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HOME  > Past issues  > 2015 February 4 - 10  > Introduction of small-sized classes shows remarkable results in Yamagata
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2015 February 4 - 10 [WELFARE]

Introduction of small-sized classes shows remarkable results in Yamagata

February 10, 2015
Japan’s Finance Ministry came under severe public criticism late last year after proposing to abolish the current nationwide program limiting the class size for first graders to 35 pupils with the aim of cutting the educational budget. Although the ministry has insisted that the effect of the program is “unclear”, there is convincing data refuting this claim.

In the late 1990s, local people and assemblypersons in Yamagata Prefecture in northeastern Japan launched a movement across party lines to seek the introduction of small class sizes in schools.

Pressed by this movement, the prefectural government began to carry out a plan in 2002 to lower the number of students in classrooms to 33 or less at all public elementary schools in the prefecture. At present, this program applies to every grade at all the primary and junior high schools in the prefecture.

Before this program was introduced, the percentage of non-attending elementary school children in Yamagata was higher than the national average. In 2002, the first year the new plan was put into practice, the rate of non-attending pupils in Yamagata decreased to 0.27%, while the national average remained at 0.36%. In 2008, the rate in Yamagata was 0.24%, while the national average was 0.32%.

Meanwhile, it has come to light that the number of bullying incidents at schools with small-sized classes is less than that of other schools. A survey conducted by the Education Ministry in 2011 shows that the average rate of occurrence of bullying at public elementary schools with class size limited to 35 stood at 1.7 per 1,000 students, while that of others was 5.4.

Chair of the Yamagata prefectural branch of All Japan Teachers and Staff Union Fukuoka Shuzo, a primary school teacher, stressed, “Small-sized classes make it easier for teachers to find out which students are unable to keep up with the class. To enable teachers to pay attention to every student in a classroom, the upper limit of class size should be 30 or less.”

Japanese Communist Party member of the Yamagata Prefectural Assembly Watanabe Yuriko said, “We will work to urge the national government to take appropriate budgetary measures to help local governments further reduce the number of students per class.”

Past related article:
> Teachers protest ministry proposal to increase class size [November 14, 2014]
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