It is important to use the new school textbooks effectively to deepen students’ knowledge.
The results of the screening of junior high school textbooks to be used from next spring have been released. The number of pages in all subjects has increased by 7.6% on average from the previous screening, and is up 50% from the era of so-called pressure-free education when curriculums were cut.
The new curriculum guidelines call for “proactive and interactive deep learning” in all subjects. The increase in the number of pages is partly attributable to notes included throughout the texts to encourage delving into issues or discussion.
One of the social studies textbooks includes materials showing the opinions of Shogunate courts and Confucian scholars on the punishment of “the 47 ronin” in the Edo period (1603-1867). Students who read through the materials will be able to reflect on the basis behind the punishments meted out in the case by imagining they are people from the era.
One of the Japanese language textbooks includes an example activity in which students divide into groups and give presentations on “what they can do to improve their communities.” It also provides information about how to develop discussions and points to keep in mind when summarizing conclusions.
Both cases are aimed at improving students’ abilities to think and express themselves. If such examples are used as teaching guides, it may be possible to provide lessons that stimulate students’ study motivation. It is hoped that this will lead to a shift away from the conventional style of one-way teaching.
Although the volume of the texts has increased, class hours will remain unchanged. If teachers try to teach everything in the textbooks, there is concern that students may not be able to digest all the information. Teachers should try to teach by putting proper emphasis according to the topic.
QR codes, a standout characteristic of the textbooks, appear frequently. Students will be able to access the websites of textbook publishers and play related audio or video by scanning the codes with a smartphone or tablet.
In English lessons, such a feature will enable students to hear audio of native-English speakers reading all required passages. It is hoped that this will help students improve their pronunciation. Although the number of words to learn in the three-year junior high school period will increase by 40%, it is important not only to expand vocabulary but also to improve listening and speaking skills.
In science, for example, students can see video that reproduces an experiment in which a chemical substance is dissolved in water. Practical videos that teach how to write in calligraphy and knife skills in home economics will also help students acquire skills.
QR codes can also be used to help students prepare and review at home. However, some households do not have adequate communication tools. Schools must take appropriate measures to ensure that children in such households are not disadvantaged.
— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on March 30, 2020