss or walk around in classrooms, interfering with teachers’ efforts to give lessons. According to experts, one reason is the different atmosphere between play-focused preschool education and textbook-focused education at primary schools.

According to a survey by the Tokyo Metropolitan Board of Education, problematic behavior among first-year students was found at about 20 percent of public primary schools over the 2010-12 academic years. Reports on behavioral problems from schools have included statements like: “Students do not stop talking when the teacher is speaking,” “Students do not keep still and stand up suddenly” or “They wander around the classroom by themselves.”

The education ministry has recommended efforts to achieve a smooth shift to primary schools through such measures as increasing opportunities for exchanges between primary schools, and kindergartens and nursery schools. Some municipalities have started their own efforts.

The Kyoto prefectural government started a project in the 2010 school year to help children experience primary school before they formally enter. These “soon to be first-year student” children experience activities with primary school students such as searching for acorns in a life environmental studies class and making things in art class.

According to the prefectural government, these experiences have helped ease preschool children’s anxiety about their new life at primary school.

The education ministry means to promote such efforts further with its financial support. Funding will be drawn from a total of ¥1.3 billion in subsidies for primary, middle and high schools that hold Saturday classes.

Prof. Nobuyuki Wada of Tokyo Seitoku College, an expert on cooperation between kindergartens and nursery schools, and primary schools, said: “If preschool children experience primary school through things like using its toilet and sitting in a classroom, they will look forward to their new school life. I think it’s a worthwhile effort.”

The first nationwide study to look into the link between children’s family environment and their academic performance concluded that …

Smarter children have better-educated, richer parents: study
(March 28, Jiji Press)–Children with better-educated and higher-earning parents tend to demonstrate higher academic abilities, a Japanese education ministry-commissioned survey study showed Friday.

The study, based on academic achievement tests conducted across Japan in April 2013, also found that children who do their homework show high academic performance regardless of their family environment.

Among other findings, parents with higher incomes tend to spend more on their children’s out-of-school education and such children had better test results.

In addition, the study found that children’s academic capabilities are strongly influenced by the extent to which their parents read to them or encourage them to read books and newspapers on their own…”

Next, the spotlight on the revolutionary software Vocaloid and its new role in music education and usefulness for music composers:

Vocaloid Utilized for Music Education in Japan (Mar 30, 2014, Jiji Press)
Tokyo–The Vocaloid singing voice synthesizer software has grown into a pop culture sensation. It created a virtual pop star named Hatsune Miku.
It is now beginning to be utilized in the field of music education in Japan.
In the school year starting in April 2015, Shikoku University in Tokushima, western Japan, will open a training course at its two-year music college where students can learn to write songs using the software.
The software allows users to write songs by just typing in lyrics and melody. “At first, I thought Vocaloid was something more childish,” said Atsushi Masuda, associate professor of popular music at the university.
“I came to realize that creating singing voice with Vocaloid is profound because you can make adjustments to the vibrato tone or the intake of breath,” he said.
If you’ve never watched a Vocaloid performance, click on the Youtube link below to watch AniMiku Vocaloid concert:

Fukushima junior high students perform in London (Apr 4, NHK)

The Fukushima Youth Sinfonietta from Japan’s disaster-hit Fukushima Prefecture performed in one of the most prestigious concert venues in London Queen Elizabeth Hall on Wednesday. The 37 members of the orchestra are students from 4 junior high schools in Fukushima City, the prefectural capital. They performed pieces by Mozart and Chopin together with local musicians. The program included a piece prepared by a British composer to encourage Fukushima children.

Update: Isles, quake appear in schoolbooks (Yomiuri Shimbun, Apr 5)

Some new social studies textbooks and maps for primary schools to be used from spring next year clearly state that the Takeshima islets in Shimane Prefecture and the Senkaku Islands in Okinawa Prefecture are “territories inherent to Japan,” according to the education ministry, which announced Friday the results of the screening of primary school textbooks for the next academic year.
This is the first time for primary school textbooks to carry clear descriptions that the islands are Japanese inherent territories.
Meanwhile, all social studies textbooks for fifth and sixth grades have detailed descriptions of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake. Some also include descriptions of the crisis at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
All 139 textbooks in nine subjects submitted by publishers passed the textbook screening by the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry, the ministry said.
The screening system, which began in 1947, aims at checking such things as whether textbooks follow the government’s curriculum guidelines. Each year, one of four groups of textbooks are screened: those for primary school and the third year of high school, for middle school, for the first year of high school, and for the second year of high school. Therefore, textbooks are reviewed every four years in principle.
Of 14 social studies textbooks and maps, seven textbooks for the fifth and sixth grades clearly state that Takeshima and the Senkaku Islands are the nation’s territories or territories inherent to Japan. They explain the current status of these islands using pictures and maps.
In January, the ministry revised the national curriculum guidelines’ instruction manuals for middle and high school social studies to include an expression that these islands “constitute inherent parts of our nation’s territory.”
The revision will be reflected in middle school textbooks to be used from the 2016 academic year and in high school textbooks from the 2017 academic year.
Currently, only one primary school textbook, for the fifth grade, has descriptions including “South Korea is illegally occupying Takeshima.” However, publishers this time have adopted detailed descriptions in primary school textbooks prior to middle and high school textbooks, with some firms saying that the public’s interest in the issues is high as they make news headlines quite often.

The news on new schools opened in Japan:

ABC Montessori International School opened on Apr 1st. A division of ABC International School, this new branch school with a Montessori education-dedicated curriculum is located across from the lawn tennis club in Hiroo.

For more details and contact info, visit their website/webpage: http://www.abcinternationalschool.com/abc_motessori_international.html tel 03-5793-1359

Osaka school offers new approach to education for ethnic Koreans (Japan Times, Mar 4, 2014)

OSAKA – For decades, schools for ethnic Koreans living in Japan have been divided along pro-Pyongyang or pro-Seoul lines, with their curricula reflecting the differing political ideologies in North and South Korea.

In 2008, however, a new type of school opened in Osaka in response to Korean residents’ desire for an education that, while emphasizing their roots in the Korean Peninsula, is not restricted by differences across the 38th parallel.

Most of the 86 students from the seventh to 12th grades at Korea International School in Ibaraki, Osaka Prefecture, are Koreans living in Japan. But there are also Japanese students and people who have returned after stints abroad.

Nowadays, 4 in every 5 Koreans in Japan are believed to have at least one parent with Japanese nationality, unlike previous decades. Many citizens of Korean descent also have assumed successful roles in academia, business and other circles in Japanese society.

As a result, there has been growing frustration and dissatisfaction that the education offered at Korean schools simply imitates that of the “home” country — that is, North or South Korea, depending on the school’s affiliation — according to Om Chang Joon, vice principal at Korea International School.

Established in response to such frustrations, the new school in Osaka has adopted a curriculum based on Japanese educational guidelines, with the majority of classes taught in Japanese. It also has classes on Korean language and history, and attempts to cover the peninsula as a whole. … Read more about Korea International School here.

 

Obokata falsified data in STAP papers: probe (Japan Times, Apr 2, 2014)

A probe into possible “research misconduct” by the authors of two potentially revolutionary papers on pluripotent stem cells turns up two instances of deliberate falsification…

RIKEN Panel Finds Misconduct in Reprogrammed Stem Cell Papers – Science News (Apr 1)
An investigating committee has concluded that falsification and fabrication mar two recent Nature papers reporting a new, simple way to reprogram mature cells into stem cells. The committee concluded these acts constitute research misconduct. Related: read more on this at world.edu

The controversy hinges upon Haruko Obokata’s reused images from her doctoral dissertation, that depicted completely different experiments.

Benesse to tap McDonald’s Harada as president (Japan Times via Four Traders)
McDonald’s Holdings Co. (Japan) Chairman Eiko Harada is expected to become chairman and president of education service provider Benesse Holdings Inc., informed sources said Thursday. …

In other local news … Japan Times: Japanese firms mostly unaware of benefits of hiring from JET ranks: poll


Five great learning apps for kids, from a new magazine for Tokyo’s international women, called Savvy
On technology and learning, check out these:

 

Elsewhere in the world the edu-news of interest:

Higher Education: Is college worth it? (The Economist, Apr 5) Too many degrees are a waste of money. The return on higher education would be much better if college were cheaper. A useful comparative chart on annual returns over a 20 year period of various different colleges is provided. Read more…

Hire like Google For most companies, that’s a bad idea (LA Times, Mar 9, 2014)

Authors of the article Chabris and Wai take issue with Laszlo Bock, the head of human resources at Google for having said (in his interview with NY Times) “GPAs are worthless as a criteria for hiring, and test scores are worthless…. We found that they don’t predict anything…” .

Chabris and Wai remind us that “decades of quantitative research in the field of personnel psychology have shown that across fields of employment, measurements of “general cognitive ability” — which is another way of referring to the old-fashioned concept of intelligence or IQ — are consistently the best tools employers have to predict which new employees will wind up with the highest performance evaluations or the best career paths. We shouldn’t rush to assume that Google, with its private data, has suddenly refuted all that work” and Chabris and Wai also explain that ” the fraction of people at Google without a college degree has increased over time and is now as high as 14% on some product teams. This means, however, that more than 86% of people at Google do have a college education (or more), and most of them come from the most elite schools. … These highly selective institutions have, by definition, already filtered students based on high school GPAs, SAT or ACT scores, and other factors. Google in effect uses attendance at those colleges as a hiring criterion, so Bock — who happens to possess a degree from Yale University — is using GPAs and test scores whether he realizes it or not.”  The authors conclude that while computer giants like Google can afford to abandon traditional measures of intelligence, most companies can’t.

Ivy League colleges maintain low acceptance rates for applicants  (Bloomberg Mar28)
While most Ivy League schools reported a decline in applications this year, Yale University received a record 30,932 applications and accepted only 6.3% of them. That’s down from 6.7% last year. Other schools accepted more, like Harvard University, which accepted 5.9% of applicants, up from 5.8% last year. Acceptance rates at other elites including Columbia and Princeton universities remained unchanged.

A Merkel, a Map, a Message to China? (Foreign Policy, Apr 1, 2014) “Historical maps are sensitive business in China. Every schoolchild in China learns that TibetXinjiangTaiwan, and the Diaoyu Islands have been “inalienable parts of China since ancient times.” The d’Anville map, at least visually, is a rejection of that narrative…” The map of 1735 by d’Anville the French cartographer presented by the German Chancellor Merkel, to the Chinese President causes brouhaha because it shows “China Proper” in ancient times without Tibet, Xinjiang, Mongolia or Manchuria … A map published in many Chinese-language media reports about Merkel’s gift-giving shows the Chinese empire at its territorial zenith, including Tibet, so this gift is embarrassing. The larger territory as drawn on Chinese maps is instead based on British mapmaker John Dower’s map made a century later, which reflects the militarism of the Qing empire and Emperor Qianlong’s efforts to bring the peripheries under imperial control..

Addition of Korean name for Sea of Japan becomes law in Virginia (JapanToday, Apr. 04, 2014)

Legislation requiring that the Korean name for the Sea of Japan be included in new school textbooks has become law in the U.S. state of Virginnia after lobbying by Korean residents …  Read more here

According to Bandwidth blog, South Korea has found the perfect way to police smartphone usage by youths … with the iSmartKeeper app:

South Korean schools curb students’ smartphone use with app (Bandwidth Blog on 24.03.2014)

“…schools in Seoul, South Korea, have decided to fight fire with fire – they have implemented a new app in schools which is solely aimed at reducing distractions within the classroom. …

iSmartKeeper is a smartphone app with an accompanying desktop program that allows teachers to control which apps their students may use during class, all from the comfort of their desk.

It’s premise is really simple, too. Students download the app onto their smartphone, while the teachers then use an accompanying desktop program.

The desktop program then gives the teacher the ability to remotely ‘control’ the students’ smartphone and app usage. Teachers can turn off specific apps during class or block messaging and social media apps (we’re looking at you, WhatsApp and Facebook).

They can also lock all smartphones in the school or adjust the settings so only emergency calls are allowed or only phone calls and SMS.

What’s super clever about the app, is that it uses location data to track the students movements. This enables the app to only work when the student is actually on school grounds.

iSmartKeeper is currently used in 11 schools in Seoul, with 600 other schools having shown interest in using the app. While it is still in it’s ‘experimental’ phase, co-creator and professor at the Gonju National University of Education, Haun Gyu-sang, has said that 30 000 students are already registered for the app.

Of course, before the app can be used, schools will first have to get approval from the students’ parents. However, the app is just as appealing to parents as it is to the teachers; the app can also be used at home, with the parents implementing the same restrictions if they want.

The project is wholly endorsed by the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education, who plans to expand the project to more schools in the near future.

The idea to control the kids’ app usage with another app is genius. In recent years, reports have been flooding educational journals and websites on the immense effect (distracction) that smartphones and apps have on kids, teenagers specifically…”

See related editorial “Smartphone addiction” (Mar 27, The Korea Herald)

Twitter and text are not GR8 for English skills, warns head (The Times, March 24, 2014 via SchoolsImprovement.net)

The Times is reporting warnings from a head that eliminating “text speak” and its impact on children’s spelling and grammar is among the greatest challenges facing teachers…”Abbreviations and slang used in text messages and on Twitter are “eroding hard-learnt skills”, and pupils are growing up with a more limited vocabulary because they spend less time reading books …there should be a drive to stop the damaging effect of instant messaging on written English work”, said Caroline Jordan, head of Headington School for girls in Oxford. More

Genius, as a Tot (POPSCI, 14 Mar)

When MENSA admits tots, it makes for sensational news but what exactly are the connections between early smarts and later life? And can genius be recognized in early life?

“Jonathan Wai, a research scientist at the Duke University Talent Identification Program, says that tests can identify above-average babies, as early as 12 months. His colleague Joseph Fagan created the Fagan Test of Infant Intelligence.

Fagan tested 61 infants between 7-12 months of age on their ability to selectively attend to novel pictures. The infants looked at pictures for a few seconds, and then paired the old pictures with new ones, recording how long the babies looked at the old pictures. The smarter the infant was, the shorter time they spent looking at the pictures that weren’t new – at least that was the idea. Infants generally spend about 60 percent of the time looking at new images.” Read the rest…here

Learning Curve  (Mar 12, Foreign Policy) on why more and more extremely poor parents in 
poor countries are paying out of their limited income to send 
their kids to private school…

On matters of kids health and safety, check out Upworthy’s easy-to-understand infographic:

Here’s what happens to kids when they get to eat  before school everyday?

Tsunami left mental scars on 1 in 4 kids (Japan Times): A quarter of the nursery school children who survived the 2011 quake and tsunami have psychiatric problems that could last a lifetime if left untreated.

Autism May Be Tied to Flawed Prenatal Brain Growth (ABCnews, Mar 27)

A great safety product and service available to parents who want to track their kids but don’t necessarily want to give them smartphones/mobile phones is SECOM’s Koko Secom service and buzzer that is heads and shoulders above all other kinds of buzzers…it is basically an on-call and pay-as-you-use security service for tracking your child, see  All abuzz about child safety (The Yomiuri Shimbun, Apr 5) Excerpt follows:

With the arrival of the new school term, many parents must be worried about the safety of their children when they travel to and from school or juku cram schools. To ease their anxieties, a number of firms are providing services to swiftly dispatch personnel from a security company in the event of an emergency.

Tokyo-based security firm Secom Co. is offering a service called Koko Secom that allows a child to contact the firm’s operation center with the push of a button on a terminal smaller than a business card. The center then telephones the child’s guardian and, upon request, swiftly sends a staff member to the child’s location.

Even if the child does not press the button, the GPS functionality of the terminal allows parents to track the child’s whereabouts by visiting a designated website.

When subscribing to the service through the Internet, a customer pays an entry fee of ¥4,500 (all prices exclude tax) and ¥2,000 for a battery charger for the terminal. The monthly fee for the basic plan, which allows parents to locate their child’s whereabouts up to 10 times per month without additional charge, is ¥900. When a staff member is dispatched to a child in an emergency, an additional fee of ¥10,000 is charged each time.

NTT Docomo, Inc.’s Kids Keitai cell phones include a function to sound a buzzer and automatically send an e-mail to a designated guardian when the attached strap is pulled. Such a cell phone works with Docomo’s Kaketsuke (rush to the scene) Service operated in collaboration with Sohgo Security Service Co. (ALSOK).

If the guardian so requests, ALSOK will dispatch a staff member to where the child is. The service plan has no monthly fee, but when a staff member is dispatched, ¥10,000 per hour is charged.

Parents want to know if their children are taking the same routes home from school or juku.

Odakyu Electric Railway Co. is offering a service for parents of primary and middle school students that sends e-mails to inform them what time their children have passed through automatic ticketing gates at stations on railway lines operated by the company. To use the service, a guardian is required to sign a contract with Odakyu and the child must have a Pasmo card with his or her name registered. The monthly fee is ¥500.  Read more

 

In our Book Nook spotlight today, we recommend theManBookerprize.com’s and Goodreads’ reviews on Ruth Ozeki’s “A Tale for the Time Being”

Ruth Ozeki’s third novel, shortlisted for The Man Booker Prize 2013.

“Ruth discovers a Hello Kitty lunchbox washed up on the shore of her beach home. Within it lies a diary that expresses the hopes and dreams of a young girl. She suspects it might have arrived on a drift of debris from the 2011 tsunami. With every turn of the page, she is sucked deeper into an enchanting mystery.
In a small cafe in Tokyo, 16-year-old Nao Yasutani is navigating the challenges thrown up by modern life. In the face of cyberbullying, the mysteries of a 104-year-old Buddhist nun and great-grandmother, and the joy and heartbreak of family, Nao is trying to find her own place – and voice – through a diary she hopes will find a reader and friend who finally understands her.” — theManBookerPrize review.

“Full of Ozeki’s signature humour and deeply engaged with the relationship between writer and reader, past and present, fact and fiction, quantum physics, history, and myth, A Tale for the Time Being is a brilliantly inventive, beguiling story of our shared humanity and the search for home.(Goodreads)

Miscellaneous:  NGO Full-Tuition Scholarship (Tokyo Only)

The NGO Full-Tuition Scholarship provides full tuition for any one course applicable to the NGO Management certificate for one semester. This scholarship is open to any students who are or will be enrolled in any of the designated core and elective courses in the NGO Management certificate course. NGO Scholarship is for any student who is committed to completing the NGO certificate. New students must register before applying for this scholarship. Applicants whose tuition is paid by their company are not eligible to apply.

 

TTFN and digitally yours,

Aileen Kawagoe

Hi to all our regular readers of EDU WATCH,

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe appears to be one of the most decisive leaders Japan has had in a long while, moving forward on a number of reforms and measures, with particularly visible action on the education front.

In this edition, we cover the key policy reforms and educational issues featured in the news  through summaries and excerpts. In focus today are measures to reduce childcare waiting lists, reforms to higher education and moves to boost English education in schools.

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‘Yokohama method’ gains steam / Can others zap day-care waiting lists? (May 22, 2013 Yomiuri)

“After reducing the nation’s largest number of children on day care center waiting lists to zero after just three years, the “Yokohama method”–with an endorsement from Prime Minister Shinzo Abe–has caught the attention of municipalities nationwide.

Under the Yokohama method, funds from a limited budget are concentrated to encourage corporations to enter the day care business. Following Yokohama’s success, other municipalities have since adopted the method.

However, … funding and how far the initiative will actually spread is unclear…Now at the forefront of the movement, Yokohama faces the challenge of maintaining the quality of its child care facilities.” … Read the rest of the article here.

Related: Yokohama clears out nursery waiting lists (May 21, 2013 Japan Times)

YOKOHAMA – Officials at Yokohama City Hall said Monday the city has reduced the number of children on nursery school waiting lists to zero from 179 as of April 1, meeting its 2010 target of doing so in three years.

City officials credited the reduction of the lists, which at one stage were the longest of any municipality in Japan, mainly to efforts to increase the number of nursery schools by aggressively encouraging private companies to enter the business.

The city also promoted nonregistered day-care facilities that met the city’s standards, which are somewhat more relaxed than the national standard.

According to the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry, similar problems exist in urban areas across the nation because an increasing number of households have both parents working, and most local governments are facing difficulty addressing the problem.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government is willing to learn from Yokohama’s success and intends to address the problem as part of its growth strategy because it has become a major obstacle to women returning to the workforce after childbirth. He has proposed increasing maternity leave.

But some experts say the rapid increase in nursery schools could eventually lead to a shortage of qualified teachers and a deterioration in services, as well as increased pressure on local finances.

In Yokohama, children below the age of 5 on nursery waiting lists rose to a record 1,190 in 2004, the highest in Japan. In 2010, it broke that record with a figure of 1,552, prompting Mayor Fumiko Hayashi, former president of BMW Tokyo Corp. and chairwoman of Daiei Inc., to make solving the problem a priority.

As the city used the private sector to boost the availability of day-care services for children, the number of privately operated nursery schools in Yokohama doubled from its level in April 2010, and now accounts for about a quarter of the total.

The city also deployed special consultants at ward offices to advise parents searching for schools and the availability of convenient facilities in their neighborhood or on their way to work.

The city has spent some ¥49 billion since 2010 on setting up nursery schools and has allocated over ¥76 billion for the operation of such schools for fiscal 2013 through March 31 next year, it said, adding that it has hired about 2,000 new nursery teachers since 2010.

Abe vowed last month to increase the capacity of nursery schools by 400,000 in five years from now through 2017 and also reduce the number of children on waiting lists nationwide to zero.

According to the labor ministry, there were about 46,000 children on waiting lists nationwide as of last October, although the number of potentially eligible children who do not have places at nursery school places could even be as high as 850,000.

Common stroller rules on trains, buses eyed (May 21, 2013 Jiji Press) reported:

The transport ministry is considering drawing up universal rules for the use of baby strollers on buses and trains, ministry officials said Monday.

At present, rules for the use of baby strollers vary significantly among public transport operators across the country.

The ministry plans to set up a committee of representatives from relevant ministries, public transport operators and support groups for child-rearing families to discuss ways to unify the rules, the officials said. They are also expected to adopt a universal sign to indicate priority spaces for baby buggies on buses and trains.”. …

A common sign to indicate priority spaces for baby buggies on buses and trains is also expected to be adopted. The move is aimed at making it easier for parents to go out with their children by clarifying where and how strollers should be positioned on commuter trains and buses.”

The Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry will move up a plan to encourage businesses to develop authorized child-care services to reduce the number of children on day-care center waiting lists, a government regulatory reform panel has said.
The ministry is expected to notify prefectural governments by the end of May to treat businesses as equal to bodies such as social welfare corporations when providing authorization for the running of nursery schools that meet national standards, the panel said.

The move effectively brings forward a plan to increase the number of authorized nurseries under a new childcare system set to be introduced in April 2015.

IB classes to be given in Japanese … from 2015 (May 18, 2013, Yomiuri Shimbun)

The International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum, which culminates in a high school diploma recognized by many prestigious universities around the world, will be partially taught in Japanese starting in April 2015.

The Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry recently reached an agreement with the International Baccalaureate Organization, which is based in Switzerland, that will allow IB course instruction in Japanese.

About 20 national, public and private high schools in Hokkaido, Aichi, Fukui and other prefectures, and Tokyo Gakugei University International Secondary School in Tokyo plan to introduce the program and will start preparing to gain ministry approval from October.

About two-thirds of the classes, including biology, chemistry, world history and politics, and economics, will be taught in Japanese. English, math and art classes will be given in English to improve students’ language skills. In line with the introduction of IB classes in Japanese, final exams for the program will also be given in Japanese starting in November 2017.

Launched in 1968, the IB curriculum is known for its role in developing students’ problem-solving skills through classroom discussions. IB certifications are currently recognized by about 2,000 universities, including Harvard University, as qualification for taking collegiate entrance exams. Furthermore, many universities exempt students with high IB scores from taking such exams altogether.

IB certifications are given after students complete a two-year program and score 24 or higher out of a possible 45 points on oral and paper tests.

According to the ministry, 2,367 high schools across the globe offered IB programs as of January, 16 of which are in Japan. The domestic figure includes some international schools.

The government has set a goal of having 200 schools introduce the IB program by 2018 as part of its strategy to develop human resources who are capable of playing an active role on the global stage.

Widespread implementation of the program has been difficult until now because of the requirement that classes be taught in English.

Now that permission has been obtained to give a majority of classes in Japanese, the ministry hopes to expand the number of schools offering the IB program.  (See older related story)

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Better English education sought in Japanese elementary schools (Japan Daily Press, May 16, 2013)

As Japan moves into an increasingly global stance – in terms of trade and international relations, as well as its culture opening up to foreign concepts and perspectives – a governmental panel on education is looking to propose major reforms in the way English is taught in elementary school classrooms. The panel is set to pass proposals for major educational reforms, centered on English-language education as an official subject for fifth- and sixth-graders.

Government to encourage more Japanese college students to study abroad (Japan Daily Press, May 7, 2013)

The Education Ministry said it will be doubling its study scholarships for the 2014 academic year to encourage more college students to pursue studies abroad. The reason for this is so that more workers and employees in Japan will have had international experience due to their studies.

Related story: Ambivalent Japan turns on its ‘insular’ youth | 21 May, 2013 The Japan Times (Excerpted below)

“… Behind criticism of uchimuki youth lies the fear that Japan is being overtaken by its closest neighbors. Media reports often highlight the rapid rise of Chinese and South Korean students studying in the U.S., the implication being that Japan is being left behind in the race to develop global human resources. “In a Japan that is showing signs of being pushed aside by China and South Korea’s focus on the economic sphere,” lamented the Yomiuri Shimbun in a front-page August 2012 article, “it is said that the youngsters who have to shoulder the burden of the next generation are uchimuki.”

The question is, however, whether an “inward-looking orientation” (uchimuki shikō) among young people is the main reason behind the fall in Japanese studying abroad. A 2010 survey by the British Council found that the majority of Japanese high school and university students were actually interested in studying overseas, and if anything had become more interested over the past five years. The survey highlighted worries over safety, expenses and negative influences on school/work as reasons why youngsters ultimately didn’t go abroad.

A 2010 Sanno Institute of Management survey on the “global consciousness” of new employees produced similar findings. While 49 percent replied that they didn’t want to work overseas at all (up from 29.2 percent in 2001), the most common reason given was the “risk” involved. Although “risk” was not specified, the deterioration of the economic situation from 2008 — a period that saw the number adverse to going abroad jump from a third to almost a half of respondents — suggests financial risk, echoing the British Council survey.

What is interesting here is how the uchimuki mentality is offered as the reason for falling numbers when a closer look at the data suggests social and economic conditions may offer a better explanation. Perhaps the problem is less about young people — who are typically blamed for all sorts of social ills — and more about society and the companies that hire youngsters. In particular, Japan’s rigid and inflexible job-hunting system — currently in the middle of a “super ice age” — has been picked out as particularly problematic.

Although a number of high-profile Japanese companies — such as Rakuten and Fast Retailing — have taken concrete measures to cultivate global human resources, not all Japanese companies seem eager to move away from traditional employment models. Indeed, there is evidence that Japanese hierarchical corporate culture is not necessarily comfortable with confident and outspoken returnee students.   A long article in The New York Times last year described the experiences of a number of Japanese with study-abroad experience who found Japanese companies unenthusiastic and even reluctant to hire them. The article cites a survey of 1,000 Japanese companies on their recruitment plans in which less than a quarter said in fiscal 2012 they planned to hire Japanese applicants who had studied abroad.

Japanese companies’ lack of global awareness has been criticized both in and outside Japan. The trade ministry’s Global Human Resource Development Committee described top management’s inaction as the same as sitting idly by, literally “waiting to die” (zashite shi o matsu). Jennifer Stout, U.S. deputy assistant secretary for East Asian and Pacific affairs, offered similar criticism. Talking about the drop in Japanese students studying in the U.S., Stout rejected stereotypical discussions of uchimuki youth, suggesting that Japanese corporate culture doesn’t always rate overseas experience and English ability. Indeed, overseas experience can even be a disadvantage for job-hunters.

In its recent proposal to lower the grade when elementary school students start studying English, the government’s Education Rebuilding Implementation Council noted that students in many Asian countries begin much earlier than in Japan. Writing about the relationship between Japan and the English language — particularly Japan’s slowness, compared to its Asian neighbors, in introducing English as a regular subject in elementary schools — Nobuyuki Honna, a professor emeritus at Aoyama Gakuin University, suggests that there is a deep-seated notion in Japan of English not as a global language but as something that belongs to someone else — to Britain and the United States.

This attitude epitomizes Japan’s ambivalent attitude towards globalization. On the one hand, the country is aware that in order to remain economically competitive it must open up, instigate reforms and embrace globalization in all its aspects; on the other, there remains a strong tendency to close in, reject global norms and standards, and retreat inwards. The discussions over global human resources capture the dilemma of a country caught in two minds, a quandary that explains Abe’s ultra-cautious approach to entering even negotiations over TPP.

One of the biggest ironies in these discussions on global human resources is how young people have been made scapegoats for Japan’s failure to resolve this dilemma. Thus, Japan’s problems in attracting and securing such resources are typically explained not by the rigid job-hunting system, parochial immigration policies or conservative corporate culture, but by inward-looking uchimuki youth.

In sum, it may be more accurate to talk of an uchimuki government or even society, one that remains rooted in an insular world view that sees globalization as an external process, something owned by somebody else. Just how far Japan is prepared to emerge from its global hibernation will become clear in October when the 12 TPP countries meet at the sidelines of APEC to hammer out a basic agreement.”  Read the entire article here.

Govt links acts of bullying to criminal charges (Yomiuri, May 20, 2013) Excerpted below:

“The education ministry has compiled a list of bullying acts that should be reported promptly to police, and has communicated this list to prefectures and boards of education of large cities through an official notification … as many schools have expressed confusion over what type of behavior could be considered a criminal act, the ministry stepped in to provide concrete examples that should be reported to police, to encourage schools to respond quickly to dangerous behavior.

For example, “hitting and kicking” is equivalent to an assault charge in the penal code, according to the notification. “Putting fecal matter in a person’s mouth and threatening to inflict harm if he or she tries to spit it out” is considered extortion and “intentionally wrecking a bicycle” is property damage.

The notification also gives specific examples of cyberbullying, which has become conspicuous among young people, that could be subject to criminal charges.

Examples of such online behavior include “sending an e-mail threatening harm if a student comes to school,” which is blackmail, and “calling a classmate a ‘shoplifter,’ ‘creep’ or ‘annoying person,’” which is subject to defamation charges.

With the notification, the ministry requested that boards of education conduct a fact-finding survey on bullying in the 2012 school year.”

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Phone app ‘Line’ under fire from school after incidents of bullying (May 22, 2013 Japan Today)

What started as a simple school memo sent out to parents last Friday has mushroomed into a nationwide discussion the issues of censorship and bullying in schools and online.

The issue was triggered by a tweet which was sent out on Friday by a now disabled account showing a photo of the letter along with the caption “my school wants to ban Line and stuff lolololol.”

Line has become a highly popular app in Japan for its variety of functions including instant messaging, image sharing, and free voice calls over the internet.

According to the photo that accompanied the original tweet, the memo read:

25/5/17

Regarding Line Ban

“We hope all families are enjoying a healthy and prosperous spring season. Also we would like to thank you for your continuing support and cooperation in the educational activities of our school.

So, regarding the subject of this letter; in this school in April, various incidents occurred which had involved Line. This school feels that aside from contacting parents there is really no need for mobile phones. We especially feel that there is no place for Line in a child’s daily life.

From now on this school would like to ban any and all use of Line. Thank you very much.

We would also like to advise parents to, even at home, check your children’s mobile phones. If the Line application is present then we ask you to delete it.

Also starting now, students who are found using Line in or around the school will be notified of the ban. In order to prevent future trouble regarding Line, we ask for your cooperation in this matter.”

This original message triggered a lot of discussion surrounding the “various incidents” that caused this school to outlaw the application on Twitter and other online forums. Many netizens came out saying that it must have been cases of bullying.

This theory had been supported by many who claimed they were victims of bullying through Line. Some had cited incidents where mass snubs had occurred in group chats in which one person’s comment would cause all other participants to quit the session simultaneously.

The Huffington Post Japan had also reported on cases where Line had been used to harass students, with cases of repeated messages of “die”, along with “sticker shakedowns.”

Stickers are photos or drawings that can be used like emoticons when posting messages. Those are purchased from Naver (the developer of Line) but can also be bought as gifts for other users.

According to reports, bullies would intimidate classmates into gifting them with stickers. This theory is strengthened by an announcement made a week earlier by Naver which said that they would be discontinuing the sticker gift function on iPhone versions of Line at the request of Apple.

1-year training proposal for principals-to-be (Yomiuri — May 13, 2013)

Teachers aspiring to be principals or deputy heads of public schools will have to undergo a yearlong training program at a teachers graduate school to qualify as administrators, according to a set of proposals compiled by a task force.
The proposals, drafted by the Liberal Democratic Party’s education revitalization headquarters, also make it mandatory for would-be teachers to undertake an internship for a year or two upon graduation from college.
During the internship, they will receive a provisional license as a teacher, while their aptitude for the profession will be studied. If all goes well, they will receive a full teaching license after completing the internship.

100 schools to teach math, science in English  (The Yomiuri Shimbun,

May 22, 2013)

To help foster Japanese capable of successfully competing globally, the education ministry plans to designate about 100 high schools across the country that will teach some science and math in English, ministry sources said Tuesday.

The planned project also hopes to encourage students to attend excellent universities overseas.

The Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry plans to start the project as early as next fiscal year and designate about 100 schools, temporarily dubbed “super global high schools,” in all prefectures over the next five years.

Under the project, the ministry plans to include in its budget request for next fiscal year funds to hire foreign teachers and Japanese teachers proficient in English as well as for developing English curricula.

The ministry is to ask schools through prefectural boards of education to submit applications. It hopes to initially select at least one school from each prefecture, or about 50 schools in total, and gradually increase their number.

The designated schools will be exempt from following ministry-set teaching guidelines and allowed to offer their own curricula, the sources said.

Currently, most high schoolers are grouped into liberal arts- or science-focused classes. Under the new project, however, students will be required to take liberal arts and science subjects across the board.

In a forward-looking move, sections of science and math classes will be taught in English and students will be encouraged to debate and make presentations in English.

The designated high schools would help students study abroad while in high school and prepare to attend universities overseas. They would offer classes to better prepare students for TOEFL, an English proficiency test accepted by universities around the world to assess foreign students’ English, as well as the internationally recognized test offered by International Baccalaureate.

In addition, the special high schools would accept students returning from abroad in the middle of the school year.

At private schools offering six-year middle and high school education in metropolitan areas, many students are opting to enter top-notch universities in foreign countries, instead of the University of Tokyo or other excellent national universities.

Kyoto mayor petitions for permanent resident status for overseas students (Japan Daily Press) ON APR 15 2013

In an effort to get more overseas students to enroll in Kyoto University and to revive the economy of the town, Kyoto Mayor Keiji Yamada is proposing the “Kyoto University Special Ward”. Part of the proposal is granting permanent residence status to overseas students who will be graduating from the university as well as other supportive measures…

Japan takes No. 1 spot in Asian University Rankings (Japan Daily Press, Apr 16)

A new top 100 university ranking has been published for 2013, focusing on just schools in Asia. Put together by Times Higher Education (THE), the same organization that publishes the World University Rankings, the top 100 list found schools from Japan taking the most honors, and in more ways than one.

Earlier: University of Tokyo maintains reputation as top institution in Asia: survey (Japan Times Mar 6, 2013) Excerpt follows:

The University of Tokyo remains the most prestigious institution of higher education in Asia, according to a study released Tuesday, but the editor of the study said Japan is slipping in relative academic prominence and some action is needed to fight competition.

The institution came in ninth in this year’s Times Higher Education World Reputation Rankings, an annual survey of academic opinion, beaten only by American and British universities.

This year’s global index of university brands saw Harvard University once again come on top, with the University of Tokyo, also known as Todai, slipping one place from 2012.

The University of Tokyo’s nearest rival in Asia was the National University of Singapore, which climbed one place to 22nd. Most of the East Asian universities in the top 100 improved their ranking on 2012.

But China’s two flagship universities have slipped: Tsinghua University, from 30th to 35th, and Peking University from 38th to 45th.

Other Japanese universities to make it into the top 100 were: Kyoto University (23rd, down three places from 2012), Osaka University, (ranked between 51st and 60th, no change), Tohoku University and Tokyo Institute of Technology, (ranked in the 61st to 70th group, down from last year’s rankings, which put them in a cluster between 51st and 60th).

In terms of representation in the top 100, the United States and Britain are followed by Australia, which has moved ahead of Japan and the Netherlands and now has six institutions (up from four last year) … Read the rest here.

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A sign that democracy and free speech is alive and well in Japan, is the establishment of a group of Japanese intellectuals and their vocal rallies and protests against the Japanese government’s territorial claim to Dokdo…see Japanese scholars slam Tokyo on history (AsiaOne News, May 22, 2013) Excerpt follows below:

“A group of Japanese intellectuals on Tuesday rebutted their government’s territorial claim to Dokdo and urged Japan to have a correct understanding of history.

During a press conference in Busan, they called on Shimane prefecture to rethink its annual observance of Takeshima (Dokdo in Japanese) Day, designated in 2005 to underline its sovereignty claim to the Dokdo islets in the East Sea.

“We perceive the Dokdo issue as a historical issue rather than a territorial one,” said Kuboi Norimo, former history professor at Momoyama Gakuin University.

“Japan occupied Dokdo to lead the (1904-05) Russo-Japanese War more advantageously, and Tokyo has since recognised it as its territory. Regarding it as a territorial issue is like glorifying its invasion into Korea rather than repenting for it.” …

Established last month, the group consisting of Japanese from academia, the religious sector and civil society has staged a series of rallies against the rightward political shift that has triggered concerns about the reemergence of Japan’s past militarism.

The group also used the news conference to criticise provocative remarks by ultraconservative Japanese politicians including Prime Minister Shinzo Abe that underlined their unwillingness to atone for the country’s wartime aggression.

“The political leaders are using citizens politically to prolong their rule,” the group said in a statement. “It is tantamount to returning to its past militarism, we will stage a civil society campaign to strongly protest it.”

To back up their claim that Dokdo is Korea’s territory, the group revealed a series of historical records and photographs. They included a copy of a Japanese map drawn in the 18th century.

“By next March, we will develop a secondary history textbook to correct the distorted parts of history in Japan’s government textbooks,” the group said.”  Read the rest of the article here.

“The 15-year-old son of a U.S. contractor assigned to Camp Zama will spend time in a Japanese juvenile detention facility for setting fire to a historic shrine.  The teen, who was not identified, confessed to setting fire to a shed and the shrine on March 7, only a week after he arrived in Japan. Police said he told them he was trying to release stress caused by the language barrier and the close proximity of Japanese homes.The fire at the Kurihara Shrine spread to two adjacent homes, burning one to the ground and partially damaging the other” … according to the police spokesman.  Watch the video news clip here.
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New university grads’ job rate up 2 yrs in row (Yomiuri May 18)

“The rate of new university graduates who secured jobs has improved for the second consecutive year, reaching 93.9 percent, the labor and education ministries announced Friday.

As of April 1, the employment rate of those who graduated from universities this spring rose 0.3 percentage point from the same period last year, according to the latest data. The data also revealed more female graduates were successful in their job searches than male students.

Many companies that suspended recruitment following the so-called Lehman shock hired new young workers, which positively affected the labor statistics, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry and the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry judged.

The ministries also highlighted that the preference among university students for jobs at large companies has gradually waned.

An estimated 370,000 new graduates found jobs, while 24,000 could not find work despite their desire to do so.

The rate for male graduates was 93.2 percent, up 1.3 percentage points from the same period last year. The figure for female graduates was 94.7 percent, up 2.1 percentage points from a year earlier. This is the first time since fiscal 2007 the rate for female recruits has been higher than that for men.

The employment environment for female job hunters, particularly in the field of medical and nursing care, was strong, and the labor ministry believes this had a favorable effect on hiring.

Hiring figures improved in all regions except Kyushu, which saw the employment rate contract by 2.6 percentage points from the previous year to 90.6 percent.

In Hokkaido and Tohoku, the rate was 91.4 percent, up 1.4 percentage points; Kanto was at 95.8 percent, up 0.7 percentage point; Chubu was at 95 percent, up 0.1 percentage point; Kinki was at 93.2 percent, up 0.2 percentage point; and the Chugoku and Shikoku regions were at 93.8 percent, up 2.1 percentage points.

The two ministries concluded the latest figures reflect many students’ tenacious efforts to find a job.

Additionally, the employment rate of new two-year college graduates rose 5.2 percentage points, reaching 94.7 percent, the highest level since fiscal 1996 when the survey was first taken.

Some individuals in the employment assistance industry linked the positive results to Abenomics, the economic policies of the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

“Due to an improvement in business sentiment brought about by Abenomics, some small and midsize companies decided to hire new workers in the final phase of the recruiting period,” said Takashi Mikami, editor at Mynavi Corp”.   Read the rest of the article here.

Universities’ efforts boost job placement for new grads (May 18, 2013 Yomiuri)

A second straight year of improvement in the employment rate of newly graduated university students appears to to reflect not only the positive effects of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s economic policies, but also thorough help given to students by management at four-year colleges.

Universities were the chief contributors for bringing a real “spring” to students, aiming at showcasing themselves with high job placement rates and supporting students who have been facing a gloomy employment situation since the collapse of the Lehman Brothers in 2008.  …

Meiji University in March held a one-day “internal recruitment exam and interview” that allowed students to go through the first round of a job interview with invited companies and take a written test.

With 10 percent of the participants receiving job offers, a university official said proudly, “I believe we provide more generous support than other colleges.”

Senshu University also held biweekly employment explanation meetings at the university until early March. Ten to 15 companies participated in each session.

Rissho University tied up with an employment agency to find jobs for students who graduated this spring. The agency selected companies and introduced students to them on the basis of the firms’ human resource requirement.

Companies pay fees to the agency for each placement. The system thus allowed companies to reduce recruitment costs and meant students could do interviews without taking a written test or being eliminated based on documents.”     Read more here

Japan to allow families on welfare to save for university fees (May 15, Jiji Press, via NewsonJapan)

Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare decided Tuesday to allow families on welfare to save for university admission fees for their children. (Jiji Press)

A trend comes and goes in Japan. It is not restricted to fashion but includes many areas that should be neither trendy nor passing. A recent phenomenon of the interest in Kyoyo(教養) might be another trend that comes and goes.

1st year intern learns life lessons on the job (Yomiuri, May 18, 2013) Excerpted below:

The following story is based on a survey by The Yomiuri Shimbun of about 750 public and private universities….

An increasing number of universities have started implementing internship programs as part of their regular curriculum.

A Yomiuri Shimbun survey last year showed that 480 of 642 universities, or 75 percent, had done so.

Although an increasing number of universities have also begun offering credits for studying abroad and engaging in volunteer activities, far more students chose to enroll in internship programs last year.

About 45,000 chose internships for credits, while only 22,000 chose studying abroad and just 9,400 volunteering, according to the survey.

More universities are also inviting business leaders to give lectures and promoting on-the-job training at popular companies.

In the past, many such programs were designed to increase the students’ chances of being hired by the companies they were assigned to. In recent years, however, more universities are creating internship programs to raise awareness about the significance of actual jobs in society.

Tokyo Metropolitan University has placed a high priority on its internship program for first-year students. The university dispatches about 400 students, 30 percent of the total, to government offices, businesses and elsewhere for a week or so during summer vacation.

Programs in which an internship lasts six months, such as the one at Kochi University, are quite rare.

Prof. Hiromi Ikeda, 56, who leads Kochi University’s internship program, said: “By having students do an internship for half a year, we hope they’ll give plenty of thought to what they want to learn [during their time here]. Many university students today need a strong helping hand [to take charge of their education].”

Those who wish to apply for the program are required to attend classes in preparation for beginning work immediately after enrollment, “to help them consider what they’re going to learn on the job,” Ikeda said.

The university tells the applicants which companies they are assigned to once they are about to complete their first year, after they clarify their reasons for participating in the internship program, according to the professor.

Firms accepting the students are currently limited to the Tokyo metropolitan area, far from Kochi Prefecture, and the cost of securing housing and other expenses are a heavy financial burden on students.

If they are not careful about managing their coursework at the university, students may have to repeat a school year, the professor said.

Only about 1 percent of the university’s enrollees participate in the program … Read the rest here.

Gap-year system starts (May 19, 2013 Japan Times)

Gap year students share ‘real world’ plans (Yomiuri, May 13, 2013)  Excerpt follows below:

The first batch of University of Tokyo students under the new “gap year” program has unveiled their plans to travel abroad or engage in other activities, indicating their high hopes to gain real-world experience before hitting the books.

The 11 students, who recently secured their enrollment, attended a meeting Friday to share and discuss their plans to visit foreign countries or areas devastated by the Great East Japan Earthquake during the special leave-of-absence year.

The university introduced the system for students newly enrolled in the 2013 academic year. It allows students to take a year off prior to their studies to do volunteer work, study abroad or take up other activities to help broaden their perspectives.

The system is modeled on the gap year at universities in the United States and Europe, in which young students who are accepted by a school can postpone enrollment for a year to expand their horizons by immersing themselves in society.

JN_I130512000061_20130512195952_C

The Yomiuri Shimbun

The university recruited applicants from a pool of about 3,000 new students. Of the 24 initial applicants, 12 withdrew their applications and one student’s application was rejected.” Read the rest of the article here.

Let’s hear it from the girls / University cheering squads open up to female students (May 17. 2013)

… A  typical university cheering squad comprises a group of leaders, cheerleaders and a brass band.

Traditionally, these cheering squads bring to mind the image of wild boys. But recently, more and more female students have joined their ranks, with some even occupying leadership roles.

The leaders’ group stands in front of an audience during sporting and other events while cheering loudly. Clad in student uniform or hakama and haori, they are the face of the squad, as well as the university.

Honjo is the only female among the squad’s 11-member leaders’ group, and is the second to head the squad since it was founded in 1946. The first headed the squad last year.

While it is rare for female students to occupy the top spot at the university level for two consecutive years, Honjo said, “Whether you’re male or female is irrelevant.” Even so, she maintains a strict running and workout regimen to keep up physically with her male squad members.

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Kyoto, Kyushu schools to hire more foreign nationals in bid to boost graduates’ competitiveness … see Universities to boost classes in English (Japan Times, Mar 14, 2013)

In an effort to accelerate the internationalization of their institutions, Kyoto University and Kyushu University are looking to drastically boost the number of classes taught in English and educators who are foreign nationals over the next few years.

Kyoto University plans to hire about 100 foreign instructors to teach a half of its liberal arts classes in English. Currently, only about 5 percent of roughly 1,100 liberal arts classes are taught in English.

About 5 percent of classes at Kyushu University are also presently taught in English, but the institution, located in Fukuoka Prefecture, aims to raise that to 25 percent over the next few years by increasing the number of foreign teachers and Japanese instructors who have overseas teaching experience by about 30.

The two national universities both have received five-year subsidies from the education ministry to achieve their goals.

The effort is observed as part of the education ministry’s Global 30 project, which aims to promote the globalization of higher education institutions. Under the project, 13 public and private institutions, including Kyoto and Kyushu universities, have been urged to create an international academic environment for both Japanese and international students. … Read more here.

Only full national achievement test will help improve teaching in school (Yomiuri, May 14, 2013 )

The national achievement test was conducted recently with all students in the sixth year of primary school and in the third year of middle school participating, the first in four years to be held with all children in these grades taking part.

About 2.28 million students from about 30,000 primary and middle schools took part in the test, with the sixth graders tested on Japanese and arithmetic and the middle schoolers on Japanese and mathematics.

Thanks to the revival of the nationwide achievement test with all primary and middle schools taking part, boards of education and schools will be able to correctly assess students’ academic abilities. By finding out what needs to be done to enhance students’ abilities, they need to make use of the results to improve teaching methods.

The Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry introduced the national achievement test in fiscal 2007 as part of efforts to enhance children’s scholastic abilities. For three years to fiscal 2009, the exam was given to all children in these two grades.

Test change had adverse effects

The then Democratic Party of Japan-led administration switched from full-scale exams to sample exams held at about 30 percent of schools from fiscal 2010, justifying this in the name of budget cuts. The DPJ-led administration paid too much attention to criticism from the Japan Teachers’ Union, a large supporter of the party, saying that the test could “fan excessive competition.”

The adverse effect of the switch was enormous.

The result was that only the average rate of questions answered correctly by each prefecture was available. Relevant data comparing schools or different municipalities was no longer available.

Although those schools not designated by the ministry to take part in the sample tests could choose to take part in the exams, they had to score the tests on their own. Despite being the same tests, there were inequalities between the designated schools and the others. This should not be overlooked, either.

Following the change of government late last year, the administration under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe appropriately decided to hold the national exam every year, with all children in these classes taking part. It was an appropriate decision.

The important thing from now is analyzing the enormous amount of data obtained from the tests from various angles and utilizing it to enhance children’s scholastic abilities.

The education ministry will compare the results of those schools with reduced class size with those schools with the number of students not reduced and examine the correlation between class size and academic abilities of students.

By empirically showing the approximate size of classes, the ministry will need to secure the necessary number of teachers.

A problem with the implementation of the full participation test is how to make the test results public.

Data should be shared

The education ministry, in its implementation procedure of the tests, forbids prefectural boards of education to publicize the test results between schools and those between different municipalities. It also forbids municipal boards of education to publicize test results comparing schools.

The bans are to avoid spawning excessive competition and grading among municipalities and among schools.

Yet some local governments hope to publicize the test results, as part of their responsibility for explaining the appropriateness of school lessons to students’ parents.

There were cases whereby relevant data, including the average rate of correct answers by municipality was made public, in response to freedom-of-information requests made by local citizens.

Implementing the test cost the government 5.5 billion yen. By sharing the valuable data with parents and local citizens, rather than having local boards of education monopolize it, public understanding of–and their cooperation with–school management can be won.

The ministry plans to discuss ways to publicize the test results for fiscal 2014 and after, by gathering opinions from local governments. The ministry should review its public-disclosure restriction.

Survey shows 840 Japanese teachers used corporal punishment on students (Apr 29)

The Ministry of Education conducted a survey spanning 10 months starting April 2012 to March 2013, and it showed that 840 teachers used some sort of corporal punishment on their students. This is more than twice the 404 cases from the whole fiscal year of 2011.

img313School roads get brighter visuals to boost safety (Yomiuri — Apr 27 via NewsonJapan)
Work continues nationwide to mark school roads in green and other colors, in the wake of a fatal car accident on a road leading to a school in Kameoka, Kyoto Prefecture, last April.
Three people were killed and seven injured by a runaway car driven by an 18-year-old boy who had never obtained a driver’s license. After the accident, the central government inspected roads in primary school zones across the nation and found 74,483 dangerous locations.
As a result, municipalities and other entities have been working to change school routes, better safeguard children and repair roads.

‘Chocolate project’ teaches kids volunteerism (Japan Times, May 2, 2013)

Most Japanese teens have little exposure to issues of worldwide poverty or the volunteerism that seeks to end it. Unlike in the United States and Europe

May 10, 2012, Yomiuri Shimbun

May 10, 2012, Yomiuri Shimbun

Left:  Activities to help improve  balance and physical coordination of children, include giving them handmade geta sandals

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This next segment brings you news summaries on educational matters and happenings elsewhere in the world:

Jenna Johnson’s commentary for the Washington Post on College Rankings tells us the methodology behind the college rankings system “has become complicated and controversial — and sometimes the results are inaccurate”, that there ” is no way such lists help students properly pick a college”…and that we should be scrutinizing and caring more about higher ed  institutions with “abysmal graduation rates, sky-high student debt loads, teetering accreditation and serious financial problems”  Read more here.

Coding boot camps promise to launch tech careers (AP, via Yahoo! news, Apr 12, 2013) A new breed of computer-programming schools, is proliferating in San Francisco and other U.S. tech hubs, focused upon “extreme employability” and offering real-world skills, and attracting students from a wide range of backgrounds, from college dropouts to middle-aged career changers. The “coding academies are helping meet the seemingly insatiable demand for computer programmers in the U.S. tech industry”, and “are launching at a time when many recent college graduates are struggling to find jobs that pay enough to chip away at their hefty student loan debts. One San Francisco school called App Academy doesn’t charge tuition. Instead, it asks for a 15 percent cut of the student’s first-year salary”…

Diverse figures including Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg of New York and Bill Gates have coalesced around a new idea: why not increase class sizes for the best teachers and use the resulting budgetary savings to pay these best teachers more and to help train educators who need improvement? Yes, each class might be bigger on average but at least each child would stand a better chance of having a great teacher, which would-be reformers say is more important.

The proposal is intriguing, and some teachers may be on board. Matthew Chingos, a fellow at the Brookings Institution, has cited a national survey by the journal Education Next and Harvard’s Program on Education Policy and Governance that found that 42 percent of teachers would gladly accept a $10,000 raise to forgo a three-student reduction in class size. Yet perhaps more striking, 47 percent of teachers said they would turn down this substantial pay increase to have just three students fewer in class

Read more here.

Does Class Size Count? (NY Times, Opinionator blog) To many educators, the answer seems obvious: Teachers who have fewer students can give each child more attention and tailored instruction. And parents agree. For years, annual surveys conducted by the New York City Department of Education have shown that the top priority of school parents is reducing class size, far outpacing “more effective leadership,” “more teacher training,” “more or better art programs,” “more challenging courses” and both “more preparation for state tests” and “less preparation for state tests.”

But the data on class size is not conclusive, if only because, in the last quarter-century, there’s been just one proper randomized, controlled study in the United States to measure, at sufficient scale, the effect of smaller and larger classes on student achievement. Known as Project STAR, it found that smaller classes do produce lasting gains, especially for economically disadvantaged and minority-group students.

Hiring more teachers, however, is expensive, and some researchers and policy makers insist that reducing class size is not cost-effective, compared with other possible reforms, and has been oversold to schools. They point to states like California and Florida that have spent billions of taxpayer dollars to reduce pupil-to-teacher ratios without, they argue, a commensurate increase in student performance.

40% Of Fortune 500 Companies Were Founded By Immigrants Or Their Children (PolicyMic) 

Related story: College Essay Nods to Immigrant Parents

Regis High School student Lyle Li reads from his college application essay about the hard work of his immigrant parents to secure a better education and a better life for him  Watch the video clip here.

Search for Cuts Puts Portugal’s Schools on Chopping Block (NY Times)

A court ruling and continuing budgetary difficulties have left Portugal’s government to reduce spending where it can – including in its education system, already one of the weakest in Europe.

Philippines extends schooling to 13 years(Global Post), one of the key reforms said to be aimed at lifting the country out of poverty.

Govt unveils tech, science vision (May 18, 2013)

The government is set to promote the commercialization of advanced technologies in five fields related to people’s livelihood, … and with a focus on energy development and fisheries culturing fields.

Teens Are Turning Away from Facebook Because Tumblr Is Real, and Parent-Free (news.yahoo.com)

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Parenting Matters:

Upper House Panel OKs Hague Treaty on Child Custody May 21 (Jiji Press)

“A House of Councillors committee approved Tuesday Japan’s entry into the Hague treaty on parental custody of children from failed international marriages. …

Signatories to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction are required in principle to return any child abducted abroad by a parent to the child’s original country if the other parent requests the return. The parents are to determine the custody before court in the original country.”  Read more here.

Related:  Diet approves Japan joining child custody pact (Japan Times)

Parenting Secrets – Good Life Skills For Kids 5-12 from Raiseyourkidsright.com

Getting more fathers involved in raising kids can change society (Yomiuri Shimbun, May 5, 2013) Excerpted below

By affectionately raising children, parents also can grow. Some data indicate the more time a husband spends caring for a child, the higher the probability the couple will have a second child. It is important for Japan to produce more fathers dubbed “ikumen” (men actively involved in child rearing) like Nakamura.

Abe for longer care leave

“… A growing number of local governments are arranging courses on daily household chores for fathers, such as cooking and ironing lessons. Nonprofit organizations have been hosting more gatherings at which fathers can talk with each other about the joys and difficulties of rearing children.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has called for the business world to voluntarily extend child care leave, which under current law can be taken for a maximum of 1-1/2 years, up until a child becomes 3 years old, both for male and female employees.

Some companies allow male workers to take paid child care leave for about two weeks. We think every company should make further efforts to encourage male employees to get more involved in child rearing.

Beef up community ties

The ties between parents of small children and communities that look warmly after child-rearing couples are also important.

There have been cases in which parents playing with their kids at a park have been told by neighbors they are “noisy.” So what are they supposed to do?

A Children’s Future Foundation survey found 34 percent of mothers felt “alone and isolated from society” while raising children.

Japan should set up more places where parents and kids can casually get together. Parents can chat and let their kids play at local facilities that support child rearing, such as community centers and children’s centers. We hope people whose children have left the nest will help run these facilities.

Having communities lending a hand and providing more support to mothers with children will greatly help people going through parenthood.”

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This and That:

Me, Myself and Math  A six-part series that looks at us through the lens of math.

A Team Approach to Get Students College Ready (May 15, 2013 NY Times)

A group called Blue Engine that places recent college graduates as full-time teaching assistants in a few public high schools is showing promising results.

6 lessons learned during my internship and more in the same vein at the InternView website

Coursera to offer new MOOC options for teachers (AP, May 1, 2013)

Related:

Two Cheers for Web U (NY Times,  Apr 20, 2013 ) Excerpted below:

When it comes to Massive Open Online Courses, like those offered by CourseraUdacity and edX, you can forget about the Socratic method.

The professor is, in most cases, out of students’ reach, only slightly more accessible than the pope or Thomas Pynchon. Several of my Coursera courses begin by warning students not to e-mail the professor. ..

The MOOC classrooms are growing at Big Bang rates: more than five million students worldwide have registered for classes in topics ranging from physics to history to aboriginal worldviews.

It creates a strange paradox: these professors are simultaneously the most and least accessible teachers in history. And it’s not the only tension inherent in MOOCs.

MOOC boosters tend to speak of these global online classes as if they are the greatest educational advancement since the Athenian agora, highlighting their potential to lift millions of people out of poverty. Skeptics — including the blogger and University of California, Berkeley, doctoral student Aaron Bady — worry that MOOCs will offer a watered-down education, give politicians an excuse to gut state school budgets, and harm less prestigious colleges and universities. … Read the rest here.

Online College, Beyond the Hoopla

Where Private School Is Not a Privilege (NY Times)

How does BRAC, the world’s largest NGO, educate more than 1.25 million of the world’s poorest children for free — and do a better job than government?

Invitation to a Dialogue: The Art of Teaching

8 college tips for handing in a high-quality term paper 

The Role of a Dictionary by David Skinner

Good writing may exceed the boundaries suggested, if not intended, by dictionary definitions. More on this

Low blood-lead levels can affect a child’s reading ability (Pediatrics.DailyRx.com (May 12, 2013)

Kindergartners with blood-lead levels between 5 and 9 µg/dL scored an average 4.5 points lower in reading tests and were 21% less likely to meet benchmarks for reading readiness than those with levels below 5 µg/dL, U.S. researchers found. The children with lead levels of 10 µg/dL and higher were 56% more likely to fail to meet reading readiness benchmarks compared with children with less than 5 µg/dL, according to the study…

High cesium levels discovered in Tokyo river eels, local governments make belated study (Japan Daily Press)

 A worrying phenomenon has been discovered in Tokyo river eels that have been caught by local residents living near the Edogawa River – the eels that they have been catching, and may have eaten at one time or another, have very high cesium levels, in most cases higher than the safe levels required by the Japanese government. Read more of this post

…One of the most influential psychological studies regarding race was done by Dr. Kenneth Clark and his wife, Dr. Mamie Clark. The Clark’s research became one of the pillarsof the 1953 landmark Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education. Kenneth and his wife are most famous for “The Clark Doll Experiment.”

The experiment involves giving dolls which are identical in every way apart from hair and skin color to young school children. The only differences with the dolls is that one doll is white with yellow hair while the other is brown with black hair. Each child is then asked a series of questions, including which doll is the nice doll. The study showed that all children favored the white doll.

This same study was replicated in 2005 by Kiri Davis. Now this means it was pre-post-racial America, so that’s probably why the 2005 study showed exactly the same results as the one conducted in 1939. I bet if that study were conducted today it would be very different because like Stephen Colbert most of us don’t even see race since the election of President Barack Obama. Oh wait, never mind it looks like Anderson Cooper studied this again in 2012, turns out kids still internalize racism, even in “post-racial” America.

The truth is, racism is still very much alive and children begin to internalize it from a very young age. It manifests in the experiment we see…

Why French kids don’t have ADHD (Psychology Today)

Related news:

President of the Swiss National Advisory Commission on Biomedical Ethics criticized the use of ADHD drug Ritalin as amounting to interference in the child’s freedom and personal rights, because pharmacological agents induced behavioral changes but failed to educate the child on how to achieve these behavioral changes independently. The child was thus deprived of an essential learning experience to act autonomously and emphatically which “considerably curtails children’s freedom and impairs their personality development” the commission said.

What’s behind the 53% rise in ADHD cases? (Psychology Today);  

An Extreme Approach to Ending Temper Tantrums

Shockingly, children are being prescribed potent anti-psychotic drugs.

In books:

Autism diagnosis at age 2. College student at 11. …  They Said He Wouldn’t Learn the ABCs (A review by the  Washington Post of the book “THE SPARK A Mother’s Story of Nurturing Genius” by Kristine Barnett)

“A few years ago, a friend, whose child attends a school for kids with learning disabilities, tried to start a book club for parents at the school. Her motivation was simple: If the parents got together once a month and talked about a book they’d read on…however, when she requested a meeting room for the proposed book club, she was turned down flat. The school, it seemed, didn’t want the parents second-guessing its teaching strategies….”The Spark is compulsive reading, and not simply of Jake’s “savant almost obliterated by the system” story,  … she also beats down every other obstacle that life hurls at her and her family….those obstacles are extraordinarily severe. The Barnetts’ second child, Wesley is diagnosed with a reflex disorder soon after he is born. It causes him to have seizures, up to nine a day, and to choke on simple liquids”….  and many more terrible personal setbacks. “Why is it all about what these kids can’t do? Why isn’t anyone looking more closely at what they can do? in “The Spark” — Kristine Barnett  This is the inspiring story of a mother’s persistence in defying the experts and proving them wrong and to unearth her son’s personality and potential despite terrible developmental challenges …

We also recommend Christine Gross-Loh’s new book, “Parenting Without Borders: Surprising Lessons Parents Around the World Can Teach Us”  see her interview with Christiane Amanpour etc.  “What American Parents Need to Do Better: Lessons from the Rest of the World” (via news.yahoo.com) and the book reviews by Huffington Post “Have American parents got it all backwards?”  and  Judy Bolton-Fasman (The Judy Chronicles)

Last but not least, if you want to know what’s happening on the international school circuit, check in on the website run by Caroline Plover at Japan School News.

That’s all folks, until the next edition …

Digitally yours,

Aileen Kawagoe

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