Japan: 'Cram-free' policy to be dropped

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at gmail.com
Sat Aug 18 16:14:40 UTC 2007


'Cram-free' policy to be dropped / Revised school curriculum to focus on
'sure, steady academic improvement'

The Yomiuri Shimbun

The revised national school curriculum guidelines scheduled to be drawn up
before the end of the current fiscal year will drop the relaxed, or
cram-free, policy and focus on "sure and steady academic improvement,"
according to education panel sources.

The policy change is apparently in response to the results of international
research on academic levels, which found language skills among Japanese
students have declined.

The Central Council for Education, an advisory body to the education,
science and technology minister, will aim to develop students' language
ability, not only in Japanese language classes but also in other subjects,
the sources said. The panel will later come up with specific ways in each
subject to make students better express their thoughts in writing and
orally.

The school curriculum guidelines are the national standard on contents and
class hours for primary, middle and high schools and get revised about once
every 10 years.

The current guidelines--introduced in the 2002 academic year for primary and
middle schools and the 2003 academic year for high schools--have a cram-free
policy, featuring the implementation of the five-day school week and a
drastic reduction in content.

However, as academic levels have declined, the new curriculum guidelines
make it clear that it will depart from this relaxed policy. Under the new
guidelines, language ability will be regarded as "an essential means for
academic improvement," the sources said, and students will be urged to work
on improving language skills from their early years in primary school.

Students in their early years in primary school may be asked to write an
essay or give a presentation about what they have learned in a practical
lesson and compare and contrast with their classmates.

Middle school students in science classes may be asked to make a hypothesis
or predict the outcome of an experiment or observation and give a
presentation about the results later. In physical education classes,
students may be asked to come up with practical training schedules and
strategies and change them if circumstances require.

In 2003, the Program for International Student Assessment by the
Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development showed Japan's ranking
in reading comprehension had slipped down to 14th from eighth three years
before.

The education council believes the decline in comprehension has made
children less effective at establishing relationships, contributing to
bullying, and increased the number of people not in education, employment or
training. The council also believes an improvement in language skills will
improve children's communication ability.
(Aug. 18, 2007)

http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/national/20070818TDY02008.htm


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