Moves to advance the schedules for resuming school have appeared as the declared state of emergency was lifted for 39 prefectures. It is hoped that efforts will be made to recover from curriculum delays caused by school closures due to the outbreak of the new coronavirus while taking measures for preventing further infections.
In Aichi and Fukuoka prefectures, for which the state of emergency was lifted although they had previously been part of a group of prefectures designated as on special alert, schools will reopen within this month, a change from previous plans to keep them closed through the end of the month. Schools in Ibaraki Prefecture will increase the number of days that children come to school next week, while setting separate days for them to do so. From here on, moves for resuming school are expected to spread to other places.
In these efforts, it is important to avoid creating crowded situations as much as possible. It is desirable to make efforts such as reducing class size by splitting children into multiple classrooms, keeping a wider distance between their seats, and keeping their desks separate during school lunches.
It is essential that children have their temperature taken every morning at home and that parents and schools watch the condition of children with existing medical concerns.
In April, a case was reported in which several elementary school children and their class teacher were infected with the virus. Precautions against the virus should not be relaxed.
A significant impact has been made on children who have gone without studying in a classroom for more than a month since the start of the new school year.
The Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry plans to allow two or three years to make up for delays in school curriculum for children other than those in their last year of elementary or junior high school. Sixth-grade elementary school students and third-year junior high school students, who need academic or career counseling, will be given preferential status allowing them to come to school separately from other students so as to catch up from the delay in a year.
It is hoped that educators will draw up effective teaching schedules by creating sufficient class hours through such measures as shortening summer holidays and utilizing Saturdays.
One source of concern is that children will have different depths of learning since they have studied mainly at home during school closures, likely causing diverse approaches to their studies. Schools will be required to offer them more detailed guidance than ever while determining each child’s situation.
With the help of retired teachers and others, schools need to support children’s study through providing sufficient supplementary lessons and classes based on the levels of their actual learning.
The government is considering the feasibility of shifting the start of the school year to September, extending the term of the current academic year to around next summer in order to secure time for them to study.
While September admissions would have the advantage of making scheduling easier for students who wish to study in foreign countries, they would also have scheduling disadvantages in regard to finding jobs or taking qualification tests. It is indispensable to examine the challenges that must be solved.
In the event that infections spread nationwide again, it is possible that many schools will be forced to close once more. Each board of education should prepare for such a situation while moving forward with creating an environment for conducting lessons online.
— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on May 16, 2020.