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Education ministry will allow all schools to open on Saturdays from next year

59 Comments

An amendment to a education ministerial ordinance will make it easier for local governments to open schools on Saturdays.

Education Minister Hakubun Shimomura has revealed plans to allow local governments to choose whether or not they open public schools on Saturdays, TBS reported this week. "It is necessary to work with local governments and help them take full advantage of Saturdays for education," Shimomura told reporters.

The current law bans schooling on Saturdays except in special cases, as a result of which a number of schools are already taking advantage of the loophole and teaching on weekends, the ministry said.

In order to promote competition and avoid complaints arising from the vague nature of the term "special cases," all areas will be permitted to open public schools on Saturdays from fiscal 2014, the ministry says.

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59 Comments
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Anything to avoid actually addressing the real problems with the education system, I guess. Saturday school didn't make Japan more competitive in the years leading up to 'yuttori kyouiku' and it won't help now. If anything, it'll ensure higher teenage suicide rates, and more classroom management problems, as well as an increased lack of motivation. The only plus is that young mothers will demand their local boards push for Saturday school so they have more chances to go out to lunch with their friends thanks to the free babysitting.

13 ( +18 / -4 )

Good. This will make Japan a much better country. In fact, why not make it mandatory to be in school every day of the week. Hell, make it compulsory to work every day too. Keep all people busy, all the time and no one will have the energy to complain, bring up issues or even think. Happiness through exhaustion.

This place is going down the drain quickly with their imaginary ideas of "duty" or what have you.

13 ( +14 / -1 )

Weekend detention for kids!

8 ( +8 / -0 )

Companies here get around terrible organisation and inefficiency by stretching days into overtime, and this ruling is, as @smith points out, simply dodging the same issues. Goodness knows the kids will have plenty of time in juku and then find themselves stuck in some stuffy office in the future.

7 ( +10 / -3 )

Interesting article here on the minimum number of instructional hours- not the minimum number of days required to be spent in school - required by various countries and how well they do on OECD tests.

http://centerforpubliceducation.org/Main-Menu/Organizing-a-school/Time-in-school-How-doe

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Can you hear that? The cheers of parents around the country.

Just pathetic. Yes, let's demand even more of the already overworked and underpaid teachers. Let's not address the horrific quality of education, the crappy tests and WHY Japanese schools are failing. Quantity over quality.

11 ( +12 / -1 )

Quality should come before quantity.

10 ( +10 / -0 )

Seat time does not equal learning time. A person does not learn by sitting in a chair and pretending to pay attention. Japan should be ashamed of the cramming school concept. Why should a parent pay a cramming school teacher to reteach the same lesson taught to the student during the day? Proficiency in a subject has to be the way to measure or grade a student. No student should be allowed to move from one grade to another if he or she has not mastered (90-100%) of the information. This means students will fail, this means schools teachers will be embarrassed, and this means administrators will have to get out of their offices and visit classrooms. The USA has adopted standards based (proficiency) education. It is time for Japan to look at that model and STOP handing out jr high school diplomas just because the student has sat in a classroom for three years and can show up for the closing ceremony.

10 ( +11 / -1 )

Why should a parent pay a cramming school teacher to reteach the same lesson taught to the student during the day?

Because they are the ones who are taking the power away from the teachers when it comes to dealing with bad students? The parents are a major part of the problem. Many don't see school as education, they see it as babysitting, festivals and fun things. Juku, where THEY pay directly, is where kids go to learn. I also don't see many parents speaking up about the quality of education here. The ones with money don't care, their kids go to juku and Taro is out of the house. Win/win for mom and Taro.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

Hurray...Saturday classes are back!  as if children didn't have enough stress in their lives

9 ( +9 / -0 )

Japanese school teachers are already over worked, and while I question if they are really qualified at times , I have see teachers at school until very late into the night getting things ready for their classes. I wonder how this will make the teachers feel now?!

Another note, how will the government get around having to pay overtime? A work week in Japan is legally 40 hours!!!! This is still a stupid idea !

There should be less focus on the stupid clubs and more on academics!! Kids are no different from grown ups they need a break too... My kids will not go on Saturday.

The school and the board of education can KMA...

8 ( +9 / -1 )

Another note, how will the government get around having to pay overtime?

Hahaha! Good one! Teachers don't and have never, ever gotten overtime. In any country as far as I know. Parents just assume that teachers "want" to stay late and do all the teams, clubs and crap. Insane. And there is far too much focus on making Taro follow the group - sport's day, bunkasai... all very, very controlled and not needed if the parents actually took an interest in their kids and did things with them on the weekends and evenings...

And yes, question the qualifications, standards and ability of those who teach here. Staying late and on weekends doesn't mean the teachers are "good" teachers. But shhhh... that would make sense.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

"Abenomics" pushing Japan back 40-50 years... As others have said : "Quality over Quantity"... I'm more and more glad I sent my son to the French school in Tokyo - and so is he ! - not only because there was no bullying either...

6 ( +7 / -1 )

Hey lets not forget the kids in this argument, education takes up a huge part of a child's life, but to succeed they must be given time to just to be kids. I agree with the post here, its the content and how lessons are taught that should be the focus , not just time in class. Mon-Fri is ample time and there shouldn't be a need for the parallel system the juku. Sir Ken Robinson has got some great videos on YouTube talking all about children in education and the education system worldwide. Worth the time for those who are interested. Also there are many teachers and educators that are trying to push for change,and there are some fantastic results coming out of , especially, what were problem inner city schools. So its the system that has to change, and where they are changing, its working with positive results.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

I don't want to go to school on Saturdays and want to weak up at 11am :(

4 ( +4 / -0 )

I had school saturdays. It was really cool

-13 ( +0 / -13 )

Bad idea. Kids deserve TWO days off of which [if they are lucky] they will get to spend Sunday with their family for "quality family time".

7 ( +7 / -0 )

wow are you serious japan?! expect more suicides and stressed out kids. This is THE WORST thing japan is doing to an already overworked society! just makes me laugh how backwards they think over there. THANK GOD i'm not a japanese citizen lol

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Flip-flop education.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Saturdays are for families as I see it. I'm not sending my kids to school on Saturdays because Japan refuses to look at what is actually wrong with the school system. Companies are the same. Hopeless inefficiency and shocking ineptitude everywhere you look, but the only conceivable answer is more time spent staring blankly at computer screens. Never any attempt at efficiency or reality, just the mindless attempt to be perceived to be doing something.

10 ( +9 / -0 )

Why does the 5-day school week work in Finland, for example? Is nobody at the Education Ministry wondering?

6 ( +6 / -0 )

To read many of the comments one would think the article said that the government has mandated all public schools to open on Saturdays. As i read it, public schools now have free choice to open on Saturdays whereas before the were explicitly restricted from doing so apart from 'special occaisions'.

Does anyone know whether students are mandated (by school or government) to attend should their school decide to start opening on a Saturday?

I completely agree that there should be no need for Saturday school or for such wide spread juko classes. Extra classes on a specific topic that a student may be struggling with might be useful but not the shadow school system seen in Japan. Let children enjoy their childhoods.

Improve the quality, reduce the quantity, balance the fun & family time and maybe these kids might grow up to question and change the workng culture in Japan.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Japanese schools waste so much time instead of concentrating on what they have to do, teach those kids! My sons have half days the first three days before each holiday and they once the holiday is finished, they get 3 more half days to cool down from the holiday. They spend a month preparing for sportsday, so that they can show to the parents how well they can dance and sing...like little soldiers. Cut those ridiculous free Mondays...useless! Japanese schools have so many unnecessary holidays, it just makes me want to scream! Parents in my neighborhood don't oppose saturday school though, they really think it's a necessity...the people who are really crying are the cram school owners, because those same parents are sending their kids to Juku now on Saturday. Really these Japanese people don't understand the essence of life, they are so similar to ants, living, working, breeding and dying for society.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Nary a peep from the tens of thousands of teachers who are now going to lose their right to quiet enjoyment of Saturday, pursuing hobbies, spending time with family, whatever......... a right which just about every other full time worker in this country enjoys. Bend over ladies and gentlemen.............wham!!!

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Describe a Japanese parent: their children are brought up by their teachers or grandparents. Young kids are very often left at home alone (or in cars outside a pachinko parlor) for many hours. The mother is a financial controller and bento chef. The father is a Sunday baby sitter. The children are better off at school, sadly. - An example: a few years ago at a school I was working in a 14 year old girl ran away to Osaka. She was located by the police and they contacted her home room teacher who went to Osaka to bring her home. Her parents were only informed after the event. Let the kids go to school seven days a week. Most of them are better off at school than at home. At least they are supervised by semi-trained professionals.

Yeah, it's a very dark opinion, but I have seen first hand how my ex-wife treated my kids and how monster parents carry on to teachers cos their kids are failing. School is the best place for a majority of Japanese kids.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

A good few years back, just before I stopped working at a High School in western Tokyo, I heard that a parent complained that teachers got too much summer holiday. Whereupon, teachers' summer holiday was cancelled, and they had to go in and to work all thru the hols. Can anyone clarify this? Was/is this true?

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

It's true!

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I believe this was triggered by a survey in which about 80% of parents supported extending the school week to include Saturdays. It's interesting to note tha most non-Japanese do not agree with the idea. This conveniently gives parents extra time to do other things such as play golf, pachinko, watch tv and ignore family responsibilities. It's a pretty sad situation which will undoubtedly get worse.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

The curriculum, content of classes, teaching methods is another issue that should not be linked to school opening hours.

The USA has adopted ..... It is time for Japan to look at that model

The US as a model ? Thanks for the laugh.

I had school saturdays. It was really cool

Idem. What we didn't like were the Sundays... but we'd disappear after lunch to go to some school of the woods. No woods near the Japanese cities, they can't even play in their street. Open them the school playgrounds and gyms from 6 am till 10 pm, year round, end of the story. If they are shut out of schools Saturdays and Sundays, the energetic brats that from Monday to Friday play around at school are not going to change of temperament. They will be taken spend one full day to have fits in Costco/shopping malls and another full day doing the lonely zombie in front of the TV/game. Not it's not they will, that's happening now.

parents extra time to do other things such as play golf, pachinko, watch tv

True but that has always been the case that most parents had activities of oldies... and kids liked their noisy silly games together. At 8, the boys want to play soccer with a bunch of buddies, and not go to play golf at snail pace, with middle-aged people (parents these days) that tell them "don't run... don't scream... ". And these parents would get a heart attack if they tried to run with the kids more than one hour.

quiet enjoyment of Saturday, ....... a right which just about every other full time worker in this country enjoys

You are smoking what to imagine all Japanese parents are FT workers and that all have Saturdays off ?

It's interesting to note that most non-Japanese do not agree with the idea.

The posters on this board are not representative of non-Japanese people, neither of foreign residents here nor of foreigners over the world.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

knox-

sorry but your suggestion has already become the rule. we are proud to work 12 hour days and come in on weekends. it is our mission in life.

Saturdays for school-

dumb, half-aS*ed reaction to a problem not understood. great way for teachers to get overworked and suicide too, not just the kids.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

....this is so DUMB. This is overworking students, teachers and everyone! Come on, people NEED breaks! :(

2 ( +2 / -0 )

(Cos) You are smoking what to imagine all Japanese parents are FT workers and that all have Saturdays off ?

Thats about as inane a comment as one could make. The point is that teachers are already fronting classrooms five days a week and many spend Saturday or Sunday preparing, correcting papers, grading and doing all the other things a busy professional educator does. A change to six days of classes will mean sayonara to even one day of rest. Name one other occupation where even that modicum of recovery time is denied.......thought so. But then again, maybe youre onto something here. Let`s dispense altogether with the idea that the weekends should be a time of recuperation from the demands of a busy week and instead resurrect as role models for our willing servitude Comrades Stakhanovite and Lei Feng.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I taught saturday class (6 hours), same kids (grade 1-3) for a year. 24 kids in my class. Same kids all the time. I will tell you one thing about saturday classes. First to Third grade don't need it and the poor things get so burned out.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Why not! There is nothing else to do for kids and it will allow the parents to work more days especially the Abe mothers.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Hahaha! Good one! Teachers don't and have never, ever gotten overtime.

Actually Japanese teachers DO get overtime, but not in the way that people here consider how overtime work should be paid. They are paid a pittance of an allowance that is supposedly to cover "overtime" work.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

A lot of people talk about 'The Problem' with the Japanese educational system, without articulating what it is. I'm also quite surprised to read people here suggesting that Japanese parents are supporting this for seemingly nefarious reasons like simply wanting less time with their kids. What a crock.

Apart from that kind of dialogue starting to wade into the murky waters of racism, pretty much all evidence I see of Japanese parents is completely to the contrary. Mothers are devoted to their children - certainly no less so than any other ethnic group I've seen, and in many cases, more so.

My suspicion would be that they want to increase their kid's chances of being competitive academically to ensure they get the best leg up in life. Parental love.

Perhaps they might be trying to offset increased hours spent on a game console? Or in front of the boob tube? But to suggest they are just trying to be negligent is rubbish, in my opinion.

The education system?

I think 'The Problem', as many people see it, is the teacher centred, lecture style classes that do not promote critical thinking and an independent approach to learning, like the Constructivist based Western Education System is designed to do. But that system perfectly suits Japanese society. It's completely in step with the culture and attitudes of the people.

So, I don't really get this culturally imperialistic attitude that people have to want to try to change Japan and the Japanese people. Why? Making everyone homogenous in culture and attitude would make the world a far duller place. And in any event, what ridiculous arrogance to assume that your country is 'better', or 'smarter' that Japan's.

In 2010, Japan was 6th in the world in terms of literacy, numeracy and science - higher than Australia, quite a bit higher than the US and a lot higher than the UK.

This year, Japan is the safest country on the planet according to the Crime Index. It held the same position last year.

It's still in the top 3 biggest economies in the world.

They must be getting a few things right.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

I feel pity for kids and teachers. They need at least 2 days off. They are too busy. They don't have enough free time even in current system. They shouldn't make them more busier.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

And those bullied kids thought they were safe in the weekends, next year they wonder why the suicide rates are rising.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

As an educator, I was saddened to read this. Children need time to relax, to play, to explore their own world, to be with their parents. Does the Japanese Ministry of Education really believe that "more is better" in terms of time spent in the classroom? If so, it is woefully ignorant of the research that shows it is NOT. Although I hope that the majority of schools and parents will ignore this 'recommendation' as a totally backward step, I am not optimistic.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

For teachers, especially those with their own kids, it is awful. Still, I wonder what levels this would work at ... for HS I think keeping the teenagers as busy as possible keeps them out of trouble. Yet, for the younger ES kids I don't think an extra day of schooling will do anything for them. Those of you in the system and in the PTA should be voicing your opinions about this. I'm sure the teachers would be happy to hear that parents want their kids at home on the weekend. Remember this isn't mandatory.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Yes, because the "school on Saturdays " approach hasn`t been tried before....a truly innovative approach to solve a long standing problem by the Mombusho bureaucrats.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

If there is no protest by the teachers or others then they are the authors of their own misfortune.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

IF, it is run like it was before there will be a greater number of days off for the teachers during the summertime. In the past teachers were pretty much off during the summer break because they worked on Saturdays. The trade-off for working Saturdays means the teachers get those days off in summer as comp time.

If the teachers did not get that time off the schools and BOE's would be going against the labor laws of Japan and there would be trouble.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@Tamarama Of course Japan should score higher than virtually all other countries as Japan is third in the world in average IQ. Get your head out of the sand; the Japanese education system is not only killing kids, due to sleep deprivation in adolescent years it is leaving the population brain damaged.

And the above posters are correct in claiming many Japanese parents are lazy and cannot be bothered to take a real interest in their children, they want to pass the buck to somebody else.

I spent years being fully involved in school activities and I can tell you that 95% of parents never show up for anything except undokai. The parents that do show up are the same ones over and over, they do indeed care about their children and generally oppose Saturday school. And it is no coincidence that the children of parents who show up at school do best, are the happiest and spend the least amount of time at juku.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

hellooooo muppets in charge, I actually want to spend some quality time with my daughter and that only leaves the weekends!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Cos: The US as a model ? Thanks for the laugh.

I'm not quite sure what you're laughing at. According to OECD scores the U.S. and France are pretty similar in many of the categories (subjects/ages/economic classes tested, etc.) and in both cases, the countries in question are overall, pretty firmly in the middle of the pack in international test rankings, ranking which have been rising in the U.S. in many categories and going down in Finland, typically one of the top ranking countries. Rather than dismiss someone out of hand for whatever reason that probably has nothing to do with the actual educational system of the U.S., why not try to be a little more open minded? Every country does something well and something poorly. To suggest that one country cannot learn from another is simply arrogant folly and is a most unattractive quality.

http://www.epi.org/publication/us-student-performance-testing/

Incontrol: To read many of the comments one would think the article said that the government has mandated all public schools to open on Saturdays. As i read it, public schools now have free choice to open on Saturdays whereas before the were explicitly restricted from doing so apart from 'special occaisions'.

You are right but I think the fear for many parents and teachers posting here is that, without weighing the realistic pros and cons, schools will jump on this as a way to have classes on Saturdays, thereby seeming to be more competitive and offering a better education when there is nothing to prove that more necessarily equals better.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Japan is the third biggest economy because of its export economy, its internal economy was always a mess. The export economy was driven by a few radicals who brought the best of overseas techniques- that's what Japanese education needs to pull in. Those radicals were not well regarded- Japanese companies keep drifting back to their bad old ways with massive losses- Sony, Toyota etc. and the real Japan economy has been falling backwards for decades.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

A lot of people talk about 'The Problem' with the Japanese educational system, without articulating what it is.

Tamarama, I'd agree. Public education in Japan may have its weaknesses, but show me a system anywhere which does not. My son's in college now and my daughter in 11th grade; over the years, I have been more impressed by their schools and teachers than dismayed (not that the latter was nonexistent).

My take is that the biggest problem is, ironically, the parents themselves. Most parents in this country seldom interact with their children. Ask a room of 40 JHS kids what their fathers do and I'd wager far fewer than a dozen could even answer. Knowledge without purpose is useless, whether that purpose be a career goal or just the joy of knowing, and it is the job of the parents to help kids incorporate what they study with why they should know it.

Japan, like many Confucian countries, suffers from authority-worship. Try to get a typical mother to speak English with her child: Even though she may be quite fluent, she will likely demur and defer to the "authority." Ask a room of 40 JHS kids if their parents ever help them with their homework and I'd bet the answer would be no, never, for all of them.

The result is a group of youngsters motivated solely by arbitrary, non-productive goals. Classes on Saturdays will just worsen this. Don't dump it all on the schools, though - Japanese parents are long past due some serious behavioral change.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

proxy

Of course Japan should score higher than virtually all other countries as Japan is third in the world in average IQ.

You are kidding, right? You are suggesting that the ethnic group of the Japanese is genetically smarter? That is a myth that has been consistently debunked by science for a long time. Wealth and culture are the two factors most associated with intelligence quotient - just take a look at the list you have quoted from.

Actually, let's consider the list you quoted from. The top 5 countries are all intensively competitive in their education, and for Japan to have a system, as it is, that is producing kids with the 3rd highest IQ in the world...speaks volumes for that system, I would have thought. Kind of shot yourself in the foot there.

it is leaving the population brain damaged.

Someone is prone to hyperbole.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

The top 5 countries are all intensively competitive in their education, and for Japan to have a system, as it is, that is producing kids with the 3rd highest IQ in the world.....

You guys do realize that the TIMSS and PIRLS are not I.Q. tests, right? These are the tests usually referred to when people are talking about how various countries rank in science, math and reading. They test for knowledge and abilities in those subjects. That is different from IQ tests. The national IQ list that I think you're referring to has been widely criticized for both the way the data was gathered and the theory behind it.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

"Allow" all schools to open is misleading, I think. All schools will open, because if any don't people will say it is "where the lazy kids go".

I bet most schools will start to open six days a week immediately, and there will be a rush from silly parents to force their poor kids in there like there is some magic learning juice available only Saturday class time. Poor kids! When is their playtime?

All these days will have to be filled with pointless ceremonies by tired teachers to exhausted kids with no joyful time to remember.

Why Japanese kids may not enjoy freedom playtime? learning to be alive is more important than learning to be robots. Working time is robot time. My office has only robot people. No thinking, no opinion.

Why do Japanese kids need 20% more time to learn a same information? Answer: because a politician has no brain.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Finland has one of the best educational system in the world.. Do they have Saturday classes?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

systems@

0 ( +0 / -0 )

ambrosia

You guys do realize that the TIMSS and PIRLS are not I.Q. tests, right?

If you look at my original post you will see that I specifically mention Maths , Science and Language - proxy is the one who starts to talk about IQ.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

tamara: My apologies and thank you for the correction.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

"open public schools on Saturdays"

This is not going to be popular with either the kids or the teachers.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

More Confucian brainwashing. Taking away the creativity of those who might dare to rock the boat. Exams are a waste of time. All the kids are interested in getting is 100% in their tests. It doesn't register with parents that the stuff they learn for those texts is a waste of time- such as stroke order in the way to write the letter 'f'. Those of who follow the system are just slaves or servants.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Tamarama, the big difference is that kids overseas have their own opinions, which means they have their own ideas. Japanese kids don't, especially those who go to the elite universities- they all just parrot what the system says they should as they have mindlessly memorised the answers. Giving kids days off would allow them to think for themselves and become individuals. It is great that the employment system is not working as students are beginning to think seriously why they work. They are challenging a system which has been in place for more than 60 years. In think that is why education is becoming conservative again as the ones in charge are worried. Another thing is that we don't hear these things until they are announced- why hasn't there been a chance for more debate in the media? Makes me wonder....

0 ( +0 / -0 )

An amendment to a education ministerial ordinance will make it easier for local governments to open schools on Saturdays.

And make it easier for me to choose international school for my kid...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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