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|Q1||There has been a series of incidents in which children have become victims at school and on school routes. What efforts are being made to protect the safety of children?
|A1||It is an extremely important task for MEXT, the National Police Agency, and other relevant ministries and agencies to cooperate for thorough safety management of schools and school routes so that children can receive education free of worries.
Since 2002, MEXT has been promoting the “Safety and Security Project for Children,” a comprehensive effort to enhance school safety from both hard and soft aspects. Under the project, MEXT has supported the holding of crime prevention classes and has been working to develop a system for the community as a whole to work on ensuring school safety including safety of school routes.
However, in the end of 2005, a series of dreadfully heartbreaking incidents that should never have occurred took place in which girls were murdered. MEXT takes this situation very seriously and has made urgent requests to the boards of education to secure safe commutes to school, including the following: () prompt search to grasp risk zones along the school routes, () formulation of safe commute policies, etc., tailored to the situation of individual schools from the viewpoint of avoiding leaving a child alone as much as possible, and () practical safety education.
Furthermore, for the entire government to unite its efforts in promoting child safety measures, an advisory committee of the relevant ministries and agencies for protecting children from crime was established, compiling “Measures to Protect Children from Crime.” Various policies are incorporated to protect child safety, among which “six emergency measures” are emphasized as issues requiring an especially urgent response. Accordingly, safety inspections of the school routes will be implemented for all elementary school districts by March 2006. Other urgent measures include holding of crime prevention classes for all children in every school. Furthermore, efforts will be made to develop a school safety structure in every elementary school district involving the entire community, by such means as calling for the broad participation of residents as school safety volunteers to work as a watch inside and outside schools.
Ensuring child safety is the top national priority and MEXT will continue to commit full efforts. Therefore, MEXT would like to ask for the cooperation of the people toward efforts in the community and at schools, including participation in school safety volunteer activities.
|See Chapter 2, Part 4-4
|Q2||As a parent, I am very concerned that there are fewer places within the community where children can safely spend time after school and on weekends free of worries. Are there any measures to address this problem?
|A2||Since FY2004, MEXT has been implementing the “Program to Promote Classrooms for Children in Local Communities,” which supports the creation of safe and secure activity bases (spaces) for children within the community, using school campuses, classrooms, and citizens’ public halls. This project promotes various hands-on activities and exchange activities with people in the community after school and on weekends, facilitated by the “cooperation of everyone in the community.” Using its resource in creating a safe and secure space for children, the community is expected to become a place for children, and also for adults, to connect with each other.
This “Program to Promote Classrooms for Children in Local Communities” is a three-year plan to be implemented from FY2004 through FY2006. Besides government personnel, many people cooperated in coming up with creative responses tailored to the individual situation of the community. Participation from parents or guardians is encouraged so that these types of activities are continued beyond FY2007 as individual community efforts.
Much time is required for the notion of “watching over and nurturing children in the community,” which is also the aim of the project, to permeate to each individual resident. It is by no means an easy task, and all the more reason that cooperation is required from everybody now to foster richness of spirit in children and create safe and secure spaces for children.
MEXT intends to devise various supports, using this project as an opportunity to bolster educational functions of communities and families, to ensure that these types of activities are established as distinctive activities of the individual community.
| See Chapter 2, Part 2-2
|Q3||In what way do proposals of the Central Council for Education contribute to educational administration?
|A3||The Central Council for Education is the most important council concerning education. Its purpose is for experts from academia and other sectors to examine and deliberate on essential matters in response to inquiries from the minister pertaining to sports promotion and human resource development. For the latter, focus is placed on the promotion of education and lifelong learning to foster creativity and a rich sense of humanity. Many of the educational reforms have been promoted based on this Council’s deliberations.
The following are examples of educational reform efforts based on the Council’s reports.
| See Chapter1, Part 2
|Q4||I heard that deliberations are in process to amend the Fundamental Law of Education. Why does it need to be amended now?
|A4||The Fundamental Law of Education was enacted in 1947, forming the foundation of all laws and ordinances on education. It can even be considered the constitution in the educational area. Educational level has been significantly improved thanks to various educational systems, including the school education system, that are constructed under this law, thereby supporting the development of society up to date.
However, after more than half a century has passed since the enactment of the Fundamental Law of Education, the modality of education has also changed along with changes in the industrial structure, social/economic conditions, and the international situation. In addition, there are various issues around current education such as bullying and non-attendance at school. A weakening sense of norms, morals, and autonomy among children as well as an increase in atrocious crimes are also matters of concern.
Furthermore, as globalization advances, it is becoming important to deepen understandings about Japanese history and culture, become self-conscious as a Japanese citizen, and cultivate consciousness aiming toward being a country that is trusted by other nations as a member of the international community.
With such significant changes, in order to realize education that is appropriate for the new time, specific reform efforts must continue to be made and modality of education must be fundamentally reviewed from today’s perspective.
For this, there is a need to clarify new and necessary concepts and principles in the Fundamental Law of Education, which forms the foundation of education, while maintaining the spirit of the current Fundamental Law of Education.
| See Chapter1, Part 3
|Q5||From what viewpoints will the Fundamental Law of Education be amended?
|A5||It has been more than half a century since the Fundamental Law of Education was enacted, and there have been significant changes in society during this period. Various issues have also been generated regarding education in general.
As such, the Central Council for Education indicated in its report the necessity to amend the Fundamental Law of Education from the following viewpoints: (1) principles of the current Fundamental Law of Education, such as “individual dignity,” “full development of personality” and “builders of a peaceful state and society,” will continue to be held in high esteem as universal principles that are pursuant to the Constitution of Japan; (2) the seven important concepts and principles below that are thought to be of utmost importance will be clarified in order to realize the goals of education in the future.
In addition, recognizing that amending the Fundamental Law of Education is an extremely important issue, the governing parties have been advancing vigorous discussions on the amendment of the Fundamental Law of Education since May 2003 at the “Consultative Committee of the Governing Party concerning the Amendment to the Fundamental Law of Education.”
MEXT intends to work to amend the Fundamental Law of Education at the earliest date possible based on the report by the Central Council for Education and discussions by the governing parties.
Amendment to the Fundamental Law of Education is an essential step to advance educational reform from the base up. MEXT also recognizes the need to advance educational reform comprehensively through amendments to relevant laws after the amendment to the Fundamental Law of Education and establishment of the Basic Promotional Plan for Education.
| See Chapter1, Part 3
|Q6||I would like to participate in volunteer activities. What are the conditions of volunteer activities?
|A6||According to the Public Opinion Survey on Lifelong Learning conducted by the Cabinet Office in May 2005, 61 percent of people responded regarding the intention to participate in volunteer activities in which they would “like to participate in the future.” In addition, those who responded to “have participated in volunteer activities” increased by 14.6 percentage points from the previous survey (FY1993), from 30.1 percent to 44.7 percent, showing that the people’s participation in volunteer activities is becoming more active annually.
Against such a backdrop, MEXT intends to promote volunteer activities in the community with an aim to realize a community in which people support each other and each person feels it natural to participate in volunteer activities regularly.
Specifically, MEXT conducts the Program to Promote Volunteer Activities in the Community to provide opportunities to participate in volunteer activities while utilizing the regional characteristics, and support volunteer activities. The Program includes the following volunteer activities: () gardening in which a wide range of participants from children to the elderly enjoy together; () reading books aloud to children, and () crime prevention that conducts patrols of school commute routes.
MEXT also conducts a Program to Raise Awareness and Further Spread Volunteer Activities as an opportunity for people to feel familiar with and think about volunteer activities. Under the Program, MEXT holds a National Forum on Promoting Volunteer Activities, creates posters targeted at elementary and lower secondary school students, and establishes a homepage, thus fostering social momentum on volunteer activities.
Local administrative groups as well as volunteer groups nationwide are sponsoring volunteer activities in various fields (such as social welfare, education, and environmental conservation).
It is expected that people start to participate in volunteer activities by asking for information from administrative groups as well as volunteer groups and seek their advise on volunteer activities in which people can participate whenever they want to with a comfort that is suitable for their needs.
| See Chapter2, Part 2-5
|Q7||I heard that issues taken up in learning activities at citizens’ public halls and lifelong learning centers are changing. What types of activities are being conducted?
|A7||Activities for social education conducted at citizens’ public halls vary. It is pointed out that participants to such activities tend to be the elderly or housewives, with their contents being more like hobbies or lessons.
Social education activities are not limited to satisfying personal interests or refinement. Rather, from the viewpoint of fostering personnel that support the new “community,” social education is expected in particular to facilitate learning activities for the people to learn proactively on issues that they need to address as a member of the state and society and for them to independently resolve community issues.
For example, as one of these activities, there are courses related to the judicial system and the citizen judge system. The citizen judge system is a system involving participation of citizens in judicial procedures. The system is decided to be introduced by 2009, and except under certain conditions, it concerns any person over the age of 20. With the system being introduced, it is extremely meaningful for the people to think about the judicial system, and take part in it upon learning and understanding the significance of participating in the judicial system.
In addition, from the viewpoint of improving community safety and security, various independent and voluntary efforts are being conducted nationwide for crime prevention. For example, community residents volunteer to independently conduct patrols and transmit information related to community safety. Particularly, crime prevention volunteer organizations have risen to 13,968 organizations nationwide (National Police Agency findings as of June 30, 2005), which is about 4.6 times compared to late 2003 figure (3,056 organizations), and interest is increasing among residents. Social education facilities such as citizens’ public halls, which function as a community base, are expected to play a significant role also in such activities connected to raising community safety and security.
To support these types of activities, MEXT is making arrangements in cooperation with relevant ministries and agencies to dispatch lecturers and provide materials for these activities. Using these systems, MEXT expects proactive advancement of community activities to take place.
<Examples of supports provided in cooperation with relevant ministries and agencies related to issues that the people need to address as a member of the state and society>
| See Chapter2, Part 2-6
|Q8||In the course of protecting and fostering children in the community, exchange through sports is undoubtedly useful, but what kind of efforts and activities are being implemented?
|A8||Sports nurture communication skills and the ability to consider others through exchanges between friends and with an instructor. In addition, not only do family contact and inter-generational exchange through sport contribute to the sound development of young people, they also have other effects, including the heightening of momentum for the community as a whole to watch over children’s development, thus contributing to the revival of educational functions of communities. It is therefore important to create an environment in which children can enjoy sports easily and in a locality close to them.
Based on the Basic Plan for the Promotion of Sports formulated in FY2000, MEXT is promoting the creation of Comprehensive Community Sports Clubs. The aim of these sports clubs is to: (i) enable all people from children to adults, () to engage in activities that they enjoy, () for their own personal goals (e.g. exchange with friends, improving health and fitness). These sports clubs are run on the initiative of local residents, and take place in locations such as school physical education facilities in the community.
Not only do Comprehensive Community Sports Clubs provide a forum for sports activities in which everyone from children to adults can participate, they are also expected to play a role in providing forums for exchange among local residents.
As of July 2005, 2,155 Comprehensive Community Sports Clubs had been established in 783 municipalities nationwide (according to MEXT research). You can contact your municipal government for information on a nearby Comprehensive Community Sports Club.
In addition, in locations where Clubs do not yet exist, there will be a youth sports association that is run by the Japan Amateur Sports Association (JASA). Activities organized by JASA include single type sports such as rubber baseball, soccer, volleyball, and kendo, as well as combinations whereby participants can enjoy a number of sports. These youth sports associations operate from schools and other public facilities, so it will be possible to be introduced to one of these.
| See Chapter2, Part 2-7
|Q9||I would like my child to experience a variety of cultural and arts activities. Are there any activities in our community in which children could participate?
|A9||Culture can play a significant role in fostering children in the community. For example, through the experiencing of culture and the arts, children come into direct contact with the excitement and stimulation associated with these activities that cannot be experienced normally. As a result, their sensitivities and creativity are heightened, leading to their development as adults rich in humanity. In addition, children’s active participation in cultural and arts activities in the community nurtures a feeling of togetherness with other people through exchange with others in that community, leading to enhanced communication skills, as well as nurturing a fondness for one’s own community.
Aiming to fully utilize the power of culture in this way, the Agency for Cultural Affairs is implementing the following efforts in schools and other public facilities in the community so that children can easily experience culture and the arts:
The Agency for Cultural Affairs will continue to make efforts through cultural and arts experiential activities for children to expand opportunities for them to participate in and experience cultural and arts activities in the community, thus fostering citizens rich in humanity and sensitivity.
| See Chapter2, Part 2-8
|Q10||I sometimes worry about the interaction with my children at home. Is there anything I can use for reference in this matter?
|A10||Parenting is fraught with such worries. First of all, if you are concerned about parenting, just sharing your worries with other family members or friends may help to ease your mind. Nobody is a perfect parent from the outset. Parents grow too, as they experience joy at their child’s growth and also experience the tougher sides of parenting. In addition, it is important to form solid relationships within the family and make friends in the community, so that when you are afflicted by such worries you always have someone nearby you can turn to for advice about parenting. In order to make friends it might be a good idea to join a parenting circle, which operate from citizens’ public halls, or participate in community events.
MEXT has created a Home Education Handbook which provides hints on parenting concerning education in the home, and teaching children manners. The Home Education Handbook is available in three volumes: Doki Doki Parenting (for parents of infants/newborns), Waku Waku Parenting (for parents of lower elementary school students), and Iki Iki Parenting (for parents of upper elementary school to junior high school students). It is distributed to all parents. In addition to this handbook being used as a source of daily advice on parenting, it is also widely used as a text or reference material at lectures on home education in every region. The information section of the handbooks gives contact information for places to contact about parenting concerns.
In addition, MEXT has created home education videos that provide advice on parenting. These videos are distributed to citizens’ public halls and health centers nationwide, and are available for loan. Please use them as a source of reference:
MEXT is also utilizing various opportunities to implement lectures on a nationwide basis to parents with infants/newborns and adolescent children. For details of these efforts, please inquire to the family education section of the boards of education in your prefecture or municipality.
| See Chapter2, Part 3-3
|Q11||I have heard that there is a system that has been designed to reflect the opinions and requests of parents or guardians in school management. What sort of opinions can we expect will be reflected?
|A11||The school exists as a foundation for the community. Collaboration and cooperation among school, family, and the community are essential for better school education.
In recent years, parents and guardians, as well as local residents, have expressed various requests to schools. For example, for the introduction of small-group guidance and improvements to educational content to improve basic academic abilities, as well as active collaboration with local volunteer groups and the implementation of education rich in local content. As a structure by which to accurately reflect such requests in school management and to effectively utilize these ideas in the educational context, the School Management Council System (Community School) was launched in 2004 as a new system.
At Community Schools, School Management Councils, whose members are parents or guardians, local residents and members of the boards of education, have powers of approval over the basic policy on school management that is compiled by the principal. The School Management Council exchanges opinions with the principal, teachers, and other personnel, and creates policies aimed at improving the school environment.
In addition, the appointment of principals, teachers, and other personnel is a very important facet for the realization of educational goals in accordance with the basic policy on school management at each school. The School Management Council has the power to state its opinion directly to the boards of education, which have powers to recruit staff, about personnel matters concerning teachers and other personnel, and the boards of education respect such opinions. This system enables the School Management Council to state whom it wishes to be appointed. For example, in cases where the basic policy of the school emphasizes a focus on English, then the Council has the power to request the appointment of a teacher proficient in English.
The composition of members of the School Management Council is to be stipulated in regulations set out by the boards of education. According to law, parents, guardians and local residents must be included as members, and some local governments select Council members from PTA’s or make public offering to select members from among local residents, from the perspective of recruiting a wide range of able persons.
|See Chapter2, Part 4-1|
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