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Japan mulls mandatory history class at high schools

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Published : 2014-01-06 20:31
Updated : 2014-01-06 20:31

Japan may designate Japanese history as a compulsory course for its high school students, the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper reported Monday.

According to the daily, Tokyo’s Education Ministry is mulling educational reform which would require high schools to make the now-optional history course mandatory. Education Minister Hakubun Shimomura is expected to consult on the matter with the ministry-affiliated Central Council for Education this summer.

If approved, the new curriculum will be applied from 2019.

The move is widely interpreted as a bid to boost the historical education of young Japanese. Less than 40 percent of recent high school graduates in Japan have studied history, according to the Education Ministry.

Yomiuri said that Japan removed Japanese history from the list of mandatory courses in 1989, but faced the unexpected setback of educators and students neglecting the subject.

The new initiative comes on the heels of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s recent move to revise textbooks to reflect his government’s stance. Last month, the state textbook examination council approved a revision which would have textbooks base their viewpoints on Tokyo’s position on territorial and historical issues, including disputes with South Korea concerning the Dokdo islets.

The country’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party has vowed to rid the textbooks of what it called a “self-tormenting historical viewpoint,” especially on parts explaining Japan’s deeds during World War II. Description of the Nanjing Massacre by the Japanese army and “comfort women” ― which refer to about 200,000 women forced into sexual slavery by Japan ― are expected to undergo changes.

The newly-passed textbook revision coupled with mandatory history lessons is feared to cause Japanese students, viewpoints to tilt to the right.

With his much-disputed move to win the constitutional right to collective self-defense and visit to the controversial Yasukuni Shrine, the conservative leader had already irked neighboring countries South Korea and China.

His right-wing supporters are seen to be pressuring Abe to take more drastic measures.

Nobuyoshi Takashima, a professor emeritus at the University of the Ryukyus in Okinawa, said that Abe’s supporters are feeling “betrayed” by his lack of a strong conservative political agenda.

“Classrooms are one place where he can appease ultraconservatives by taking a more firmly nationalist stance,” he said.

By Yoon Min-sik and news reports (minsikyoon@heraldcorp.com)

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