Transition to communities must be done flexibly to meet school circumstances

How can school-run club activities, which are becoming increasingly difficult to maintain due to the low birth rate and growing burden on teachers, be made sustainable? Each community must consider the direction for the future.

Expert panels of the Japan Sports Agency and the Cultural Affairs Agency separately recommended the promotion of the “local transfer” of public junior high schools’ club activities so that coaching and running of club activities are outsourced to local private organizations such as sports clubs and music schools.

In response to the recommendations, the two agencies will first aim to move club activities set on weekends and holidays to communities over a three-year period beginning next school year. The agencies will support each local government by providing subsidies for the cost of securing the necessary personnel for this purpose.

This will be a major turning point for club activities, which have been administered by schools for many years.

While club activities are regarded as “part of school education” in the curriculum guidelines, they are not obligated by law and are ambiguously positioned as not necessarily being supervised by teachers.

In many cases, supervising teachers are faced with giving up their days off to coach or instruct club activities, and this is considered one of the reasons they are much busier. At the same time, some club activities are being forced to end due to a declining student population. In order to maintain club activities, the idea of outsourcing them to the community emerged.

In reality, however, there are many problems to overcome. In some areas, there are no appropriate private organizations that can take over club activities. Issues such as how to secure venues and who will be responsible for safety during the activities must also be resolved.

If private organizations are asked to take over school club activities, there will be an additional burden on the parents in forms such as monthly fees. The Japan Sports Agency estimates that it will cost ¥17,000 more per child per year.

Local governments should take a proactive role in finding organizations to run club activities, for example, by acting as intermediaries between schools and local organizations, rather than leaving it up to the schools. Some club activities have been criticized as being overly enthusiastic. Instead of being stuck on the preconception that club activities must take place on weekends, it is worth considering the possibility of not holding them on Saturdays and Sundays if it is difficult to do so.

It is important to have flexible approaches by taking the actual circumstances of each community and school into account. The central government should also introduce case studies of communities across the nation that can be used by other local governments as references.

The central government is said to support the creation and assignment of the post of coordinator to facilitate dealings between schools and related organizations. Schools will still be responsible for weekday club activities even if the weekend and holiday transition to communities is realized. If there is no consistency in instruction, students will get confused.

A coordinator must do the utmost to make sure that such adjustments for consistency go smoothly.

The central government has stated it will also consider the transition of weekday club activities to communities in the future. In some respects, the high school entrance examination processes evaluate students’ club activities. It will be necessary to fundamentally review the status of club activities if their weekday transition to communities is the aim.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 30, 2022)