ASUKA HATA, Nikkei staff writer
TOKYO — Sixteen of Japan’s 47 prefectures will reopen public high schools before the end of May following weeks of shutdowns over the coronavirus outbreak, Nikkei has learned.
The move could push elementary and junior high schools, which are overseen by local towns and cities, to reopen as well. But with the remaining 31 prefectures still unable to make concrete plans for children to return to school, there is concern that some students could end up significantly behind their peers academically.
Three prefectures, including coronavirus-free Iwate, reopened senior high schools Thursday. Another 13 planned to reopen schools between Monday and May 25, according to a Nikkei survey of prefectural boards of education.
None of the 13 prefectures officially designated hot spots for the outbreak, including Tokyo, Osaka and Hokkaido, has plans to reopen schools this month.
There is concern that this could put students in hard-hit prefectures at a disadvantage for university entrance exams in the spring. For example, Tokyo high schools will have been closed for nearly three months at the end of May. Meanwhile, Iwate schools were closed only on and off for about a month.
Even the 16 prefectures restarting classes this month are significantly behind schedule. Local governments are working on ways to get students caught up, based on guidance from the education ministry.
Fourteen prefectures nationwide plan to prioritize regular classes over experiments and demonstrations once classes resume, the survey shows. Twelve are reworking schedules to give students more time to learn. Some also plan to shorten summer vacation and cancel special events, though how effective these measures will be remains unclear.