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EDUCATION

Editorial: Make most of new textbooks to develop responsible voters and upstanding citizens

The screening of the textbooks to be used in high schools from the 2022 school year has been completed, and the content of “Civics,” “Information Studies I,” and other new compulsory subjects has been announced.

 

The minimum voting age has been lowered to 18, and the age of adulthood will be lowered to 18 next spring. Because third-year high school students will have rights and duties [as adults], the textbooks have enhanced education on how to be a responsible voter and upstanding citizen. We would like to see this parlayed into offering classes that foster the judgment necessary to vote and participate in society.

 

In “Information Studies I,” all students will learn programming. Improving teachers’ ability to provide instruction in programming is an issue, and there is an urgent need to enhance training opportunities and teacher training programs in this area. Information studies textbooks teach students how to handle statements of uncertain veracity, which are spread via the Internet. This is something that impacts voting behavior, and we would like to see students deepen their understanding of the importance of “fact checking.”

 

Prior to creating “Civics,” the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology abolished its traditional stance that “political issues should not be brought into the classroom.” The ministry changed the notification [it releases to schools and other entities involved in education] to say, “Political events will be taken up [in the classroom] and practical instruction given so that students are able to exercise their voting rights based on their own judgment.”

 

In response to this, some of the new textbooks take up such issues as same-sex marriage and the protection of the rights of sexual minorities. It is hoped that students will debate these kinds of issues in class based on source materials.

 

It should be noted that teachers are not to impose their own views but are to encourage debate in class on issues on which opinions vary. We would like to see such topics thoroughly considered from multiple perspectives by making use of newspaper reports among other sources.

 

Regarding territorial and diplomatic issues, all textbooks mention the Senkaku Islands (Okinawa Prefecture) and Takeshima (Shimane Prefecture). In the screening, objections were submitted regarding passages that described the Senkakus as being “under the effective control of Japan,” and the following sentence was added: “No territorial dispute is thought to exist over the Senkaku Islands.”

 

We have no objection to teaching government views in the textbooks, including those on historical issues between Japan and its neighbors. It is also important, however, that students know the background [to the issues] and the issues are not glossed over by saying “there is no problem.”

 

The new teaching guidelines emphasize enabling students to “learn independently.” To achieve this, it is important to change from “teaching the textbook” to “deepening students’ understanding by using the textbook.”

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