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Primary school texts contents expand

The Yomiuri Shimbun

With new textbooks for primary school students becoming thicker under the nations new curriculum guidelines, a key task facing school administrators will be to ensure students have sufficient class hours to digest what they learn while also improving the quality of teachers.

The Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry announced Tuesday its departure from a decadelong emphasis on what is known as "education with latitude," or cram-free education, as it released the results of its screening of textbooks to be used at primary schools starting in academic year 2011.

The ministry said it endorsed all 148 textbooks in nine subjects submitted by private publishing companies after the fiscal 2009 screening.

The average number of pages in the textbooks screened under the new curriculum guidelines increased 43 percent from the textbooks screened in fiscal 2000, when curriculum contents suffered large cuts. Notably, the page count of science and arithmetic textbooks sharply increased, by 67 percent, from those screened in 2000.

The new science and arithmetic textbooks have sections in which students are encouraged to express ideas using their own words, and to understand the material via practical means rather than focusing on rote learning.

The arithmetic textbooks also include sections designed to encourage students to think logically, while the science texts include educational materials closely related to everyday lives.

Under the new guideline, publishers were requested to clearly state "the circumference ratio of pi is 3.14" in their textbooks although students are allowed to use the ratio as "3" in some cases.

Behind the curriculum changes lies the fact that the academic performance of Japanese students aged 15 has declined as shown by the results of the Program for International Student Assessment test conducted by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Another survey on science and arithmetic education showed the number of Japanese primary school students who enjoyed studying science and arithmetic has been shrinking.

The new Japanese-language textbooks are introducing the use of newspaper content, urging students to read news stories while trying to understand how they were written and edited. This activity is designed to enhance students language ability.

All social studies textbooks for fifth-grade students carry a reference to the territorial dispute with South Korea over the Takeshima islets.
(Apr. 1, 2010)

Daily Yomiuri Online


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