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30% of pregnant high school kids left school voluntarily in academic 2015-16: survey

Thirty percent of high school students known to be pregnant in academic 2015 and 2016 dropped out of school voluntarily, according to the results of an education ministry fact-finding survey released on March 30.

The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology survey -- the first of its kind -- found there were 2,098 pregnancies among high school students during the two-year period.

In 32 of the 2,098 cases (1.5 percent), the pregnant students quit on the recommendation of their schools, though dropping out of high school is widely regarded as easily leading to a cycle of poverty. The education ministry's Student Affairs Division "takes the issue seriously" and has issued notifications to prefectural boards of education across Japan, asking them not to easily urge pregnant pupils to quit school.

All 3,571 public high schools in Japan, both full and part-time, took part in the survey. Regarding the 32 cases in which the students quit on the advice of their schools, it is unclear whether the pupils wanted to continue their schooling.

Of the pregnant students, 37.1 percent commuted to school except for the times just before and after giving birth, and 8.5 percent changed schools. Moreover, five schools have disciplinary codes for pregnancies, which the ministry will probe in greater detail.

It was also found that about 30 percent of students who left school due to pregnancy or childbirth were not given information by their schools on further education such as the high school graduation equivalency exam, or work-related support.

Concerning this issue, the education ministry has asked boards of education to provide sufficient information to pregnant students, and to offer support through school nurses and counsellors to students continuing schooling.

Yumiko Watanabe, head of the nonprofit organization "Kids' Door," which deals with schooling and poverty issues, says, "Some of the students who leave voluntarily may do so because they assume they have to. Those who haven't graduated from high school are highly likely to end up raising a child in poverty if they become single mothers. Therefore, I want such students to consult with school social workers and gain support from local authorities, in order to stay in school."

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