Japanese high schools struggle for normalcy, Nikkei survey finds

TOKYO — Seventy percent of Japanese prefectural boards of education say schooling will be limited in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, despite the government’s lifting of the state of emergency, a Nikkei survey has found.

Japan lifted the state of emergency in all prefectures on Monday, as the spread of the novel coronavirus has slowed. The survey was conducted between May 22 and 26 as high schools prepare to resume classes nationwide in June.

The majority of school boards said measures to prevent disease, such as staggered attendance, will impose restrictions on students. Japanese schools have been closed for up to three months, depending on their location. That is equal to as much as 200 hours of classroom time.

Boards of education in eight prefectures, including Tokyo, said “many limitations will remain,” while 28 prefectures said “some limitations will remain.”

While schools plan to make up for the lost time by shortening summer holidays and canceling events, they face challenges in completing the annual curriculum. That has raised concerns over the effect on students’ performance on university entrance exams and job prospects.

Tokyo is reopening public high schools on June 1. One school has cut number of school days to two or three days for the first week, with students attending classes in split morning and afternoon sessions.

Kanagawa Prefecture, southwest of Tokyo, has also divided students into morning and afternoon sessions, with the number of students per class limited to less than 20. To avoid peak commuting hours, schools will open at 9:50 a.m. The entire school day will be only three hours long.

Aichi Prefecture, in central Japan, has cut the number of summer holidays to 20 days, from the usual 40. Wakayama and Okayama prefectures, in western Japan, have cut the number of holidays to just nine. Some schools will hold classes on Saturday to make up for lost classroom time.

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