COVID-19 reopens debate on changing Japanese school calendar

By Maria Roldán

Tokyo, May 25 (efe-epa).- COVID-19 has reopened the debate in Japan about changing to September the beginning of the school year, which currently begins in April, a convenient initiative to adjust to a model extended in the northern hemisphere, but for which a laborious legal reform would be necessary.

The rethinking of the Japanese school year, whose reform has been in the air for decades and has been raised on several occasions without success, has resurfaced due to the concern of an academic year lost due to the closure in March of many schools in the archipelago due to the coronavirus pandemic.

This time, the proposal has won the support of high-profile politicians, such as Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike or former Minister of Education Masahiko Shibayama, a member of the government working group that is debating this issue and is expected to present its Conclusions to the Government at the end of June.

The time for change would be ideal due to the current context, but young Japanese people have mixed feelings about the initiative. According to a recent survey carried out by a radio program, 53 percent are in favor of change and 47 percent are opposed to nearly 40,000 people, mainly adolescents.

The “School of Lock!” Program, from the Tokyo FM station, asked its listeners whether or not they supported the idea of ??changing the start of the school calendar to September through the Line messaging application and asked them to explain their reasons on their website.

Among those who favored it, many argued that the change would work better in a globalized world and would ensure that more Japanese study abroad and that more foreign students could take the entrance exams in schools in Japan.

“Students who want to study abroad would have fewer problems, because many nations start classes in September,” said Shigeru Takeda, an office worker who graduated several years ago and who told EFE his favorable opinion of the idea, although he believes that “There would be some problem implementing it.”

Among the people who are opposed to the change, some consider that the proposal has been put on the table in a very hasty way and fear that it is an excessive mental load.

Yuko Aoyama, a housewife, believes that “starting in April goes well with the Japanese system. This is when Japanese companies normally hire and students start looking for work in the summer.” Although he recognizes that it is a good opportunity to rethink the system, he argues that it is necessary “to take time to debate”.

The Japanese Executive seems to share this opinion and although it is initially proactive to change, the adoption of the new school calendar could come in 2021 or even later, since carrying it out this year would not leave enough time to talk about budget issues and of another nature.

According to authorities, changing the start of the school calendar to September would require more than 30 legal revisions, including the national pension law, the law on child support and care, and regulations related to the Japanese fiscal year system.

There is also concern about guaranteeing the number of child workers if there is an increase in preschoolers in the transition period.

“We must avoid a hasty debate. I want to make sure there is an in-depth debate,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said in remarks to reporters last week.

Changing the start of the school year also has important implications for companies, which often recruit after students graduate, which also coincides with the start of the fiscal year in Japan in April.

“Society can adapt to the new system, companies too. I think there is no problem, but the government is always slow to decide on something new,” says Yuriko Taniguchi.

For Kaori Uehara, a high school teacher, change should come as soon as possible. “If we don’t start in September, students will have to study a lot in a short time until March and they may not be able to go on field trips or school festivals, they will only be able to study. That is a nightmare for them,” she says. EFE-EPA


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