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In the early years of the Meiji Era, the elementary school course of study in toto from foreign countries, and the textbooks provided were abridgements of foreign textbooks translated into Japanese. Their contents were clearly specific and pragmatic in their original national context, but difficult to understand in Japanese translation and context.
For example, the basic elementary school textbook, Vol. 1, published in 1873, was a literal translation of a foreign textbook and the expressions so translated had little meaning in Japanese. The contents also employed illustrations that were incomprehensible to Japanese pupils.
Such Japanese translations of foreign textbooks proved to be of little value. As a result of numerous textbook studies, new textbooks suitable for Japanese schools were compiled both b3' the Ministry of Education and by private publishers. The selection of textbooks was left to the discrimination of individual schools at first, but in 1886 the system of authorization of textbooks by the Minister of Education was established. The system was intended to establish a basic minimum national standard of education for the achievement of national unification and to assist in the rapid modernization of the state.
After the Sino-Japanese War, rapid social and economic progress was made, and the growth of nationalism, coupled with the expansion of the educational system, resulted in demand for intensified central control of education. The system of governmental authorization of textbooks was superseded by a system of governmental textbook compilation, publication and prescription. The first textbooks compiled by the national government were published in 1904. Thus, all elementary schools were nationalized by prescribing the use of State-compiled textbooks, and this system continued in full effect until abolished after the end of World War . During that period, the contents of state textbooks were revised four times. These revisions were made with the intention of raising the level of the contents to meet the demands arising from social progress and at the same time for the promotion of tlae ultra-nationalistic concepts of the divinity of the Emperor, moral discipline, loyalty and filial piety (ancestor worship).
After the war, the state textbooks used during the war were abolished and the use of textbooks authorized by the Minister of Education began in 1949.
In the days prior to the war, the contents of every subject, the contents, the level, and teaching methods were prescribed in details by the principal rules of teaching at elementary school and by the enforcement regulation of the Elementary School Act, and school teachers had to conduct their teaching in line with those those rules and regulations by using either authorized or national textbooks. Textbooks were thus indispensable teaching' materials, and major emphasis was placed in the pre-war period on systematic learning and the infusion of knowledge by means of textbooks.
After the war, teaching methods were also revised in line with education-al democratization and in accordance with the concept of individual differences in children's interests, experiences and aptitudes.
The use of audio-visual aids to supplement textbooks has been widely practiced in Japanese schools, and increasing emphasis has been placed on the value of learning from actual experiences and activities. Recent indications of positive need to improve scholastic achievement has led to a reappraisal of the value of learning from self-directed activities, and greater stress is being directed toward improving formal, systematic instruction.
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