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Osaka’s remote-learning policy strains teachers; forces students to go to school for lunch

40 Comments
By Ingrid Tsai, SoraNews24

While Japan has kept the number of imported cases of COVID-19 low with restricted borders, the nation is struggling to contain the spread of COVID-19 domestically as larger cities such as Tokyo grapple with a fourth wave of infections.

One of the most hard-hit areas in particular has been Osaka, and given the circumstances, closing schools and transitioning to remote learning is one of the most logical things to do. However, attempts by Osaka City’s board of education have been bombarded with logistical hiccups and confusing guidelines which have raised anger among educators.

Osaka is one of the few cities in Japan attempting a transition to remote learning — which is not only important in reducing the local transmission of COVID-19, but an opportunity to set a leading example within a country where constitutional limits forbid nationwide mandates even in a public health crisis — and some schools have been going back and forth between staying closed or resuming lessons as usual.

Unfortunately, the city’s efforts have been bogged down in multiple different ways, and we’ve found three main issues hindering Osaka’s transition to remote learning for elementary as well as junior high school students.

The first issue is ensuring student accessibility to remote learning technology. While the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology jumpstarted a program called the GIGA School Initiative to provide Internet-connecting devices, particularly to elementary and junior high school students after the pandemic’s onset, according to a recent study performed by the initiative, the ratio of students to internet-connecting devices, whether smartphone, tablet or computer, is at one device per five students on both a national level and in Osaka Prefecture.

Of course, simply ensuring everyone has the tech doesn’t mean everything’s ready to go, and this leads to a second hurdle: adapting to remote learning, which has been a struggle for many. From familiarizing themselves with remote-teaching methods, easing students into taking classes online, and the troubleshooting of tech issues, teachers in Osaka have signaled that they are falling behind with little time to spare for catching up. It doesn’t help that Osaka City’s board of education had set a rather strict deadline, announcing its new remote-learning policy for elementary and middle schools on April 22 and calling for schools in the area to begin remote learning on April 25, which only allowed  three days for instructors, school staff, students, and parents to prepare for an education style which is still extremely rare in Japan.

But what has truly raised the ire of Osaka City educators isn’t the logistical slowdowns nor the lack of time given for the transition, but a guideline directing students to return to school for lunch during the remote-learning period. So far, the guidelines have received considerable blowback from both school staff and Japanese netizens alike:

“Aren’t… aren’t we getting our priorities completely backward if we make the students learn online but still go to school for lunch?”

“And all this time we keep getting told not to dine together.”

“They should consider the school staff more and also not put kids at risk…”

“But isn’t eating when infectious droplets spread the most?”

“If they want to really do this, then they better figure out a way to protect the staff preparing school lunches.”

Granted, schools offering lunch is a vital part of the community safety net, especially for students affected by food poverty. However, forcing every student, regardless of their situation, to return to school for lunch seems to contradict the purpose of keeping schools closed in the first place, and with cases rising, the anger expressed by teachers and locals is understandable. At the end of the day, it may seem like common sense to shut down schools, but then again, some pretty wild takes have been given in the past year by local leaders regarding preventative measures against COVID-19.

During a time period riddled with anxiety and uncertainty, the last thing teachers, who are viewed but not necessarily treated as one of the backbones of human society, and students need is a higher risk of contracting COVID-19. And while it’s too early to determine how Osaka City’s transition to remote learning will pan out, we sincerely hope policy adjustments are made as it’s believed that vaccine rollout won’t reach the general public until mid-July at the earliest.

Related: MEXT Giga School Initiative

Source: Yahoo News! via Hachima Kiko, Sankei News

Read more stories from SoraNews24.

-- Kyoto families angered by new policy forcing high school students to buy tablets at own expense

-- Teacher disciplined for drinking alcohol during class in Japan

-- Students go nearly a year without textbooks after teacher forgets to hand them out

© SoraNews24

©2021 GPlusMedia Inc.

40 Comments
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Lunch would be the WORST, ie most dangerous, time to go school. The kids remove their masks and eat in groups indoors, often while not properly distanced.

The main purpose of the school lunch program is to force children to eat Japanese food, so that their young palates don't develop a full appreciation for the food of other cultures, especially long grain rice. So maybe the indoctrination is the factor?

13 ( +20 / -7 )

but a guideline directing students to return to school for lunch during the remote-learning period.

When you think you have witnessed the absolute bottom of ineptness, something like this comes up.

You really could not make this up even if you tried.

But I will try to take a guess why this is the case. It is very likely that the school launch is supplied by somebody's somebody whose palm needs greasing.

20 ( +21 / -1 )

What I have seen of schools at lunchtime, many are using screens on their desks. Poverty families need school lunches.

The main purpose of the school lunch program is to force children to eat Japanese food so that their young palates don't develop a full appreciation for the food of other cultures, especially long-grain rice. So maybe indoctrination is the factor?

I think that is a strange opinion. Most children would want to eat the same foods that they would eat at home which is Japanese cuisine. Long grain rice is difficult to eat with chopsticks or hashi. Many more people eat brown rice these days, as we do and also difficult to eat with hashi. Many Japanese do eat other non-Japanese foods but too much of it is unhealthy and increasing heart problems. One of the reasons for the Japanese long life is their diet.

Schools in the UK serve British cuisine and not Japanese.

The numbers of school children being infected by covid are zero.

Distance learning or homeschooling produces its own set of problems. Do children have the devices and the way to connect to the internet? Children need social contact to develop relationships and social norms. Teachers are trained for remote learning and do not come easy to everyone.

-2 ( +8 / -10 )

It doesn’t help that Osaka City’s board of education had set a rather strict deadline, announcing its new remote-learning policy for elementary and middle schools on April 22 and calling for schools in the area to begin remote learning on April 25, which only allowed  three days for instructors, school staff, students, and parents to prepare for an education style which is still extremely rare in Japan.

Indeed, when the virus began there was a rapid need for policy shifts and adaptation. It must have been hard to change, but in due time people all around the world found a way to implement and manage such new...

...wait a second, are they talking about April of 2020... or 2021?

10 ( +10 / -0 )

However, forcing every student, regardless of their situation, to return to school for lunch seems to contradict the purpose of keeping schools closed in the first place, and with cases rising, the anger expressed by teachers and locals is understandable.

Go to school and then bring viruses to home?

9 ( +10 / -1 )

Japan is being shown up for how inflexible it really is both in terms of adapting systems and adapting ways of thinking.

I read a comment the other day from someone who said something like ‘Japan is full of experts but has no leaders’ and this is so so true. Anyone who does have a flexible way of thinking and can see that changes need to be made is no doubt hugely outnumbered by people around them who doesn’t and can’t, or just by the system of seniority that decides age and experience trumps actual intelligence and common sense.

13 ( +13 / -0 )

Bored, yes bored of education once again trump stupidity with a complexity worthy of a puzzle with missing pieces. Idiots it’s not that hard! You idiots set yourselves up with your own stupidity. And you oversee education, take a look at yourselves and your results. Or is that too confronting.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

Another problem is that many kids live quite a distance from their schools, perhaps taking up to an hour on public transportation - for lunch!

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Another example of J Gov’t “back-ashward” solutions(?) to problems.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

“One of the reasons for the Japanese long life is their diet.” What? Fried chicken, white bread that’s like foam rubber, so-called ‘hamba-gu’, and other convenience foods that I always seem to see people eating here.

9 ( +13 / -4 )

"The numbers of school children being infected by covid are zero."

Not true. The numbers being announced every day include school-age children. Children may be less likely to develop the severe complications that the elderly and people with comorbidities are more likely to get, but they can still infect others they come into contact with.

11 ( +12 / -1 )

Opportunity for Uber-eats drivers! Contract with a school, and deliver all the lunches!

Great way to make some money! Problem solved!

6 ( +6 / -0 )

One in six Osaka don’t get enough food.

Myopia, a eye condition on a serious increase in the last couple years, especially effecting children, is caused by long term use of digital devises, like on-line learning.

tough one, food or eyesight.

-5 ( +1 / -6 )

My kids have been at home since this SOE started, but the school started the online program just this week. Until now the teacher would bring prints and my wife has been the teacher the whole month.

99% of the kids in this school are assisting to the school as usual, there is no distance learning at all. They have regular lessons and they play and eat at the school. Parents were given the option to stay home or not. Most of them don't want to have to teach the kids themselves or to be busy with them, so they all sent the kids to the school.

We did receive a couple of devices for remote learning.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

This is another of those WTH (F) Japan moments. I mean, really???????

First of all, this is a year late. Japan, you the entire of 2020, beginning in February, if I remember correctly. Hold on, it's like almost all policy related to the handling of the pandemic here. They are STILL debating what to do.

For heaven sakes: just implement the policy, and dispense with the requirement for group consensus and endless meetings that focus on creating guidelines covering absolutely every eventuality (and I mean EVERY) with complicated flow charts, forms and diagrams made in Excel. Just make decisions based on common sense and stop deliberating on the myriad of possible outcomes.

9 ( +9 / -0 )

Go to school for lunch... you can't make this stuff up.

9 ( +9 / -0 )

Absolute lunacy. Sasuga.

If you do live in Osaka and happen to have kids, tune into the efforts at making online content to see how well the educators in Japan are dealing with with curveball of the pandemic. Chuck one of those on demand instructional videos to see what’s on offer. It will show you more than you need to know about where we are at, education wise. If the system and teachers can’t adapt, what chance do the young students have?

Getting them to come to school for lunch is a perfect example. Alarm bells ringing, load and clear.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

One thing that I find incredibly strange about Japan is that many people don't learn to use a computer until University. It is slowly changing these days, but it is still a surprise that many schools from Elementary to High School don't have computer classes. Many students don't have computers at home. One of the first classes that students take at the University level is typing classes in order to learn how to type on a computer.

4 ( +6 / -2 )

When I was told schools would become online again in April I wasn't too surprised, given how badly the government has dealt with this, but when I was THEN told that the students still had to go to school for lunch I was gobsmacked. Really? I asked... so... while eating... while taking off their masks to put food in their mouths, probably cough, touch their faces, no doubt talk in some cases, crowd in a room, move around... literally the most dangerous thing to do... and they go to school for that?

7 ( +8 / -1 )

The main purpose of the school lunch program is to force children to eat Japanese food, so that their young palates don't develop a full appreciation for the food of other cultures, especially long grain rice.

Short grain rice of the Japanese is literally the worse type for your health. Give me basmati or jasmine anytime.

Long grain rice is difficult to eat with chopsticks or hashi.

Well, I've never seen any Japanese eat curry rice with chopsticks. Spoons, anyone?

Fried chicken, white bread that’s like foam rubber, so-called ‘hamba-gu’, and other convenience foods that I always seem to see people eating here.

Foam rubber!!! LOL!!! Or as I call them, marshmallow bread.

But yes, as JeffLee says, what is the point of online learning when you then decide to gather together just to remove your masks. Don't tell me, children instantly become quiet at lunchtimes. This is like getting an obese person to go on a diet, but at midnight everyday, they're allowed to eat as much junk food as possible for 30 minutes. Why bother?

5 ( +6 / -1 )

School cannot serve genetically modified food, so it could be a clever move

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Sad and interestjng to read the comments as I work in the education field here in Osaka.

Most people are saying that governments inability to adapt during the pandemic is to blame, and also that Japan is miserable for those who have children but don’t make good money.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Elementary Schools in Osaka would close and clean and reopen again when a child or faculty member tested positive for Corona.

And then a day or two later, all (many hundreds) would rejoin at the local school and continue life.

Rinse and repeat over and over.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Schools in the UK serve British cuisine and not Japanese.

Having eaten both, I would definitely prefer Japanese school lunch. Except on "bread day" which was utterly repulsive.

-5 ( +2 / -7 )

a guideline directing students to return to school for lunch during the remote-learning period.

Japan at his best !

3 ( +3 / -0 )

The BoE here is the most inept, designed to fail, and worst informed organisation. I mean, “I’m fine, thank you. And you?” hasn’t been uttered for about 100 years, and then only by upper class British English speakers.

Anyway, this kind of twisted, illogical idiocy is typical of the Japanese BoE. Would not expect anything else from them.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Last spring/early summer, the schools in my area were completely closed for almost 3 months. It was the perfect time to train teachers on how to teach online. They were all sitting in the teacher's room almost every day with relatively not much to do. But when I asked teachers, they said they weren't getting any support or training on how to teach remotely. That was wasted time, and look, here we are again.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

It’s so cringy to walk past the homerooms when it’s lunchtime. Forty kids packed into a small room eating together.

To be honest though, there have been no (known) outbreaks at my school.

———

I think making the kids go in for lunch only is insane—but somehow, it makes sense in Japan.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

While some countries are starting to go back to face-to-face classes, Japan is still "transitioning" to remote learning. I can't even.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Children made to attend lunches? Just wait till the Olympics, the government plans to make children attend the games to pack out audiences! Madness.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I love the system back home. Breakfast and lunch are made by the school and mothers can pick them up for their kids every morning and bring them up. The biggest complaint I hear from Japanese mothers(the homemaker ones) when their kids and husband are home, they have to take time out of their "busy" schedule and make lunch for their families.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Really? What’s ‘Your’ answer from China @SurivaniC 11:35am:

- “To anyone complaining: "What am I doing to make the situation that I am complaining about better?"

Based on your broadcast advice above (which you offered across several Japanese domestic issues for the first time, Today), what are You and the Chinese government doing about these kinds of ‘education’ issues?

We’ve seen the kind of involuntary ‘education’ the Uyghur people are getting in Xinjiang Provence.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-57124636 - (Credit to @ToastedHeretic 4:49p)

They don’t have the ‘choice’ of “remote lessons”. Their participation is mandatory.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Social ineptitude at its finest

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Mind boggling levels of incompetence. These people should run for national office, they'd fit right in.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Simple solution for the "lunch dilemma":

Instead of the current system, have the lunch center make bentos for the students. Kids who want them can go to school, pick them up, then take them home. Poor kids get a meal, busy moms get a break, the politicians get to keep their friends in the food sector employed. Oh, and the kids don't have to sit together to eat and the teachers don't have to supervise them.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Incompetent buffoons at the top again.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I don't totally blame the schools for this...this is where the PTA should get involved. I have a son who is at public elementary school and the PTA is an absolute joke. In the above case, surely it wouldn't be that difficult for the PTA to get involved and to arrange lunch deliveries to the neediest of students? Sounds like a daunting task but that's what a PTA is for...to work towards the students well being.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Schools are safe for kids and don't spread the virus so this policy is not based on the data available, for example: https://news.sky.com/story/covid-19-schools-set-to-reopen-across-england-tomorrow-heres-what-to-expect-12219815

There has not a resurgence of the virus despite all the screaming and panicking over it

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

I don’t understand a word. Schools are a place for teaching and learning in the first place. They are not meant to be only a restaurant and daytime accommodating facility. But obviously they are exactly only that now, otherwise you wouldn’t need to send your kids there for a lunch and to another additional cram school for learning. Now, under those specific pandemic conditions, when schools should be temporarily closed, the parents are of course responsible to provide a lunch and learning possibilities, after having got advice and materials as well as defined learning goals from the teachers. Btw. that has nothing to do with tablets , smartphones or a lot of money. You can also teach the basics yourself to your children or buy some used books or even freely borrow from a public library and so on. And cooking a meal when working at home should also be possible or if you are at the workplace, have some food made available in the morning or have it delivered to kids at home. Too expensive? So why do you work then , if you can’t even feed a child from that? Unbelievable. Go together to the town office and demand the money for your kid’s lunch if the income is not sufficient. They simply can’t arrest and kill so many poor people and surely will pay to calm down or hide the situation.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Having eaten both, I would definitely prefer Japanese school lunch. Except on "bread day" which was utterly repulsive.

Quite so, bread day down here is quite popular! Kids love it, and teachers as well!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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