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Japanese young people split over September school year start plan: survey

The radio show "School of Lock!" online bulletin board is seen in this photo taken on May 12, 2020. It asks listeners to comment on the potential school year start change. (Mainichi/Yuka Narita)

TOKYO -- Opinion on shifting the beginning of school year in Japan from the current April to September due to the prolonged school closures amid the new coronavirus outbreak is split among young people, according to a recent poll carried out by a radio show, with 53% of respondents in favor of the idea and 47% opposed.

Tokyo FM Broadcasting Co.'s show "School of Lock!" asked its listeners if they supported or opposed academic years starting in September, as being considered by the government. Nearly 40,000 people, mainly teens, participated in the poll. The respondents were asked to pick between "for" and "against" the plan via free messaging app Line and post their reasons on the show's online bulletin board.

A total of 19,890 respondents supported the September school year plan, with many of them saying that it would guarantee students the opportunity to learn and stating that it would work better in a globalized world, as many schools outside Japan start in fall. A 17-year-old man from the central Japan prefecture of Gifu posted, "The September school entrance system should be adopted to give applicants an equal chance to sit for entrance exams."

Meanwhile, 17,581 people were against the idea, voicing concerns over how hastily it was brought to the table. A 17-year-old high school student from Gunma Prefecture, eastern Japan, commented that she is having difficulties at her school and that an extended school year would be "mentally taxing. It would mean paying more tuition fees and I'd feel bad for my parents."

The show's producer Yoshinori Horiuchi told the Mainichi Shimbun, "Rather than looking at the numbers of pros and cons, we want people to lend their ears to the real voices of teens."

The government is expected to summarize points of the argument by the end of June and decide whether to shift the beginning of school years. Some high-schoolers have launched a petition for the September school year plan, while the national council of PTAs and the Japanese Educational Research Association are demanding "careful discussion" of the issue.

(Japanese original by Yuka Narita, City News Department)

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