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Coronavirus crisis sparks calls for revamping Japan's school year

44 Comments
By Linda Sieg

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This could have been divided into two articles one for business and one for school

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

My granddaughter goes to Jr High School here in Tokyo prefecture. They only go to school once a week just to drop off homework and turn around and leave. There is no regular attendance plan for the foreseeable future

7 ( +8 / -1 )

I hope that's a historic photo! No social distancing there!

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Seems to me that this is the only place that gets any discussion about this topic, as in reality it will take a hell of lot of work and cooperation between literally thousands of entities to make it a reality.

While some, maybe many, think its a good chance now, getting it to work will take at least a generation.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

What if some schools change but others don't? The schools that don't change are more at an advantage as the graduates are first sought by the companies, whereas the new schools graduates are seconds for the company. What if some schools want to start in January as its the start of the calendar year?

1 ( +2 / -1 )

"But it's not only a business or social change, it might be a big change in Japanese tradition or culture and my hesitation is there - cherry blossoms are the symbol of a new start."

Yep. I knew the cherry blossoms would be factored in. Why not graduate in summer, spend the fall job searching, when you can actually concentrate on that fully with studies out of the way, then join a company in April, when the almighty cherry blossoms signal the restart of life as we know it?

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Changing the start date of entrance ceremonies? No Sakura in the photo background?

This is a perfect example of a common sense coming up against tradition.

In Japan this move have little chance of success.

12 ( +13 / -1 )

The bloom of a flower is what preventing change??? Really, that is the craziest reason for not wanting to start the school year in September. Why not start school in September this year? We are already approaching June, have children prepping for their next grade and or reviewing their previous grade and have some small classes for the children who were suffering and or falling below before school was let out and so they will be on par with others when school returns.

8 ( +10 / -2 )

Yer dream on.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

"I'm pro-reform," ..... but the cherry blossoms!

That pretty much sums up the logic behind why things never change in Japan.

13 ( +14 / -1 )

Cherry Blossoms..VS...Global Standard...change, progress, over due shake up, reform? .mmmm. Which will win?

7 ( +8 / -1 )

It's a crazy.

A European kid born in 2014 will start school this September. If this change succeeds, a Japanese kid born in 2014 would start school next year, effectively 7 years old already. That's loosing a whole year for Japan.

No politician seems to comment on that detail.

Anyway, In a country that cannot adopt the daylight saving time because it's "difficult and confusing" I cannot imagine it changing the whole education system.

3 ( +6 / -3 )

Large companies with highly complex systems say yes

Small companies whose shacho was appointed when his dad died say no.

fwiw, the rocket-powered kamikaze plane developed in WWII was called the Ohka, the cherry blossom. It wasn't a "new start" for anyone who piloted it. The WWII definition of sakura was something that perished at its moment of perfection. Symbols mean people say they mean. It is not set in stone.

8 ( +9 / -1 )

The problem with "education" in Japan is not going to be solved by when the school year starts. The whole curriculum, teaching methodology, exam centred, books and books of useless information that have nothing to do with life, all need to be scrapped and the system rethought. Kids need information that will prepare them for life. Very few of them will ever do a quadratic equation. And memorising historical dates won't be of any use to them in fixing a crashed computer.

They need to know how to recognise a balanced meal even if they are not going to learn to cook. They need to know which foods to avoid. They need to know how to use roads. How to express themselves. A professor in Hokkaido university once told me that the biggest problem he was facing is that his students were completely incapable of writing a simple essay.

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12 ( +13 / -1 )

Remember there always be those that find a problem to every solution. Hey, at least they are talking about using this situation to evolve and change, but a betting man would...

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I don't know if the Japanese will adjust (unwillingly) to the academic schedule of other countries, but money talks louder than cherry blossoms and so there's a real possibility that corona will blow off the sakura.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Typical Japan. Take a once in a lifetime event and base your whole future plans on that exception... Like changing everything for the Olympics. There is no financial or social gain for changing the school year here. And no need to change things because a rare pandemic outbreak happened.

-6 ( +1 / -7 )

Good lord, lift the shut down before your fools do anything else. If current events are any indication of the abilities of the government, these people will need their full attention on the current shut down before even thinking about tackling any other problems.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

"I'm pro-reform," ..... but the cherry blossoms!

That pretty much sums up the logic behind why things never change in Japan.

Absolutely, ....mind blowing.

Anyway, In a country that cannot adopt the daylight saving time because it's "difficult and confusing" I cannot imagine it changing the whole education system.

Spot on ....as long as LDP old foggies remain in charge of J-govt, its much easier to kick the can down the road ( which is another great J-tradition btw ).

8 ( +9 / -1 )

Why is there a need to change? Not every country starts the school year in September, so it’s not an international standard. Also students have been able to study at home during this period. A lot of children do homeschooling, which is accepted in many countries.

-5 ( +4 / -9 )

Honestly, changing the starting date for the school year doesn't really serve any purpose unless they also plan on expanding the summer vacation dates for students so they can be properly in lined with western countries. Just changing the start date to match the start date of western countries doesn't offer any real merit. Kids are in school too long.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

A professor in Hokkaido university once told me that the biggest problem he was facing is that his students were completely incapable of writing a simple essay.

I work in a university and, even after they go through an intense structured program to get them into an American institution for at least one semester and take courses there, they just revert back to type in Japan.

I think the govt deliberately doesn't put critical thinking skills on the curriculum of any school or even university is that it makes the population easier to control. Only doctors generally have any kind of overall thinking skills.

The school year may get started in September, but I highly doubt it. It will be decided by the govt top-down though so ignore the waffle about cherry blossoms, it's just filler for articles

9 ( +9 / -0 )

The first sentence of this article when combined with the photo of students shouting for jobs gives the impression the students are advocates for changing the school year. A perfect fake news item should Japan Today ever need an example.

Secondly, it’s not just western nations that start school in September. China and Russia both start in September.

Of the countries I researched (32) 22 start in September and end in June. 10 start in January, February, March, April or June. (Only Japan starts in April.) Korea starts in March.

But as BertieWooster wrote, changing the date won’t change the curriculum, methodology, or textbooks. It will only allow easier access at the university level for Japanese students studying abroad (unless they study in Korea) and foreign students to study in Japan.

Plus most academic years have a summer vacation (June to September) without a ton of homework because summer comes in the middle of the school year. How will Japan handle kids being out of school without onerous assignments? The horror.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

But introducing the change this year, however, would be a stretch, he said.

why!? when would the next chance be, the next global pandemic!? if Japan cant or wont change this year when almost half the school year is already shutdown, then Im sorry its never going to change. The main force against change is cherry blossoms!? I rest my case

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Why is there a need to change? Not every country starts the school year in September, so it’s not an international standard. 

actually most international renowned schools Unis the northern hemisphere start near September. Schools in Southern hemisphere start differently mainly due to the different seasons to the Nth. Main summer vacations are almost universal. December Jan for southern hemisphere, July August for Northern hemisphere

2 ( +3 / -1 )

"I'm pro-reform," the LDP's Shibayama said. "But it's not only a business or social change, it might be a big change in Japanese tradition or culture and my hesitation is there - cherry blossoms are the symbol of a new start."

Yeah, I usually let blooming flowers figure into my big business decisions. Makes sense.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Lots of talk about cherry blossoms but don't forget about Koshien! What will happen to the very important summer baseball tournament? They'd have to change the date to May in order for seniors to compete, otherwise only grade 11 students (soon to be gr 12 in September) and then the winter Koshien would change to the fall? Just another Japanese tradition the progressives are up against.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Not all "Western" countries' academic years begin in the Fall.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Not all "Western" countries' academic years begin in the Fall.

Indeed. Some begin in the Autumn.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

There is no financial or social gain for changing the school year here.

I think you'd find that there are many inconveniences associated with Japan starting its school year in April as opposed to September if you were involved in education, especially the IB program, exchange programs, or if you work for a university. Hiring foreign staff is an issue, employment contracts often have to be broken and exchange programs are cut short or difficult to schedule. I could go on and on about how Japan and even other countries are held back by this issue. Its not a critical issue, but its one of those things that have a positive impact down the road.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

The problem with "education" in Japan is not going to be solved by when the school year starts. 

No, but reading the article, it becomes clear that they are not really trying to solve actual problems. The main goals are all related to a globalist agenda: Get rid of a national tradition that sets Japan apart. Make Japanese universities more dependent on foreign students for funding and less focused on training the Japanese workforce. Get companies to hire more immigrant workers. It’s the same agenda that has been aggressively pushed in Europe and America for decades.

Here we are in the middle of a crisis brought about, in part, by globalism, and, no surprise, the globalists are doubling down on their efforts to reshape society. Never let a crisis go to waste, especially a self-inflicted one.

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

PM Abe has shelved a September school year start.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

One thing not mentioned in the article, but which is key to the debate, is that this could be a lifeline to a lot of Japanese universities.

The number of Japanese college age students is decreasing year by year, so universities need to tap more international students. The April start is a big problem, since it prevents high school graduates in other countries from applying. Some Japanese universities with programs taught in English get around this by moving the start date for those programs to the October term instead of April, but that too is an imperfect fit. The start date works OK, but those students will graduate in September, way later than their counterparts in North American/ European universities who graduate in early summer. This puts them at a bit of a disadvantage both for jobs and for applications to graduate schools overseas, and makes attending a Japanese university a bit more difficult.

Switching to a September start would make Japanese university's way better positioned to get international students than they are now.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

"The proposed shift to a September start, in line with many Western countries, has huge implications for corporate recruitment, since most firms hire en masse after students graduate in April, when the financial year also begins."

Only if these businesses are unable to deal with the SMALLEST of inconveniences. You simply hire at the beginning of the third quarter instead of the beginning of the business year. Not rocket science.

Honestly, I wish Japan had more faith in itself. It constantly claims it cannot change something because "People would be confused" or "it's always been this way, and changing will be difficult". I think Japan is pretty good at adapting, but obviously business "leaders" and politicians don't have the same faith or belief in the nation or its people.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

"Leading companies will have no problem," Waseda University President Aiji Tanaka told Reuters. "But smaller companies ... cannot adjust to recruitment throughout the year right away, so we will have to transform the industrial structure, the entire Japanese social system, to adapt to a global standard."

Wow! Tanaka makes it sound harder than rocket science....

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Not all "western" countries are even in the same hemisphere, so I don't see much of a global standard here at all.

I think it's nice to start the new school year in April with the cherry blossoms, why throw that tradition out for the sake of some non-global standard?

It's not something I recall ever crossing my mind when I considered studying in Japan when I was a student. Financial factors were more of a concern for me. In the end, the reason I didn't study here was because of a fairly sudden appreciation of the yen which made it look tough to survive and study seriously.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I think it's nice to start the new school year in April with the cherry blossoms, why throw that tradition out for the sake of some non-global standard?

I would say that "the cherry blossoms in April are nice" isn't in and of itself a very convincing argument in favor of the status quo. If anything its a good argument against the current system: the "spring" break runs from mid February to the end of March, meaning that just as the nice weather arrives with the cherry blossoms, you have to go back to school. its a bummer.

It's not something I recall ever crossing my mind when I considered studying in Japan when I was a student. Financial factors were more of a concern for me. In the end, the reason I didn't study here was because of a fairly sudden appreciation of the yen which made it look tough to survive and study seriously.

I did study in japan (postgrad) and it is a huge factor, especially for undergraduate students who (depending on the school), may have to sacrifice an entire extra year in order to study in Japan due to the way the scheduling doesn't line up. This is a major structural barrier to a lot of international students.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

rainy, no doubt it's a factor for students in some places, but my point is that it's not a truly global standard, because there isn't such a standard.

Japan is welcome to throw away its traditions and try to align with other certain places (which would perhaps misalign with others), of course.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

borschtToday 11:43 am JST

Plus most academic years have a summer vacation (June to September) without a ton of homework because summer comes in the middle of the school year. How will Japan handle kids being out of school without onerous assignments? The horror.

I don't know about you, but somehow I remember having to do summer homework, and we in HK are September starters like the UK and China. Unfortunately, the presence or absence of Summer homework is not affected by the start of the year.

I get the pro arguments, but I do see this as one where the gains are too small to override tradition. Tradition may not be TOO important, but it isn't nothing, either. In the end, universities are mostly there to provide people for companies within the country. If they find a one-time callup around April most convenient, that's what the universities should optimize for.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

But smaller companies ... cannot adjust to recruitment throughout the year right away, so we will have to transform the industrial structure, the entire Japanese social system, to adapt to a global standard."

Geez...over dramatizing much there? Its not really a "Black ship arrival " rivalling event.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

rainy, no doubt it's a factor for students in some places, but my point is that it's not a truly global standard, because there isn't such a standard.

Take a look at the world's top 100 universities and see how many do not have autumn start dates:

https://www.topuniversities.com/university-rankings/world-university-rankings/2020

Not technically a global standard, but for anyone serious in academia it is.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

The arguments are going to be lost on most Japanese. Try explaining to families in inaka that the elementary school year is going to change because of some vague goal about universities - it will just create confusion - they will see it as major upheaval for what appears to be a very modest goal. For most people in Japan, the concept of international exchange is utterly alien.

My proposal is to keep the school year as it is but move the university year to a September start date, which is only a delay of one term, but would align with most developed countries.

The gap between March and September would be a good opportunity to relax after high school.

In terms of giving companies the chance to prepare, simply make the academic year for freshmen begin in September 2020, but the other years continue with their March year end until they graduate. This will give companies several years to prepare.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

As long as the 'blue bloods' are running the show here, there is little chance to none that progressive thinking will overcome traditional. But at least people are talking about it...and talking...and talking...and...

S

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@Sensei258 - Yup, same with my kids, and I work for a jr./sr. high school. We're feeling this, too.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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