Elementary, Junior High Schools Classes May Be Shortened by 5 Minutes; Increased Focus on Student Needs

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A class at an elementary school in Aoba Ward, Yokohama, where 40-minute classes are already held

Class hours at elementary and junior high schools may be shortened by 5 minutes, and the schools would be able to decide how they use the reduction in time at their discretion.

The Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry will consider reviewing class hours at schools to increase their discretion on how school hours are used overall.

The ministry is expected to ask the Central Council for Education to deliberate on the changes in autumn or later in order to include them in the next set of proposed curriculum guidelines.

Currently, classes last for 45 minutes at elementary schools and 50 minutes junior high schools as “standard hours” under the ordinance for enforcement of the School Education Law. The ministry is eyeing shortening class durations by 5 minutes.

If they are shortened, it will be the first time for such changes to be introduced since 1958.

The annual class hours at schools are expected to remain unchanged, but how those hours are used would change.

Currently, elementary school students in fourth grade and above and junior high school students have 1,015 classes a year. This totals to about 760 hours at elementary school and about 845 hours at junior high schools.

If class hours are shortened by 5 minutes each, about 85 hours, or 5,075 minutes, will become available at each grade. The government is mulling allowing flexibility in how schools use the available time.

The widening regional disparity in children’s academic ability and educational environment is influencing this move. It is considered difficult to respond to different situations simply by offering uniform, standardized classes.

The ministry aims to encourage schools to plan and decide on the use of class hours at their own discretion.

There are also expectations that each school will utilize the available time to tailor academic guidance to their individual situation by organizing exploratory activities to foster children’s ability to think or for drills to consolidate their basic academic skills.

“In order to allow schools to provide academic guidance that meets their respective needs, it is necessary to expand their discretionary time based on their specific circumstances. Schools have been required to change, especially in terms of how they conduct classes based on a 45- or 50-minute duration,” said council member and Sophia University Prof. Masahiro Nasu who specializes in educational methodology.