Solve shortage of specialist information studies teachers in high schools

Information studies are becoming increasingly important in response to the rapid digitization of society. It is essential to secure specialized teachers in that respect.

Under the revised curriculum guidelines for high schools to be introduced in the 2022 school year, students will be required to take “Information Study I,” a new subject that covers such topics as computer programming and data utilization.

“Information” became a compulsory subject area in 2003. High schools have had the option of two subjects — “Information Study for Participating Community,” which teaches IT etiquette, or “Information Study by Scientific Approach,” which focuses on programming. As many high schools choose the former subject, 80% of students do not study programming.

In “Information Study I,” first-year students, in principle, will work twice a week on challenges such as calculating the area of a triangle using programming.

Digital technology is now relevant in every industry. Programming is already required in elementary and junior high schools. Therefore, it is important to acquire more specialized knowledge and skills in high school.

On the other hand, bullying and defamation through social media have become a social problem in recent years. It is also important for high school students who often use smartphones to learn about IT etiquette. This kind of education should not be neglected because of too much emphasis being put on programming.

The problem is that there are few teachers who can teach “Information” fields professionally.

According to a survey by the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry, of the 5,100 public high school teachers who held “Information” classes, 1,200 did not have a license to teach the subject area.

In reality, teachers of mainly mathematics and science have been responsible for teaching “Information” classes on a multitrack basis. It is said that in some cases, they do not have enough time to prepare for these classes.

Boards of education reportedly have not actively recruited teachers with the specialized license because “Information” has not been considered to be a major subject area such as “Japanese Language,” “Mathematics” and “Foreign Languages” (English).

Many teachers who have been holding “Information” classes are worried about teaching programming, as in some cases they are unfamiliar with the topic.

Boards of education need not only to focus on hiring highly specialized teachers but also to improve teachers’ abilities through such measures as training sessions.

The National Center for University Entrance Examinations has announced that “Information” will be included from the 2025 Common Test for University Admissions. It will urge national, public and private universities to utilize the system.

There are regional disparities in how many teachers with the “Information” teaching license have been secured, and such teachers are not hired in adequate numbers by some local governments. Teachers also differ in their teaching abilities. It is necessary to ensure that due consideration should be given so that students are not disadvantaged if “Information” is included in university entrance examinations under these circumstances.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on June 5, 2021.