A record 196,127 students at elementary and junior high schools across Japan were absent for 30 days or more in fiscal 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic, an increase of 14,855 from the previous year, government data showed Wednesday.
Meanwhile, cases of bullying recognized by all schools, also including high schools and those for students with special needs, fell by 95,333 in the year through March to 517,163, marking the first decline since fiscal 2013, according to the results of an education ministry survey.
Suicides among elementary, junior high and high school students increased by 98 to a record 415, 12 of which were due to bullying, the ministry said.
"While school closures in the spring of last year (due to the pandemic) disrupted the rhythm of life and caused truancy to increase, it also decreased opportunities for face-to-face interactions that lead to bullying," the ministry said.
To prevent students from becoming too isolated, the government plans to expand counseling services at schools.
Of those who were absent from schools, a total of 30,287 students cited fear of infection. The ministry is working to improve support for online classes and ensure learning opportunities for all students.
The number of students playing truant at elementary schools rose by 10,000 to 63,350 while junior high schools saw an increase of 4,855 to 132,777. The total 196,127 represents 2 percent of students in the country's compulsory education system.
Asked about reasons for their truancy, 46.9 percent of the schools cited "apathy and anxiety" of the students, followed by troubles about "friendship other than bullying" and about "parent-child relationships."
The number of students reported as truant at high schools decreased by 7,049 to 43,051.
Bullying cases at elementary schools dropped by 63,648 to 420,897. Those at junior high schools were down 25,647 to 80,877 while high schools reported 13,126 cases, down 5,226.© KYODO