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Chapter 1   Progress of Japan's Elementary and Secondary Education Reform and Future Issues
Section 2   Problems Relating to Elementary and Lower Secondary Education
1.   Social Changes and Situation of Children's Lives

  Japanese people made strenuous efforts to catch up with and get ahead of the United States and European countries. As a result, the country achieved a phenomenal economic growth and occupies an important position in the world. Japanese citizens have come to enjoy material wealth. However, amid drastic changes, such as intensifying competition on a global scale, and the prolonged recession following the collapse of the bubble economy, the Japanese society is now facing a major turning point. Faced with the major turning point, some Japanese are losing their confidence, and their sense of values is faltering, causing what can be called a vicious cycle of decline in social moral and normative consciousness. Unable to find a clear purpose or objective and unable to find a path to follow, Japanese people are thus unable to eliminate the pervading sense of impotence.

  Under such social circumstances, children face a serious situation. Unable to have a dream and clear purpose for the future, they have lost their sense of purpose and willingness to study. Due to urbanization, a decreasing number of children, and a movement away from extended families to nuclear families, children do not have enough life and social experience and this has raised concern that they may not be able to establish inter-personal relationships. It is sometimes pointed out that Japanese youths are slow to become socially independent compared with young people in other countries. This may be partly due to the difference in national character regarding individualism and collectivism, but it also has something to do with Japanese youths' lack of sense of purpose and social skills. Moreover, the problem of children's deteriorating sense of ethics and normative consciousness has become obvious, reflecting a declining sense of ethics in the society as a whole. Though Japanese youths have made steady growth in terms of physique, such as height and weight, their physical strength and athletic ability have declined on the whole due partly to the fact that they have less opportunities to do physical exercise in their everyday lives.

  At the same time, however, children of today are familiar with information and communication equipment and have strong interest in international exchange. They also show strong interest in social participation and contribution, such as volunteer activities. It is important to further foster such character.

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