Why make Ethics and Morals a Standardized School Subject?

2016.06.30

In Japanese elementary and junior high schools, students learn about [ethics and morals] once a week.
Since the topic is not in the standardized curriculum, there is no textbook available and the content differs greatly depending on the school and the teacher.

The Abe government is focused on economic recovery and education reform.
The study of ethics and morals is one area of reform that is being covered in the news.
Why does the Japanese government want to add the study of ethics and morals to the curriculum?

The Study of Ethics and Morals Existed before the War

Before the war, Japanese students studied [moral training].
Children were taught about the importance of respecting one’s parents, looking out for the public interest and being honest through quotations from famous people and various episodes. After the war, this type of study was considered to support militarism and was taken out of the curriculum by the General Headquarters of the Allied Forces.

However, the subject was brought back into the curriculum in 1950 as a method for raising rational people.
In 1958, the subject began being taught as it is currently as an additional topic but not a standardized subject.
The main reason for not making [ethics and morals] a standardized subject was because [ethics and morals] are strongly linked to one’s feelings and beliefs and therefore is difficult to grade.

[Ethics and Morals] as a Standardized Subject

Why is there a movement to make [Ethics and Morals] a standardized subject? One major reason is the bullying and suicide incident that took place in Otsu in 2011.
Child crime has also been on the rise in Japan in recent years.
The Abe government has proposed adding [Ethics and Morals] to the curriculum as one way of dealing with the bullying problem at Japanese schools.

Based on a survey of university students, 60% of them did not remember what they studied in the [Ethics and Morals] class during elementary and junior high school. This proves that the current curriculum is not playing its role in educating young learners.
The government plans to revise the time spent on and contents of the [Ethics and Morals] curriculum and make the class a standardized subject by 2018.

Issues regarding Standardization

There are various issues regarding making the topic a standardized subject.
First of all, the topic is quite emotional and children will react differently based on their beliefs and feelings. This will make it difficult for teachers to grade their responses.
Given that this is the main reason the topic has not been made a standardized subject in the past, many educators are making the same comments this time around as well.

Also, until now, teachers were able to search through books for content and create their own curriculum.
However, if the subject becomes standardized, teachers will be required to use a mandated textbook.
Having a standardized curriculum will prevent children from learning varied ways of thinking, since they will be evaluated children will be on their best behavior when in front of the teachers, etc are some concerns of teachers.

The Ministry of Education plans to make [Ethics and Morals] a standardized subject from 2018.
However, until then the schools will continue to use the [Heart Note] to teach the classes.

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