Turn high school lessons into proactive learning to foster ability to think, express

Now is a good opportunity to change classroom instruction, which has been criticized for teaching to the test and fostering passivity, into a type of education in which students acquire an independent attitude toward learning.

The Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry has announced the results of the screening of textbooks used mainly for first-year high school students from the 2022 school year. They will be the first high school textbooks to comply with the new curriculum guidelines.

The concept of “independent, interactive and deep learning” that focuses on discussion and presentation was incorporated into each subject. To respond to the rapid changes in society, the hope is that the new textbooks will help students first acquire basic knowledge, then develop the ability to identify issues and find solutions.

New subjects appearing include Rekishi Sogo (Modern and Contemporary History), which combines the recent contemporary history of Japan and the world, Kokyo (Public), which encourages awareness of citizenship and politics, and Joho I (Information Study I), which teaches about programming and computer networks.

Current issues such as the novel coronavirus pandemic and the spread of fake news were included in many textbooks. There are also many textbooks that clearly describe the northern territories, the Takeshima islands and the Senkaku Islands as “inherent parts of the territory of Japan.”

The voting age has been lowered to 18, and the age of adulthood will be lowered to 18 in fiscal 2022. Through education, it is hoped that students will become more interested in what is happening around them and raise their awareness as important members who underpin society.

The ability of teachers to fully implement the new textbooks will become important. However, there are also new subjects such as Information Study I that only a few teachers can teach in a professional manner. While learning recent contemporary history in Modern and Contemporary History is important, it is also vital to devise ways to ensure that classes in Japanese history and world history will not be neglected.

The education ministry and each board of education will need to make efforts to arrange preparedness so that educators in the classroom can deal with new subjects and teaching methods through such measures as improving training programs for that purpose.

To change high school education, it is essential to review university entrance examinations. The Common Test for University Admissions will be revamped in the 2025 school year, when the current 30 subjects in six areas will be reorganized into 21 subjects in seven areas. The move is said to be a response to the new curriculum guidelines.

It is important to switch to questions that ask not the amount of detailed knowledge but the ability to think and express.

However, the reorganization of Kokugo (Japanese Language) under the new guidelines is worrisome.

When Kokugo Sogo (Integrated Japanese Language), which is a required subject, was divided into Gendai no Kokugo (Contemporary Japanese Language) and Gengo Bunka (Language Culture), and elective courses such as Ronri Kokugo (Japanese Language: Logic) and Bungaku Kokugo (Japanese Language: Literature) were newly created, some people in literature circles criticized this, saying it is impossible to separate logic from literature.

There is a problem with a curriculum reorganization that forces people in schools to choose “logic or literature.” The screening of textbooks for Japanese Language: Logic and Japanese Language: Literature is planned in the 2021 school year, but the education ministry and textbook companies must take great care to ensure that students do not lose the opportunity to become familiar with literature.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on March 31, 2021.