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2014年5月 1日 (木)

「小1の壁」 解消へ学童保育拡充が急務だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun 7:05 pm, April 30, 2014
Better after-school childcare essential to breaking down ‘first-grade wall’
「小1の壁」 解消へ学童保育拡充が急務だ

When children enter primary school, parents are sometimes unable to find anyone to take care of them after school and they must quit their job as a result. There is a pressing need to address problems arising from this so-called first-grade wall.
 子供が小学校に入ると預け先がなくなり、親が仕事を辞めざるを得なくなる。「小1の壁」への対策が急務である。

There have been delays in creating and improving facilities tasked with providing adequate after-school care for children including primary school students from two-income families. This has made it difficult for some parents to continue working after their children enter primary school.
 共働き世帯の小学生などを放課後に預かる学童保育の整備が遅れている。それが、親の就労継続の壁となっている。

At after-school childcare centers, supervisors keep watch while children engage in such activities as doing their homework and having a snack. The care of children outside of school time is governed by the Child Welfare Law, and there are about 21,500 after-school childcare facilities nationwide, 80 percent of which are operated by local governments.
 学童保育では、子供たちが宿題をしたり、おやつを食べたりして過ごすのを、指導員が見守る。「放課後児童クラブ」とも呼ばれ、児童福祉法に定められている。全国に2万1500か所あり、公設が8割を占める。

Such centers, and the number of children they look after, have continued to sharply increase, partly because of a decrease in children’s play areas. Today, about 890,000 primary school children—mainly those in their first to third years—spend their after-school time at these facilities.
 子供の遊び場が減ったこともあり、設置数、利用児童数とも急増してきた。現在、1~3年生を中心に89万人が利用している。

However, demand for after-school childcare services is outpacing the provision of new facilities, particularly in urban areas. The government has said it will seek to increase the capacity of after-school childcare centers nationwide to a total of 1.11 million children by the end of the current fiscal year. However, the current capacity falls far short of that target.
 だが、都市部を中心に開設が追いついていない。政府は今年度末までに受け入れ数を111万人に増やす目標を掲げてきたが、現状は遠く及ばない。

About 8,700 primary school students are on waiting lists, meaning they have been denied access to such services despite their parents’ desire to have someone look after them outside of school.
 希望しても利用できない待機児童は、把握されているだけで8700人に上る。

The figure only covers children whose inability to use after-school services has been confirmed. If other children with a similar problem are included, the figure could reach several hundreds of thousands, according to observers.
潜在的には数十万人に達するとの指摘もある。

It is also necessary to extend operating hours at after-school childcare centers. Many such facilities close at around 6 p.m., which does not suit the circumstances of parents who work full-time. This is evident in the large number of parents who have had to quit work or switch to a part-time job when their children enter primary school, despite having worked full-time while their children were at preschool age. They previously had their children looked after at day nurseries.
 開所時間の延長も必要だ。午後6時前後に閉まってしまう施設も多く、フルタイムで働く親の事情に合っていない。就学前は子供を保育所に預けて働いてきた親が、退職やパートへの転換を余儀なくされるケースが目立つ。

Utilize empty classrooms

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had good reason to issue instructions to study specific measures aimed at breaking down the first-grade wall, combined with efforts to create more day-care centers for children.
 安倍首相が、保育所の拡充に加え、「『小1の壁』を乗り越えなくてはならない」と具体策の検討を指示したのは、もっともだ。

It is indispensable to utilize empty classrooms and other unused facilities, with a view to making progress in increasing the number of after-school childcare centers. Doing so would not only help achieve the goal at a lower cost, it would also be desirable when it comes to securing the safety of children.
 学童保育の整備促進には、学校の空き教室などの活用が欠かせない。設置費用が安く済み、子供の安全面でも望ましい。

However, a considerable number of school administrators are reluctant to open after-school childcare centers inside their facilities. This is likely because they could be held responsible for any accidents involving children at their buildings.
 しかし、開設に消極的な学校は少なくない。万一、事故が起きた際に、学校の責任が問われかねないためだろう。

Necessary steps should be taken by the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry—the organ charged with overseeing after-school childcare programs—in cooperation with the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry to implement measures, including laying down clearly defined rules on the establishment of childcare centers at unused classrooms.
 学童保育を所管する厚生労働省と、文部科学省が連携し、校内に設置する場合のルールを明確化することなどが求められる。

Another important task is to improve the quality of after-school childcare programs. In its guidelines for such programs, the welfare ministry says the appropriate capacity of a facility is about 40 children. However, some facilities accommodate children greatly in excess of that figure.
 学童保育の「質の改善」も課題だ。厚労省は指針で適正規模を40人程度としているが、それを大幅に上回る施設がある。

Children cannot spend their time in a relaxed manner at overcrowded facilities, and supervisors will also find it difficult to keep a close watch on the children. All this will make facilities prone to trouble.
過密状態では、子供が伸び伸びと過ごせない。指導員の目も行き届かず、トラブルが起きやすい。

The government has incorporated after-school childcare services into the list of projects covered by a child-rearing support program scheduled to start in fiscal 2015, requiring city, town and villages governments nationwide to improve their after-school childcare programs in a manner that will meet the needs of their communities. Standards for personnel distribution and other matters will also be set up.
 政府は、2015年度に始まる「子ども・子育て支援新制度」の対象事業に学童保育を組み込み、地域のニーズに応じた整備を市町村に義務づけた。職員配置などの基準も設ける。

The national and local governments should unite efforts to address pertinent issues, a task essential for breaking down the first-grade wall.
 「小1の壁」を解消するためには、政府と市町村が一体となって取り組むことが重要だ。

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 30, 2014)

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