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News Navigator: How will ethics change as a school subject?

Ethics is to become an official subject in Japanese schools, taught with textbooks. The Mainichi answers some common questions readers may have about how moral studies in Japanese education will change.

Question: How has ethics been taught until now?

Answer: Ethics was introduced into Japanese elementary and junior high schools in 1958, but it has not been considered to be a main subject like Japanese, math or science; rather, it was categorized as a "non-subject activity." Instead of textbooks, supplementary readers or materials prepared by teachers were used to teach it.

Q: Why is ethics becoming a subject?

A: The importance of moral education gathered attention following the 2011 suicide of a bullied second-year junior high school student in the Shiga Prefecture city of Otsu. In 2013, the national government's executive committee on education revitalization proposed making moral studies a subject. In 2014 the Central Council for Education also recommended that moral studies become a subject for elementary and junior high school students. The idea was put forward to change the focus of moral studies from "moral reading" that involves understanding the feelings of characters in stories to "moral thinking and debating."

Q: What other changes are planned for moral education?

A: When ethics becomes a subject, students will be graded. The grading method is to be in written form rather than in numbers, and is to be based on a student's personal progress, not whether they are doing better or worse than other students. Because of this and because teachers are not specifically licensed to teach the subject, ethics is being called a "special subject." (Answers by Kim Sooryeon, City News Department)

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