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2014年8月19日 (火)

不登校増加 サポート態勢の充実が大切だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Enhanced support system urgently needed to stem school absenteeism
不登校増加 サポート態勢の充実が大切だ

The figure stands at 119,617. This is the number of primary and middle school students across the country who were absent from school for 30 days or more in fiscal 2013 for reasons other than health or economic hardship. It represents the first increase in six years, and is up 7,000 from the previous year.

Among middle school students, this worked out to one in 37 being chronically absent. Statistically speaking, one student was absent from every homeroom. This is obviously an alarming situation.

The number of long-term absentees was brought to light in a basic school survey recently conducted by the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry.

A growing number of students are becoming unable to go to school for such reasons as difficulty in forming human relations or the inability to follow healthy waking and sleeping patterns, according to the ministry.

In many instances before a student becomes absent for a long time, there is reportedly a “latent period” in which their short-term absences increase. To respond effectively, teachers must cooperate with parents to ascertain students’ concerns, so they can detect early signs of a student starting to avoid school.

Sharing information between teachers and school counselors, who are experts in child psychology, is also essential.

Bullying can be a reason for students to stop going to school.

Since the suicide of a middle school boy because of bullying in Otsu in 2011, an increasing number of parents seem to believe their children should not have to go to school if it means enduring bullying. This may be a factor behind the rise in students’ absences in the latest survey.

Survey results favorable

Both parents and teachers should respect and support children’s feelings, instead of trying to force them to attend school. Naturally teachers must give firm guidance to students who bully others.

Ever since the 1990s, when student absenteeism rose sharply, there has been a growing number of facilities to help young people who do not want to go to school, such as adaptation guidance classes run by municipal governments at about 1,300 locations across the country and private-sector “free schools” for children who avoid school or are unable to go to school for various reasons.

The adaptation guidance classes, which are operated outside schools, aim to get children back in school. Current and former teachers tutor students and they are helped by counselors.

The free schools run by private-sector groups or nonprofit organizations offer greater freedom for students. Students are allowed to learn at their own pace, engaging in such activities as cooking and caring for animals together with classmates and facility personnel, with the aim of connecting with other people.

A system exists under which school principals can count attendance at these facilities as days of attendance at the students’ former schools. Effective use of this system should be encouraged.

The education ministry last month released findings from a follow-up survey about students who were absent in their third year at middle school. The survey examined their situations five years later, and found that 85 percent went on to high schools or other schools.

This was a significant improvement from results in a similar survey 13 years ago.

The good results likely reflect the achievements of the adaptation guidance classes and free schools. The government’s Education Revitalization Council last month proposed studying the advisability of using public funds to extend financial support to free schools.

To help absent students become able to learn again together with their friends at school, arrangements should be made that are suited to their individual circumstances.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 18, 2014)


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