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The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology presented five policies under the theme "Exhortation toward Learning" to provide references for schools in January 2002. The Ministry has been working on various measures to support schools activities, in order to help children acquire basic knowledge and skills solidly, find out tasks and think by themselves, judge and act independently, and develop "Academic Ability" including problem-solving ability under the new Course of Study.
To realize the aim of the new Course of Study, each school is required to make efforts to innovatively improve their teaching methods and systems in response to individual needs and achievement levels, for example, by introducing tutoring, group teaching, achievement-based teaching, and collaborative teaching (team teaching).
From the above viewpoint, the Ministry set up the "careful teaching approach to help children acquire basic knowledge and the ability to learn and think by themselves" as one of the major policies to develop "Academic Ability" under the theme "Exhortation toward Learning", and emphasize the importance of individually-targeted teaching.
The Ministry is undertaking the following measures to support school efforts.
|"Exhortation toward Learning"- 2002 Appeal for the securely improvement of "Academic Ability" - (January 17,2002)|
|1) Plan to improve the fixed numbers of educational personnel|
In addition to regular review of the fixed number of teachers and other personnel, we increased the fixed number in order to introduce various approaches of individually-targeted teaching and enable proper teaching methods during the period from FY 1993 to FY 2000. And starting in FY 2001, we are going to make another change under the 5-year plan to FY 2005. Specifically, the number of teachers will be increased to allow them to teach for a small-group guidance of about 20 students, depending on subjects, and give achievement-based teaching at public compulsory schools, in order to help children develop "Academic Ability" and achieve a focused teaching approach.
In addition, 26,900 more teachers will be allocated under the 7th plan to improve the fixed numbers of educational personnel at public compulsory schools. The 7th plan covers the improvement of the allocation rate of vice principals and nurse teachers, change of the fixed number of teachers at special education schools, and the fixed number of replacement teachers during the period when regular teachers are sent out to work for private companies as part of long-term working experience training. In FY 2002, 5,380 more teachers (the same number as in FY 2001) were recruited as scheduled for the second year of the improvement plan. In FY 2001, 10,618 elementary schools and 7,683 lower secondary schools launched creative teaching methods, such as small-group guidance, by increasing the staffing level under the plan. Public upper secondary schools also increased the staffing level as is the case with public compulsory schools, and decided to increase 7,008 teachers under the 6th plan to improve the fixed number of educational personnel at public upper secondary schools, with the view to developing various types of high school education such as a unified education of lower and upper secondary school, an integrated course, and credit-based upper secondary schools. In FY 2002, these high schools added 1,401 teachers (almost the same level as in FY 2001) as scheduled for the second year of the improvement plan (one-fifth of the total increase).
It is also important to get cooperation from talented people outside of schools to improve learning activities. For that purpose, the Ministry established a "part-time teachers without teachers certificates" to appoint working people and community residents who do not possess teaching certification but have outstanding knowledge and skills in various fields to teach classes of any subject of elementary, lower and upper secondary schools, on the condition that prefectural boards of education are notified. In FY 2001, 14,695 such teachers stood at the lectern.
In addition to the system above, the Ministry is promoting the "Plan for Lively Schools" to ask for corporations to allocate about 50,000 (target) working people as assistants to teachers at schools nationwide for the next three years and to make effective use of working people with various backgrounds by using "Emergency Special Grants for Creating Local Employment" from the extra budget for FY 2001.
|2) Introduction of a subject teacher system (different teachers teach different subjects) at elementary schools|
The Ministry is promoting the introduction of a subject teacher system in which teachers take responsibility for teaching their strong subjects under the amended Education Personnel Certification Law in FY 2002 so that those who possess certificates for lower and upper secondary schools can teach classes of their certified subjects at elementary schools to improve teaching approaches there and facilitate the smooth transition between different school levels. When this system gets on track, it is expected that children will increase their motivation to learn and teachers can get engaged in more individually-targeted class by using their specialties.
|3) Frontier project for the "Academic Ability" improvement|
"Frontier schools for the 'Academic Ability' improvement" in 47 prefectures nationwide are conducting practical researches to improve the individually-targeted teaching approach. This research includes: (a) material development for individually-targeted teaching, such as supplemental and developing learning lessons, (b) improvement and creation of teaching methods and approaches focusing on individually-targeted teaching, and (c) improvement of teaching based on evaluation of individual academic achievement. In the future, these research results will be disseminated to other schools so that all compulsory schools nationwide can further improve and enhance their efforts to develop "Academic Ability."
|4) Materials for instruction responding to an individual|
To support the efforts to enrich and elaborate instruction responding to an individual at schools, the Ministry developed reference materials for teachers which covers hints for effective teaching, such as the developing learning lesson to children who adequately understand the contents designated by the Courses of Study and supplemental learning lesson to children who do not understand adequately, with several example cases (four types: arithmetic, science for elementary schools, mathematics, science for lower secondary schools). These materials were published on the Ministry's official Web site and distributed to elementary and lower secondary schools nationwide.
|5) Super Science High Schools|
To promote the development of talent of future leaders in science and technology, the Ministry designates upper secondary schools focusing on the education of science and technology and mathematics, as "Super Science High Schools", and thereby provides opportunities for students to advance their study of science and mathematics responding to their ability and interest.
These "Super Science High Schools" are engaged in curriculum development focusing on science and mathematics, and research and development activities to explore effective cooperation with universities and research institutes.
|6) Super English Language High Schools|
To promote the creation of schools which could serve a leading role in English education and the improvement of English teaching methods, upper secondary schools focusing on English education have been designated as "Super English Language High Schools (SELHi) since FY 2002. These high schools are conducting practical research and development, curriculum development focusing on English education, teaching of certain subjects in English, and effective cooperation with universities and sister schools overseas.
In the Course of Study, the ability to think, judge and express, and motivation to learn are also considered as "Academic Ability", in addition to basic knowledge and skill.
However, as mentioned earlier, various research results indicated that Japanese children don't necessarily like to study, although they are ranked higher both in the degree of achievement of knowledge and skill and in the ability to use them effectively in real life.
The result of "the Research and Study on the Learning Motivation" conducted by the National Institute of Educational Policy Research in FY 2001 revealed that children have a tendency to increase their motivation when they "better understood" classes, felt them "interesting" and "grew concerned about their future career".
Furthermore, the Research on Curriculum for FY 2001 as mentioned earlier also supported the idea that increased learning motivation is a key for the "Academic Ability" development.
Considering the situations mentioned above, the Ministry is working on the launch of "lessons that are easy to understand" by promoting individually-targeted teaching under the new Course of Study and expanding elective courses so that children can advance their study on topics of their own interest. In the "Period for Integrated Study", students can acquire the ability to learn and think by themselves while deepening their understanding of and skill in each subject learned, relate subjects to each other and use them in their daily lives, and develop the attitude to solve and explore problems independently and creatively.
Schools are required to promote efforts to help students really feel the fun of learning and increase their learning motivation.
To support school efforts, the Ministry developed and distributed the collection of practical cases of "Period for Integrated Study" in addition to projects mentioned in (1), and opened a site "to support school efforts to promote the "Period for Integrated Study" on its official Web site
With the progress of globalization in the economy and in society, it is essential that our children acquire communication skills in English, which has become a common international language, in order for living in the 21st century. This has become an extremely important issue both in terms of the future of our children and the further development of Japan as a nation.
With a view to ascertaining the importance of English education, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) listened to the opinions of experts in various fields with a view to ascertaining the importance of English education. Specifically, MEXT accepted the suggestion about the improvement of English education from the "Round-table Committee for the Improvement of English Teaching Methods" in January 2001, and heard the opinions of experts at the "Round-table Committee on English Education Reform" in 2002. Based on the deliberations of both these committees, MEXT developed the strategic plan to cultivate "Japanese with English abilities" - Plan to improve English and Japanese abilities on July 12, 2002 with the aim of drastically improving English education.
The attainment targets of this strategic plan are to ensure that lower secondary school graduates acquire the ability to hold simple conversations comprising greeting and responses as well as a similar level of reading, writing and listening (English-language ability of graduates should be the third grade of the *STEP Test (Eiken), on average), and that upper secondary school graduates acquire the ability to hold normal conversations on everyday topics as well as a similar level of reading, writing and listening (English-language ability of graduates should be the second grade or pre-second grade of the STEP Test, on average).
(*STEP -the Society for Testing English Proficiency)
To attain these targets, MEXT will take the following measures:
|1) Improve the qualifications of English teachers and upgrade the teaching system|
Establish targets for expected English-language abilities of English teachers, enrich training for English teachers and promote the utilization of native speakers (those whose mother tongue is English)
|2) Boost motivation of learners|
Promote overseas study among upper secondary school students and introduce a listening test into National Center for University Entrance Examinations (NCUEE) examinations in FY 2006 as a target year
|3) Improve educational content|
|4) Enhance English conversation activities in elementary schools|
|5) Boost Japanese-language abilities|
On the basis of the strategic plan as described above, MEXT is going to implement the feasible measures immediately and develop action plans in line with the strategic plan.
Information technology is used in school education for children to develop "information literacy" to select and use necessary information from the flood of information independently and develop the ability to learn and think by themselves. On the other hand, the effective use of information technology in each subject to conduct "lessons that are easy to understand" will help develop children's "Academic Ability".
To this end, the Ministry established the "Study Meeting about the Promotion of Use of Information Technology in Primary and Secondary Education" in August, 2002, which reported to the Ministry about specific measures to promote its increased and regular use.
In consideration of the report, the Ministry is working on the following measures:
|1) Improve IT environments|
|2) Improve teacher training|
|3) Suggestions on the effective use of information technology for each subject|
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