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Japan looks to shift operation of public junior high club activities to local communities

A building housing the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, the Agency for Cultural Affairs, and the Japan Sports Agency is seen in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward. (Mainichi/Motohiro Negishi)

TOKYO -- An expert panel to the Japan Sports Agency has submitted a proposal on measures for shifting the operating bodies of extracurricular club activities from schools to private clubs and other organizations in local communities.

    The proposal was submitted to Japan Sports Agency Commissioner Koji Murofushi on June 6. Based on the recommendation, the agency will encourage local governments and other bodies to basically shift club activities that are currently carried out on holidays at public junior high schools to local communities over a period of three years starting in the 2023 academic year.

    Under the proposed initiative, entities including private clubs and junior sports clubs are expected to take over the operation of extracurricular activities from schools. As the circumstances vary from one region to another, councils of concerned parties will be set up in each area to look into the matter, instead of adopting unified procedures.

    By allowing coaches of private-sector clubs and other groups to instruct students belonging to extracurricular clubs, the initiative aims to rectify long work hours among teachers, who are often tasked with supervising club activities on top of their course instructions.

    The move is also aimed at securing opportunities for children to engage in sporting activities amid the declining birth rate in Japan, which has been making it increasingly difficult for school clubs to secure enough members to operate them on their own. In order to realize the new initiative, whether the new operating bodies of club activities will be able to secure enough instructors and financial sources will be a key issue.

    The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology finalized a policy in September 2020 to transfer in stages the operating bodies of club activities carried out on holidays from schools to private clubs and others in communities. The Japan Sports Agency, an external bureau of the education ministry, has discussed the issue at an expert panel set up in October 2021. The Agency for Cultural Affairs is similarly looking into shifting the operating bodies of cultural club activities to private entities.

    (Japanese original by Yuta Kobayashi, Sports News Department, and Yongho Lee, Tokyo City News Department)

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