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Part2 Educational Reform Q&A
Q26: Public elementary and lower secondary schools which students are to enter are designated,but do students have to attend the one to which they are designated?

A:It is possible to change s'chools on the basisof factors such as the distance to school andthe convenience of transport.

[What is"school designation"?-The SchoolZoning System]

Municipal boards of education should inform parents of the school entrance date in order to facilitate their school attendance administration.They also designate which school students will attend in areas of municipalities where there are two or more elementary or lower secondary schools.Normally,municipalities establish school zones in advance to avoid arbitrary school des-ignation or a needless sense of unfairness among parents,and school designation is carried out based on those zones."School zones"have no legal basis,and are established according to the decisions of each municipal board of education based on local conditions,including geographi-cal features such as roads and rivers,long his-torical processes that formed the local commu-nity and the feelings of local residents.However,a parental application to change the designated schopl and attend another school in the same municipality("change of schooP')or a school in another municipality("school atten-dance outside the resident municipality")is pos-sible where the municipal board of education deems it appropriate for geographical reasons,health reasons or as a countermeasure to bully-ing.

[FIexible Application of the School ZoningSystem]

In January1997,the Ministry of Education,Sci-ence,Sports and Culture(MESSC)issued a no-tice of the following measures to enable munici-pal boards of education to apply the school zoning system flexibly:

(1)A variety of applications in the school zon-ing system to take adequate account of the wishes of parents and match local condi-tions;
(2)An approval of change of school attendance outside the resident municipality according to the parental application with some reasons which are deemed appropriate in specific student circumstances for reasons other than geographical,health or bullying;
(3)Improvement of the information system for parents and schools about the school zoning system and enhancement of the advice sys-tem for school attendance.

An example of the flexible application of the school zoning system is the fomation of school zoning blocks in Shinagawa Ward,Tokyo(scheduled for implementation from FY200O).

Specific Examples of Change of School or School Attendance Outside School Zones

Change of School(Iwakuni City,Yamaguchi Prefecture)

Students residing in the Kita-kawauchi area of Iwakuni live in the school zone of Lower Secon-dary School A.However,attendance at Lower Secondary School B for three years has been al-lowed for the following reasons:

(1)Part of the zoning for Lower Secondary School A is bisected by the Nishiki River,a Grade2river,making it a geographically separated area with a shortcut over a bridge which be-comes submerged and impassable after a small amount of rain;
(2)The distance to Lower Secondary School B is shorter for students living on the boundary ofthe school zone than it is to Lower Secondary School A,although the commuting route isslightly hilly.

School Attendance Outside the Resident Municipality(Nabari City,Mie Prefecture)

The parents of a student living in Ueno City next to Nabari City applied for school attendanceoutside the zoning area for the following reasons:

(1)The child lives on the border between Ueno City and Nabari City,and the area is geographi-cally separated;
(2)The distance to school in Ueno City is about12km;
(3)It is possible to use public transport but up to four changes were needed,and some placeshad no connections;
(4)The child has asthma and traveling long distances to school may cause physical strain.

Consequently,three groups-(1)the parents and the Ueno City Board of Education,(2)theschool which the child was presently attending and the Nabari City Board of Education,and(3)the school to which the parents wished their child to attend-cooperated and coordinated witheach other.In addition to the implementation of an onsite survey,a doctor's evaluation in theform of a diagnosis,as well as other materials,were submitted to the regular meeting of theNabari City Board of Education and approved.Following this,the child was allowed to attend anew school outside the resident municipality.

Establishment of Adjusted Zones(Oita City,Oita Prefecture)

Oita City introduced"adjusted zones,"which were areas outside of the school zone determinedin accordance with local circumstances.Students can choose a school from a predeterminednumber of approved schools in these areas.

(1)Based on residents' association membershipOver half the households in a residents' association that had previously been in the sameschool zone were changed to a different zone due to boundary adjustments.Consequently,members of the residents' association in the"adjusted zone"have been allowed to choose aschool in their previous school zone.
(2)Based on safe commuting to schoolIn areas where the school zone is bisected by a railroad track,if a student needs to crossrailway tracks at a crossing on the way to school,traffic volume is highly dangerous.There-fore,students who live in the"adjusted zone"are allowed to choose a neighboring school toattend without having to cross the railroad.
(3)Based on reducing long distance travel to schoolThe distance to school is long,and the road is steep.Therefore,students who live in the"adjusted zone"are allowed to select a neighboring school because its school bus passes anearby bus stop.

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