Tokyo, April 30 (Jiji Press)–The Japanese government has begun work to realize a proposed shift of the beginning of the school year to September from April, Jiji Press learned Thursday.
Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Kazuhiro Sugita called the vice ministers of relevant government agencies to the prime minister’s office to instruct them to identify problems that must be resolved in order to carry out the change, informed sources said.
The work will be accelerated after the end of the country’s Golden Week period in early May. Full school system reforms to change the start of the school year would possibly take place in autumn 2021.
Many schools in Japan have been shut since early March this year in line with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s request for nationwide school closures aimed at curbing the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Abe may announce a basic policy on the school year issue in early June if the government-declared state of the emergency over the COVID-19 crisis expires by the end of May after an expected extension.
Early in April, the education ministry got the nod from Abe on starting discussions on the school year reform. Abe is keen to realize the half-year shift to September, government sources said.
In a House of Councillors Budget Committee meeting Thursday, Abe said it is necessary to examine various options, including the September enrollment, while considering when to reopen schools.
During the school closures, the government is trying to promote online education. But some municipalities are advanced in such efforts while others are lagging, fueling concerns about widening regional differences in the quality of educational services.
The concerns would be eased if the beginning of the school year is moved nationwide as proposed. In addition, such a change would make it easier for Japanese students to study abroad and foreigners to study in Japan, because many countries begin their school years in September.
A change in the school year’s start would have a broad-based impact, as the central and local governments begin their fiscal years in April, as do many companies. At these organizations, new employees fresh from schools usually start working in April.
Critics question whether such a drastic change should be carried out just as the society at large is being rocked by the coronavirus outbreak.