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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
2.   Issues of School Education

  At a time when the Japanese society is facing a turning point, the role of education will become increasingly important in order for every child to study and grow healthy and for the country to achieve a sustainable growth. Japanese citizens pin great hope on education, as it is the basis on which the society exists. However, despite the various efforts made so far, schools still have problems, such as bullying and violence and an increase in non-attendance at school. As the problems are intricately-intertwined with various factors, a drastic improvement has yet to be made. How to enhance scholastic ability is a big problem when children??s willingness to learn is waning.

  In order to cope with such social and educational conditions, the National Commission on Educational Reform was established under the Prime Minister in March 2000 for discussion on the modality of future education in Japan, and the commission came up with a report on educational reform in December of the same year. The report makes specific proposals from the standpoint of cultivating Japanese people with rich humanity, and cultivating Japanese with rich creativity by letting individual abilities grow, as well as building new schools befitting the new era. Specific measures based on the proposals are being implemented, including small-group education and guidance according to degrees of advancement, promotion of hands-on activities, and measures for teachers lacking in abilities. In the future, it is necessary to further promote the reform and improvement of school education by taking the following points into account.

First, it is important to firmly confirm the basics of school education.

  The purpose of education is to promote the sound academic development of each and every child and the cultivation of "Richness in Mind", which allows children to use their capabilities to the maximum, and at the same time to nurture the qualities required of the builders of a nation and society. In order to realize this, it is essential for schools to accomplish their purposes and objectives and for each teacher to engage in daily educational activities with expertise, a sense of mission, and passion.

  We have to strive for the realization of the objectives of education that are important in any age, such as maintaining and enhancing the academic level that has so far been highly esteemed abroad and cultivating "Richness in Mind," which includes respecting self-discipline, caring for others, a sense of public duty, and the importance of tradition and culture.

Second, it is important to appropriately respond to changes in the times and society.

  Changes, such as the advancement of globalization, the advent of an information network society, and the advent of a knowledge-based society, are furthered. Development in science and technology is expected to continue to make great contributions to the development of society in the 21st century. But new problems, such as the preservation of the global environment, have come to the surface. In addition, the rapid advance in the aging of society with the falling birth rate is greatly affecting the modalities for education.

  It is important to review and improve educational contents and methods in response to such social changes and new problems.

Third, it is necessary to provide education that focuses on diversity and creativity instead of conformity and that allows children to use their individuality and capabilities to the maximum.

  As described earlier, one of the main pillars of the educational reforms after the proposals by the National Council on Educational Reform is the "principle of respect for individuality" and, in school education, reforms to promote individualization and diversification are being implemented. However, since Japanese society is strongly oriented to homogeneity, lock-step mentality, school education was apt to place too much emphasis on conformity. It is necessary to provide well-tailored education so that each and every child can further develop his or her individuality and ability, while flexibly and proactively responding to social changes. However, we should not neglect the importance of children acquiring the fundamentals and basics that are necessary for developing individuality and abilities, and to cultivate an ability to think, judge and act on their own. It is important to promote individualization and diversification in a way that enhances abilities by offering diversified education tailored to each individual as much as possible, after children have acquired the qualification to be members of society.

Fourth, it is important for schools to fully perform their accountability to parents and residents and for boards of education to promote locally-based, spontaneous, and proactive educational administration.

  In order for schools to live up to the expectations of parents and local residents and to be open to the community, it is important to disclose various information, such as the current situation and problems, and fulfill their accountability to parents and local residents. So far, the evaluation of educational activities at school and the provision of information have been insufficient. In order to increase cooperation between schools, parents and communities and to enhance trust in schools, it is extremely important for schools to accurately grasp the condition and results of educational activities and other school management activities, evaluate them, make necessary improvements, and actively provide information including the evaluation results.

  Boards of education, for their part, must support each school's spontaneous, active and distinctive educational activities and promote locally-based education administration in line with the diversified wishes of local residents.

  From the above viewpoints, the state, along with local governments, has been promoting reform of school education to build reliable schools for steady advancement of scholastic ability and cultivation of "Richness in Mind."

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